Travelling for faith to Rome

Posted on Aug 19, 2020 in Arts and History, On your own | No Comments

Rome is the capital of Christendom, but I rarely sense the spirituality of this city of martyrs and saints in the most celebrated basilicas. Nevertheless, a lot of travellers come here in reason of their faith, maybe it’s not the only push, but an important one. Therefore we ought to provide a list of activities and places to incorporate in your Roman holiday to nourish your spirituality:

  • the place I prefer to go for this purpose is the Abbey of the Three Fountains: here Saint Paul received his martyrdom. According to the legend, when the apostle was beheaded, his head bounced three times and three springs of water came out from the ground. Three fountains were built over this holy place and they are still visible inside the baroque church. Leaving aside the art and historical values of this location, the feeling I always have as soon as I walk through the so-called “Arch of Charlemagne” is peacefulness: simplicity, silence, a synergy between art and nature, harmony. For men, and for a maximum of 6 days, you can even reside there and live the life of the monks, sleeping in the Foresteria.
  • Just next to the entrance of this abbey there is a small convent run by nuns called the Petites Soeurs de Jesus, the order started by Charles de Foucauld. There is a little wood chapel in the garden, where everybody is welcome: no precious paintings, no comfortable seats, nothing that we are used to admire in a Roman church. Just your soul and blessed silence
  • If you wish to experience a traditional pilgrimage (with songs and prayers), every Saturday night from Easter to October you can join a group of local pilgrims and walk from Piazza di Porta Capena (Circus Maximus) to the Sanctuary of Divine Love. They meet at midnight and the whole night is needed to reach the sanctuary where you celebrate mass at dawn. Think ahead on how to come back and bring some water and food with you, the path is 15 km long!
  • A different kind of pilgrimage to do with us is the “Seven Churches Path, but by bike. In the old times, it was possible to walk pleasantly from one church to another, mostly in the countryside, for the 16 miles needed. But today traffic and chaotic urban life make this path less enjoyable on foot. Still, the spiritual significance of these seven basilicas and the symbolism of the path are worth a tour: we suggest by bike in order to spare time for a prayer and some artistic appreciation.
  • The Holy Stairs are a staircase which Christ is said to have ascended to be sentenced to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate According to tradition, the steps were brought to Rome in 326 AD by St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. The stairs, located opposite the Archbasilica of St John Lateran in Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, have to be climbed on knees as a form of respect, praying during the devotional ascension. The staircase leads to a chapel known as the Sancta Sanctorum, or Holiest of Holies, the ancient private chapel of popes.
  • In the medieval beautiful church SS. Quattro Coronati (not far from the Colosseum) the Augustinian nuns celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours from 6.30 in the morning to 6.30 pm and anybody can join. They also offer hospitality for few days if you seek silence and solitude. The convent boasts a fascinating cloister and the frescoed chapel of St. Silvester, therefore a visit is well paid in any case.
  • Catacombs are usually in the top list of visits for a christian tourist and you find our infos on this visit here. Internal tours are provided, it is rather easy go on own.
  • In the same link you find infos on the Papal Audience, that you can easily attend on own, provided that you have reserved. Remember, it is free, do not pay somebody for this, it’s a fraud otherwise. The Angelus prayer with the Holy Father takes place almost every Sunday at noon sharp in Piazza San Pietro and you do not need a reservation.
  • Attending mass in Rome is the easiest thing to do, but you probably prefer an English “version” which is offered for instance in San Giorgio al Velabro, Saint Patrick, San Clemente (which definitely deserves a visit, especially the amazing excavations) or Caravita Oratory. If you look for a sung mass, you can head to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant’Agnese in Agone on Piazza Navona. Very close to this famous piazza, you also have the Church of Jesus’ Nativity where the Congolese community animates the service with their typical style.
  • There are special days of the liturgical calendar when you might appreciate being in Rome: Christmas period is of course a magical moment with the Nativity and Christmas tree in St. Peter’s square and in most Roman churches, the Midnight Mass (book well in advance for St. Peter’s mass, while you can join any service in “normal churches”), Te Deum on Dec 31st (after the Vespers the Pope visits the Nativity scene on the piazza, no need to reserve for this “meeting”) and the Epiphany on January 6th, celebrated with an historical cortege following the Three Wise Men along Via della Conciliazione. On January 21st the church of St. Agnes outside the Walls, over homonymous catacombs, hosts the “blessing of the lambs”, a very old and complicated tradition we will be happy to explain when you come here! During Lent the main moment for a visitor is the Pope’s Via Crucis at Colosseum on Good Friday’s night. And check the date of Pentecost to be at the Pantheon and assist to the “red petals shower” through the oculus of the dome, symbolising the descent of the Holy Spirit. During summer the main event is the miraculous snowfall of Santa Maria Maggiore on Aug 5th, which recalls the event of the foundation of the basilica.

