Villa Grock, an Italian hidden gem

Mara Noveni | Live the World

May 29, 2024

In the heart of the picturesque region of Liguria, Italy, among the beautiful hills and breathtaking coast of the Ligurian Sea, in the village of Oneglia, the city of Imperia and above the port and seafront promenade of Oneglia, lies a hidden treasure that enchants and fascinates anyone who visits it: Villa Grock, an Italian hidden gem.

A building with very bizarre architecture that recalls the circus world and has evidently undergone the influence of liberty and contemporary styles. This architectural jewel, also known as the Stone Circus, is rich in history and magic, and offers a unique and unforgettable experience to live in Imperia; a building that hides decorations full of esoteric and Masonic symbols, provided to those who decide to explore its beautiful gardens, discover its secrets and immerse themselves in the life of one of the most eclectic and innovative artists of the twentieth century, Charles Adrien Wettach, better known as Grock, considered the greatest clown of all time.

© Villa Grock

All thanks to that creative child, who later became a celebrity, who at the age of 6 discovered the circus and fell in love with it. His name was Adrien Wettach, born in Reconvilier on January 10, 1880, and consecrated King of Clowns at the Olympia in Paris in 1919. Grock, this is his nickname, was a juggler, tightrope walker, acrobat and musician, an extraordinary artist who enchanted the whole world to such an extent that he became a legend.

Villa Grock is a work of art in itself, a perfect mix of architecture, imagination and creativity. Built between 1920 and 1930, this eccentric and charming villa reflects the spirit of Grock. He had travelled the world bringing joy and laughter to audiences of all ages but has chosen to settle in the quiet town of Imperia, where he has created one of the most extraordinary and evocative places in the region.

© Villa Grock

The villa itself is an architectural masterpiece, a mix of styles ranging from Gothic to Neoclassical, with touches of madness and originality. Every corner of Villa Grock offers surprises: from elaborate decorations to extravagant shapes, from eccentric sculptures to lively paintings. This unique home is truly a living museum, where guests can immerse themselves in Grock's universe and marvel at his ability to transform ordinary elements into extraordinary works of art.

Acquired by the Province of Imperia in 2002, the villa was opened to the public for the first time in 2010. The complete recovery of the noble floors, in full respect of their original characteristics, once again reveals their splendour and refined richness.

© Villa Grock

Also called a "Stone Circus" for the numerous references to the circus world that can be identified in many architectural details (lampposts, columns, decorations, balustrades, gradients, frescoes ...), influenced by the Liberty style but also undeniably influenced by the taste of contemporary artists such as Dalì, Picasso and Gaudì, the villa could also be identified by a so-called "Oriental Eclectic" style.

Villa Grock is not only a fascinating building, but it is also surrounded by beautiful gardens, which extend over five hectares of land. Nature lovers will be enchanted by the bright colours of the exotic plants, the hidden paths that lead to wonderful fountains and the small secret corners that invite meditation and contemplation. The panoramic view of the Ligurian coast makes the atmosphere of tranquillity that surrounds Villa Grock even more special.

© Villa Grock

The origins of Villa Grock: A journey into the past of an extraordinary artist

Villa Grock, known today as one of the architectural marvels of Liguria, has a fascinating history dating back to the 1920s. Born in Switzerland in 1880, Grock had an extraordinary talent for entertainment and comedy, so much so that he was called "the King of the Circus". His ability to bring joy and laughter to audiences made him a beloved figure around the world. However, Grock was also a man with a unique artistic vision, eager to create a place that could reflect his eccentric personality and his passion for art.

© Villa Grock

Thus it was that, during his travels around Europe, Grock arrived in Imperia, a quiet town in the Liguria region. Fascinated by the beauty of the place and inspired by the culture and history of the region, he decided to settle here and build his dream home: Villa Grock. The artist personally dedicated himself to the design and construction of the villa, mixing different architectural styles to create a place that reflected his extravagant personality and his love for fantasy.

© Villa Grock

The villa itself became an experimentation laboratory for Grock, who gave free rein to his creativity in every corner. Using unusual materials and mixing different elements, Grock created a living work of art, a building that seemed to come from a fairytale world. Eccentric sculptures, elaborate details and bright colours characterize the interiors of Villa Grock, transporting visitors into a magical universe.

© Villa Grock

The origins of Villa Grock are intertwined with the life and career of a one-of-a-kind artist. This extraordinary place is the result of a bold vision and an inexhaustible passion for art. Today, Villa Grock stands not only as a monument to Grock's ingenuity but also as a testament to the influence and lasting legacy of this remarkable artist.

© Villa Grock

The itinerary of the Clown Museum

The sumptuous and original home of the greatest clown in history is reborn, thanks to a unique cultural journey in the world, based on new technologies.

Indeed, in the perfectly restored Villa, an exciting, immersive, magical journey has been set up, dedicated to circus professionals and, in particular, to the art of clowns. The path unfolds as a journey into creativity through gestures, expressions, jokes, references to music, and everything that revolves around the particular personality of the clown.

