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Villa Aurora in Rome is on the market and has almost everything: lush gardens dotted with statues of Roman deities, more than one colorful fresco and the only known ceiling mural painted by Baroque master Caravaggio. The only thing it does not have? A bidder.
The 30,000-square-foot 16th-century villa created waves after being listed on the market at a starting price of $ 534 million on Tuesday, making it potentially the most expensive home in the world. But despite its extravagant masterpieces of Western art and location of historical significance, the villa neglected to get any deals.
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports that the villa will soon be put up for auction again, this time at a lower price.
The property ended up at auction after a tumultuous inheritance battle between its current occupant, Texas-born princess Rita Boncompagni-Ludovisi, and her stepsons. The villa was built in 1570 and has been in the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family for more than 400 years and has never been open to the public.
A video on the court’s website shows some of the ornate artwork of the property and its possessions, set to a bold musical composition.
The plot is also home to a statue, attributed to Michelangelo, by the Greek natural god Pan. In 2010, a box of letters was found at the villa containing writings by Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI and a number of former popes.
T. Corey Brennan, a professor of classics at Rutgers, has studied the villa and believes that there is more art to be discovered inside and on its large grounds (which is also home to the ruins of an ancient Roman villa that may have belonged to Caesar) .
“I guarantee the next owner there will be huge discoveries,” Brennan said.
But with the history from antiquity to the renaissance also comes the need for restorations, possibly worth as much as € 10 million, or $ 11.35 million.
“You have to have a billionaire; a millionaire is not enough for this. It needs someone with deep pockets, (who) does not care if you have to spend 10,000 on a water leak or something,” Princess Rita told NPR.
Alessandro Zuccari, a professor at Sapienza University in Rome who helped with the valuation of parts of the villa, was not surprised that no one bid. “I would have been amazed if a buyer had come forward. The price is too high. Let’s see what happens in April, but I doubt anyone will sign up then – what would someone like Bill Gates do with Villa Aurora, especially with all the extra costs? ” It says Zuccari according to the Guardian.
The villa will be put up for auction again on April 7, where the starting bid has been cut by up to 25%, reports Poggioli. Under Italian law, the state has the right to step in after a final bid has been accepted and buy Villa Aurora. But experts say it is unlikely the Italian government will buy the property, historically for its art – and price tag.
This story originally appeared in Morning edition live blog.