“Emblem of the historic link between Italy and Libya, a treasure chest of Islamic treasures”

The Islamic Museum is housed in the former Villa Volpi in Tripoli , located in the al Sur area and precisely in Shari’ Sidi Khaliffa, a few kilometers south of the center of the Medina.

Used for about two centuries as a holiday residence first by Turkish nobles and then by Count Volpi di Misurata and his daughter, from 1973 to 1992 it was the first Islamic Museum in Libya, then closed due to structural problems until today when the restoration has begun.

Built in the 19th century as a country residence for a family of Turkish nobles, in the 1920s it became the official residence of the Venetian Count Volpi di Misurata who enriched it with typical elements of Venetian villas, to then acquire, in a more recent, museum functions. The construction of the building is attributable to the Turkish governor Ali Pasha Al Garamalli who was in charge of the city of Tripoli from 1832 until 1835.
After the governor’s death the building was abandoned and only at the end of the 19th century was it purchased by the Abu family Dalghusa who restored it, without making any changes, respecting the original construction. Since then it has always been used by the Turkish governors as a holiday home.

During the Italian occupation the building was requisitioned by the governor of Tripolitania Giuseppe Volpi who carried out a new restoration, preserving the original style, to adapt it to a home.

When Count Volpi died, his daughter Anna Maria Cicogna Mozzoni Volpi, while partially respecting the original architectural style of the ex-Garamalli villa, expanded the building with the construction of the reception hall , an ex novo wing reserved for servants and two first floor apartments.

The oriental-style furnishings of the rooms and the new composition of the large garden surrounding the villa are also attributed to her. Until the end of the 1960s, the villa was inhabited by Countess Volpi.
After the Revolution of October 28, 1969, the building was entrusted to the Department of Antiquities; in respect of the pre-existing structure, some changes were made to the internal environments to assign it to the first Islamic Museum of Libya, with the inauguration taking place at the end of the works in 1973.

In 1992 the museum was closed to the public after some structural problems occurred, but the restoration work on the floors and systems, which began in 1997, was never completed.


The project of the Islamic Museum involves the creation of a museum of Islamic history and culture through the conservative restoration of the former Villa Volpi, a building that embodies two architectural models: the Italian style of the early 1900s and the Turkish Ottoman style of the previous.

The redevelopment, conservative restoration, structural expansion and set-up project aims to create the new museum and cultural center of the city of Tripoli.

There are two main design objectives: on the one hand, the enhancement of the building, an exceptional example of the coexistence of architectural styles starting from the original Ottoman nucleus, on the other, the creation of a new exhibition itinerary that changes the use of the collection and thanks also to new high-quality services aimed at a national and international audience.

The intention is to highlight the historical decorative and architectural elements, offer the public the sensory experience of being
in an Ottoman villa and transform the museum space into an object of art itself.

Studio Italia Costruzioni is working on the complete renovation of the building.

The original charm of the Museum has been maintained by laying a floor of ceramic tiles inspired by the original ones to create gigantic decorative carpets. The walls have been repainted and the upper bands decorated. Even the furniture, as well as the original windows, have been restored.

The original colors of the Ottoman Turkish courtyard, hidden under layers of paint, will be brought back to life. The new floor with its fountain in the centre, together with the surrounding blue and yellow-orange patterns, will create a breathtaking open-air room.

Particular attention has also been given to the outdoor spaces, including the small south courtyard with its beautiful stone mosaic floor. With the restoration of the interiors and gardens, we wanted to highlight the bond that this museum has always had with the landscape that surrounds it.

The conservative restoration required the intervention of numerous Italian craftsmen who took turns in the Libyan construction site. At the same time, some Libyan designers were accompanied to Italy to learn the technique of some particular processes.

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