Once known as one of the “four wonders of Rome”, Palazzo Farnese is among the most beautiful buildings in the capital, serving as an important example of High Renaissance architecture and home to an impressive collection of art
Visitors to the Eternal City always go to the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Forum and the Trevi Fountain, while the grand palaces of Rome are often forgotten about. Situated in the heart of the city near the River Tiber is Palazzo Farnese. It is owned by the Italian republic, but in 1936 was given to the French government for 99 years. It is currently the French embassy in Italy. The palace was commissioned in 1513 by Alessandro Farnese, who was later elected Pope under the name Paul III. Completed in 1589, it was constructed under the direction of four renowned Italian architects – Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Vignola and Giacomo della Porta.
The palace is open for pre-booked guided tours only. It is €12 per person for a 60-minute tour in English, Italian or French. What is great about these tours is that the groups are small, so there is never any problem hearing the guide and having your questions answered in depth, which makes it a more personal experience.
There are numerous masterpieces you will admire on your tour, the monumental Carracci ceiling being the most breathtaking of them all. In 1597 Cardinal Odoardo Farnese commissioned Annibale Carracci to paint a ceiling in the west wing of the palace, using the theme The Loves of the Gods to commemorate the wedding of the Duke of Parma to Margherita Aldobrandini, the grandniece of Pope Clement VIII.
Deeply admired for centuries, the Carracci fresco continues to fascinate and enchant those who visit, with its varying perspectives and combination of painting, sculpture and architecture. This ceiling is a must-see in Rome, as it is not only a sight to behold, but it also reflects an innovation in painting style away from 16th-century Mannerism.
For those who love architecture, be sure not to miss the windows of the upper storey, the cornice of the main facade and the upper storey of the cortile, all designed by Michelangelo. There are also other interesting things to see, such as the Sala d’Ercole (Hercules Room) with tapestries woven in the 17th century, and the sarcophagi decorated with mythological scenes topped with sculptures of Roman warships.
All in all, it is a wonderful thing to do when in Rome. Entering the palace is like being transported back centuries to a time of serious grandeur and power, far from the hustle and bustle of the present-day city.
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