Past the bridge over the Canale dello Stagno (or Canale dei Pescatori, Fishermen’s canal) along via di Castelfusano, after about 200 meters from the bridge, turn left to enter a trail that leads to Villa Sacchetti, today known as Villa Chigi.
Of the Castrum Fusani (the citadel of Fusano) mentioned by the fonts of the XIII century, whether was that an actual castle or a fortified mansion (or perhaps a group of mansions), there’s no actual trace: possibly the old structure wasn’t even in the area where the building is located.
Before century XVII the site was used to plant wineyards and a small settlement was developed next to one of those, in the proximity of the via Severiana and of the Canale dello Stagno. In 1620 the land was purchased by Monsignor Giulio Sacchetti (a distinguished member of the community of Tuscans in Rome, together with his brother Marcello) who later on acquired more lands to reach an estate extending to more than 2000 hectars.
In 1623 Giulio Scacchetti, who was a Cardinal at that time, entrusted Pietro da Cortona with the realization of the new mansion and of the paintings decorations: most likely the chapel, the turrets and the altana (covered roof-terrace) come directly from the artist’s hands.
The palace, built between November 1624 and the first half of 1629, is a three storyes, quadrilateral plant, sturdy building. At the corners there are four low turrets and the altana is also decorated with small turrets. In several areas of the mansion are still visible important ancient writings and fragments of sculptures of Roman age (by the house of the Guardians and by the square). Verses by Giulio Sacchetti and, later on, by Sigismondo Chigi, are carved in the walls of both the facade and on the inside of the mansion.
At the beginning of the XVIII century the heirs of Giulio Sacchetti began to plant pine trees, determining the disappearing of the vineyards from the estate. In 1755 the castel was acquired by the prince Agostino Chigi.
At the end of XIX century, Sigismondo Chigi had the stones, that paved the roman via Severiana, removed to be used to pave the big road that connects the castle to the sea (today known as viale Mediterraneo).
At the beginning of 1900, thanks to Rodolfo Lanciani, part of the stones were placed back where they belonged.
Inside Villa Chigi, the main subject of the frescoes, started at the end of 1627, is the surrounding landscape. Part of the artworks where realized by other artists, supervised by Pietro da Cortona: the most famous are Andrea Sacchi and Alessandro Salucci (for the decorations of the ceiling).
Also remarkable are the frescoes of the chapel: scenes from the Creation of Earth are painted on the four oculuses (small holes) of the vault while the main panel is occupied by the representation of the Creation of Eve; these artworks are the first of many, continuing in the adjacent rooms, inspired by the Old Testament. Along the walls there are scenes from the life of Jesus Christ: the Vocation of Peter and Andrew, St. John in the desert, St. Francis, Baptism of Christ, Christ and the Samaritan woman, the Magdalene. Behind the altar is possible to admire an Adoration of the Shepherds and on either side, the Fugue in Egypt and Noli me tangere.
Excerpt from: S. Lorenzatti (a cura di), Ostia. Storia, ambiente, itinerari, Roma 2007