Situated next to the Borghese Gardens, and just a short distance from the Trinta Di Monti church at the top of the Spanish Steps, is the Villa Medici, which currently houses the Academy of France. Ferdinand I de Medici acquired the property in 1576 when he was Grand Duke of Tuscany. There are a series of grand gardens throughout the property. Ferdinand I had a study built on the northeast side of the gardens, above part of the Aurelian Wall that marked the perimeter of the estate. He used the study as a retreat from the every-day pressures of his office. The whole estate is considered to be one of the most elegant and worldly settings in Rome. For a time, this was the Grand Duke's embassy to the Holy See. In 1737, when the male line of the Medici's died out, the property passed to the house of Lorraine. Napoleon Bonaparte came into possession of the property in 1803 and transferred it to the French Academy of Rome. Today, the Academy hosts up to two dozen artists of varying genres who apply to stay there from 6-18 months in order to complete their projects.
While the facade facing the street appears rather plain, because it was at the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation, and folks were upset with the opulence of the wealthy, the part facing the gardens is quite spectacular and were kept a secret to only those that were invited into the gardens.