Contemporary Rome

Posted on Aug 19, 2020 in Arts and History, On your own | No Comments

“Eternal Rome” means that the jewel box of antiquity also has a very modern soul that will surprise you. Here is a list of areas, museums and venues we recommend, if you are looking for the contemporary aspect of Rome:

  • EUR district was the rationalist project that should have been hosting the EXPO of 1942, cancelled for WW2. Great buildings surround the area such as the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro (also called “squared Colosseum”), the former Palace of Congress and the new version, Fuksas’ Cloud, the artificial lake and the stele dedicated to Guglielmo Marconi, the huge domed church of St. Peter and St. Paul, meant originally as a mausoleum for Mussolini. We are happy to take you there for a guided visit, if you wish.
  • Interesting churches are Santo Volto di Gesù in Portuense area and the so called “Church of the Sails” by Richard Meier in Tor Tre Teste. Also faacinating is Paolo Portoghesi’s Mosque, accessible upon request on some days.
  • Street art is everywhere in Rome right now: Quadraro, Ostiense, San Lorenzo, Trullo, Pineta Sacchetti, Torpignattara, San Basilio, Rebibbia, Garbatella, Pigneto, Tormarancia… You can easily get lost and even accurate maps get old soon. We strongly recommend to visit these suburban districts with us, even better to rent a bike or a Vespa and get the highlights of Rome street art in a day…
  • Foro Italico is another creation of the Fascist age, with Mussolini’s obelisk, the great stadium “Dei Marmi”, the sport districts for tennis, swimming, diving and fencing and the nearby Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Not far from Foro Italico there is the Park of Music, anticipated by the recent “Bridge of Music” that leads to the MAXXI museum by Zaha Hadid and to Renzo Piano’s Auditorium
  • Other interesting museums dedicated to contemporary art are the MACRO, the National Gallery, the Civic Collection of Modern Art and the very unconventional MAAM Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove, a “museum of the Other and the Elsewhere”, a squat in a factory only accessible to visitors on Saturdays.

10 things you might ignore about St. Peter’s basilica

Posted on Jul 7, 2020 in Arts and History | No Comments

St. Peter’s basilica re-opend recently to guided visits (July 2020) and it has never been so empty and pleasant to visit. Usually, long lines force us to avoid a dedicated tour and only offer a quick visit after the Vatican Museum, when you are already tired and overwhelmed by beauty and information. Now the shortcut from the Sistine Chapel into the basilica is not available, so this is not even an option at the moment. 

The basilica surely deserves a specific tour as it is one of the greatest masterpieces created by mankind not only in Rome, but in the planet. I just revised my notes and added new ones in order to organise an in-depth-tour of the basilica: I have more pages for this building  alone than some entire neighbourhoods and museums! So much to learn and enjoy in there, basically the whole art history of our country from the end of the  XV century to recent years is condensed in this monument. 

Here are some “fun fact” to entice your curiosity before your next visit to Rome!

