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Rome's Top 10 : Villas and Palaces

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  1. Villa Farnesina

    A little gem of gracious living, decorated by some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, including Raphael. The loggias are now glassed in to protect the precious frescoes, but they were originally open, embodying the ideal of blending indoor and outdoor spaces – a concept borrowed from ancient Roman villa designers .

    Fresco, Villa Farnesina

    Villa Farnesina courtyard
  2. Campidoglio Palazzi

    When Emperor Charles V visited Rome in 1536, Pope Paul III was so embarrassed at the Capitol’s state that he enlisted Michelangelo’s help. Work started 10 years later, but Michelangelo died long before its completion. True to his design, however, are the double flight of steps for the Palazzo Senatorio, the addition of Palazzo Nuovo, the fine façades and placement of ancient sculptures.

  3. Palazzo Borghese

    Called “the harpsichord” because of its unusual shape, this 17th-century palace was once the centre of fashionable entertainments for Rome’s papal high society. Its Mannerist courtyard, in particular, was the stage for lavish affairs. You can peek in to see the oversize statuary, columns supporting the double loggias, and the “Bath of Venus” fountain .

  4. Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne

    Architect Peruzzi overcame a number of technical problems to build this 16th-century masterpiece. Primarily, he had to follow the curve of the foundations of the ancient Theatre of Domitian. His colonnaded portico is an elegant solution along the street side; the other façade is decorated with monochrome frescoes, known as grisaille .

  5. Palazzo Farnese

    Considered the Renaissance palace par excellence, reflecting the genius of both Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo. Home to one of Rome’s most unscrupulous families, it was commissioned in 1517 by Alessandro Farnese, later Pope Paul III .

    Palazzo Farnese
  6. Villa Giulia

    Intended for hedonistic pleasure, this was a perfect papal retreat where Pope Julius III could indulge his tastes for young boys and Classical statuary. Designed by Vignola, Ammannati and Vasari, this 16th-century marvel is all loggias, fountains and gardens .

  7. Palazzo Barberini

    When Maffei Barberini became Pope Urban VIII in 1623, he decided to build a family palace on the (then) edge of town. Architect Carlo Maderno designed it as an outsize country villa with three floors of arcades. Bernini added the square staircase on the left; Borromini the spiral staircase on the right .

  8. Palazzo della Cancelleria

    One of the loveliest palaces from the Early Renaissance (late 1400s) – the purity of its façade and courtyard is unparalleled. Several ancient monuments were pillaged to provide the marble and the 44 portico columns inside .

  9. Palazzo Spada

    Built around 1550 for a wealthy cardinal, the architect unknown, this palace has one of the most ornate Renaissance façades in Rome, featuring reliefs evoking the city’s glorious past. However, the inner courtyard is the masterpiece, decorated with stucco figures of the 12 Olympian gods and goddesses.

  10. Palazzo Venezia

    Rome’s first great Renaissance palace (1455–64) was built for the Venetian cardinal Pietro Barbo. It is attributed to one of two Florentine architects, Alberti or Maiano. You can admire the beautiful palm court with an 18th-century fountain from the museum café.

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