You will find yourself immersed in fairy-tale contexts, you will reflect in magic mirrors, you will open wardrobes of wonders, and cheerful ancient ghosts will appear out of nowhere. You yourself will become Alice in Wonderland, in an unexpected place between laughter and nostalgia, between East and West, between culture and tests of physical prowess.

In the exhibition itinerary, each room has its own aesthetic and functional logic. Like the Sala del Cinema, an introductory room, a sort of cultural premise, where visitors, seated in comfortable armchairs, will be "initiated" into the world of the circus by watching specially selected film clips. Or the Sala delle Meraviglie, in the centre of which stands the wunderkammer, a particular environment in which, according to tradition from the 16th to the 18th century, collectors used to keep collections of extraordinary objects due to their intrinsic and external characteristics, the "wonders" precisely. Or, again, the Sala del Baule, where the dressing of the clown, his transformation through stage clothes, is presented to the public. You will admire the clown's dressing and more: multimedia mirrors will recognize your image and your movements, reproducing you as a puppet dressed as a clown. Each station reproduces a clown dressed in a different way.

In the Makeup Room, we want to make the visitor experience the emotion of the exchange: one's face becomes the face of a clown with makeup. The visitor will be able to view the different phases of the make-up operation of a real clown. At the centre of the Sala della Magia stands an oval-shaped holographic device, divided into horizontal blades with iridescent reflections, which allow access to four stations, from which it is possible to manage the holographic projection itself.

In the Sala del Circo, the central area reproduces the circular track of the circus. Visitors become protagonists. The show begins: lights and sound effects come on, focusing attention on the walls of the marquee which come alive, and propose poetic scenarios created with the Chinese shadow technique: the acrobat, the clown, the lion tamer. Fragrances of hay and cotton candy.

Staying in Oneglia and its surroundings

If you are looking for a suggestive destination for a stay of a few days, Oneglia and Imperia are places that you should definitely consider. In fact, these two places offer a variety of reasons for you to fall in love and spend at least 3-4 days exploring the area.

1.       Natural beauty: Oneglia and Imperia are surrounded by unspoiled nature and breathtaking views. The cities are embraced by the Ligurian Sea and the surrounding hills, which offer picturesque and unforgettable landscapes. You can walk along the golden sandy beaches, explore scenic paths among the olive trees and enjoy the sunset over the sea. The natural beauty of this area will take your breath away.

2.       Food and wine: Ligurian cuisine is famous all over the world and Oneglia and Imperia are no exception. These cities are the perfect place to taste local delicacies, such as pesto alla Genovese, fresh seafood and delicious Ligurian sweets or the famous focaccia. You can visit the local markets to buy fresh and delicious ingredients or taste local specialities in the many restaurants and trattorias in the area. Also, don't forget to taste the Ligurian wines, such as Vermentino and Rossese, which perfectly accompany traditional dishes.

3.       Culture and history: Oneglia and Imperia have a rich history and a lively cultural scene. You can visit the historic centre of Imperia, with its medieval streets and historic buildings, or explore the local museums to immerse yourself in the history and traditions of the area. Furthermore, the city hosts many cultural events, such as music festivals, art exhibitions and theatre performances, which offer a unique and immersive experience.

4.       Excursions and outdoor activities: If you are a lover of nature and outdoor activities, Oneglia and Imperia offer you many opportunities. You can hike the coastal paths, take boat trips to explore the area's sea caves, or enjoy water sports such as kayaking and sailing. The surrounding hills also offer the possibility of trekking or mountain biking in breathtaking landscapes.

To give you just a few examples of comfortable places to stay, I would like to remind you of the Antico Frantoio Doria Apartments, delightful apartments located in a strategic position, furnished and equipped with all comforts, with an outdoor swimming pool, children's play area and barbecue.

© Booking

Or you can opt for a classic hotel stay with all the comforts, with breakfast included, at the Hotel Rossini al Teatro, located near the port of Oneglia, which boasts a panoramic terrace overlooking the Alps.

© Booking

Or, again, you can opt for the Hotel Liliana in Diano Marina, equipped with all comforts, which offers a swimming pool overlooking the Ligurian Gulf, a stratospheric breakfast and a good restaurant with an excellent view.

© Booking

If you are looking for a unique, off-the-beaten-path and breath-taking experience, Villa Grock is the place to visit. This hidden treasure will immerse you in a world of wonder and fantasy, offering a different perspective on life and art. Walking through its gardens and visiting the charming interiors, you will feel as if they are part of a dream, a dream that Grock created to make the world smile and amaze.

No matter if you are an art lover, a nature lover or simply curious to discover something new: Villa Grock is able to fascinate and conquer anyone. I warmly invite everyone to visit this unique place, immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere and let yourself be carried away by the history and creativity of one of the greatest artists of his time.

Whether you are looking for inspiration, a moment of joy or an enchanted place to share with family and friends, Villa Grock will welcome you with open arms. Let yourself be carried away by the charm of this place and discover the fantastic realm of Villa Grock, an Italian hidden gem, where reality and imagination merge in an eternal embrace. You will not regret it!

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