  1. The size of this basilica is already mythical. Just a quick point of reference: the piazza, elliptical  as the Colosseum is, could contain the Colosseum itself, it is in fact 50 meters wider (164 feet!). And did you already know that the Statue of Liberty could easily stand under our dome? 117 mt is the internal height of the dome (383 feet), while the top of the torch reaches 93 mt “only” i.e. 305 feet!
  2. We have four beautiful lamp-posts in the piazza , have you ever noted them? They were added by pope Pius IX as a symbol of modernity in 1854 ad they were the very first gas lamps in Rome! 
  3. On top of the facade of the church there are 13 statues: Jesus of course, surrounded by 12 “friends”… one would think, the 12 apostles, right? No, just 10 apostles. Judas was replaced by St. Matthias, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. and then you have St. John the Baptist up there. Why is that? Because St. Peter came down on the piazza to join his “colleague” St. Paul, they are always always always together here in Rome!
  4. Twenty three emperors were crowned in the basilica by the popes (well, in one occasion  – it was the year 1355 – the pope was far away, in Avignon, France, for a while – you know, about 70 years! So he delegated a cardinal to perform the ceremony on his behalf). The tradition started in the year 800 with Charlemagne and ended in 1452 with Frederick III, and this prestigious ritual gave them the title of “Holy Roman Emperor”. We still have the  red stone where they used to kneel down in the basilica. Amazing. 
  5. Let’s talk mosaics: do you know the interior of the basilica is totally decorated in stones (very few exceptions) and whatever looks like a painting is in fact a mosaic ? The surface  covered in mosaic is approx 2,5 acres! And the Vatican has the most important “mosaic workshop” iin the world, operating since the year 1727.
  6. There are many important tombs in the basilica and in the so called “grottoes”: do you know even three important ladies are buried in the basilica? The queen of Poland Mary Clementine Sobiesky, the queen of Sweden, Christine,  who renounced to her throne to embrace the Catholic faith and spent the rest of her life in Rome and the powerful medieval woman Matilda of Canossa, a key character of the Investiture  Controversy. None of them is a saint! 
  7. There are important relics preserved in the basilica of course, including remains of three apostles. Not just St Peter’s, also Simon the Zealot and Jude Thaddeus. 
  8. Ever heard of the “pallii”? it is a very interesting tradition of the special “stoles” for archbishops and this story connects St. Peter’s tomb to the nuns of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, the church of St Agnes, whose name means “lamb”, the wool of two lambs blessed on the day of St. Agnes, the abbey of the Three Fountains… you already get that it’s a complicated ritual! I find it so fascinating that these “protocols” are still followed in the exact same way  after a millennium, you can learn the whole story during a tour with us!
  9. Clocks: there are two in the facade (substituting the never accomplished bell towers… and BTW they are two mosaics of 4 mt of diameter!) and  two in the interior, one with the regular quadrant of 12 hours, but also one showing six hours only: it is the Italian , or Roman, system, another interesting story to learn.
  10. In Africa, and precisely in Yamoussoukro, the administrative capital of Ivory Coast a huge church was consecrated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.The design of the dome and encircled plaza is clearly inspired by the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City, although it is not an outright replica. Guinness World Records lists it as the largest church in the world, having surpassed the previous record holder, St. Peter’s Basilica, upon completion. It has an area of 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft)and is 158 metres (518 ft) high. However, it also includes a rectory and a villa (counted in the overall area), which are not strictly part of the church. It can accommodate 18,000 worshippers, compared to 60,000 for St. Peter’s.
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Ivory Coast

Virtual tours? No, thanks

Posted on Apr 24, 2020 in Arts and History | No Comments

Sometimes what better defines you, is what you are NOT. For instance: we do not lead big groups, we do not put together strangers in the same tour, we do not offer segway tours. And now we do not offer virtual tours.
Nothing against many of my colleagues who are doing it, each one in a slight different way and with their own personality (and I will share some of their virtual tours on our social channels, as some of these colleagues are great partners of A FRIEND IN ROME)

But after a long “meditation” on the subject, consulting friends and experts, I personally decided not to proceed in this direction. And the final decision came from our “origins”: always go back to the roots when you feel unstable… our roots are in our name. Let’s go through it: A. Friend. In. Rome.

  • A: one. One person, one guide, one friend. Your guide-slash-friend. We offer a personal relationship, one at the time, no strangers, a significant exchange of views and moments. Virtual tours imply larger parties. So, we prefer to offer a personal chat, a video call if you like, and to keep the relationship personal and unique.
  • Friend: yes, this is a job for us, because we take it seriously and we have “all the right stuff” to do it. But still we maintain a friendly approach, honest and authentic. Which means that our personal profit moves to the background. And your benefit now is to stay safe and healthy at home and keep dreaming about your future trips, maybe exactly to Rome! As travellers, I see virtual tours as a palliative. A friend waits for you,  a friend who can’t welcome you now sends pictures, informations, ideas waiting for the time you’ll be able to travel 
  • In: not just a preposition here. “In” means a presence, it means a physical location, it means you *have to* be here!
  • Rome: this is the main ingredient. This city is not just its history and all the stories and symbols we can tell in person or across a screen. Rome is its light, its colours, its flavours and sounds. Rome is the steaming espresso standing at the bar, is the cobblestone making you stumble, the heat of the summer, the smell of the pizza coming out from the wooden oven, the sunset a picture will never convey. The magic of Rome is a live experience and we are not lecturers, but travel companions.

A Friend in Rome only exists when *you are in Rome”. Therefore we’ll wait for you here and we’ll prepare ourselves to be the most welcoming hosts you can ever desire!

Good reads about Rome

Posted on Oct 29, 2018 in Arts and History | No Comments

When you plan a trip to Rome and when you leave Rome, you want to know more! And you often ask for good reads to deepen your knowledge about this incredible city. Here are some suggestions for you:

If you are travelling  to Rome with your kids, it’s a good idea to buy online Mission Rome by Catherine Aragon, an active booklet offering the chance to transform  your Roman Holiday into a scavenger hunt! We will be very happy to play and help your children in their mission during our tours. Let us know in your mail if you wish to play this game and we’ll plan the perfect itinerary to cover most of the sites included in the “hunt”.

The perfect Roman holiday!

Posted on Jan 30, 2017 in Arts and History, Planning Your Trip | No Comments

We love to give suggestions to our guests and when they ask “how long should we stay in Rome?” it is a bit embarrassing to reply what the proverb says,  “…a lifetime is not enough!”  I still have my list of not-yet-seen-spots which I’m planning to visit soon, during my days off. The list is in fact growing!

We understand you have limited time and want to focus on highlights. Ideally – and in order to keep a relaxing pace –  to  have a hint of all the ages that made Rome a three-millennia-old city, you need a full week and this might be your plan:

  1. Ancient Rome : not only the Colosseum, but a nice walk including the Velabro (the crib of Rome), Circus Maximus, Forum and Palatine, Capitoline Hill,  Trajan’s Markets and Column, Pantheon and one archaeological museum (chose between Palazzo Massimo and the Capitoline Museums)
  2. Ancient Rome outside the walls : the Appian Way (and the catacombs or the aqueducts) and/or Ancient Ostia, the harbour of Imperial Rome.
  3. The Middle Ages through some of the most intriguing churches of the city (San Clemente, SS. Quattro Coronati, the cathedral of Rome S. Giovanni with the Sancta Sanctorum chapel, Santa Maria Maggiore and its sparkling mosaics, S. Prassede and S. Pudenziana, the whole district of Trastevere and its churches: S.Cecilia and S. Maria in Trastevere)
  4. Renaissance Rome: the frescoed Villa Farnesina, Piazza Farnese, the lively Campo dei Fiori and its market, the Jewish Ghetto and the alleys of the “Tiber bend” district, Castel Sant’Angelo (with a wonderful panoramic terrace)
  5. The Vatican: let’s devote half day to the museums, Sistine Chapel, the breathtaking basilica of St. Peter and its piazza.
  6. Barocco & the city! This was the second Golden Age of Rome and it’s all around: Piazza Barberini and the Painting Gallery of Palazzo Barberini, San Carlino church and S.Andrea to compare the great artists Borromini  and Bernini, Piazza del Quirinale, the iconic Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona ending the day with a baroque concert.
  7. Contemporary Rome: we suggest to rent a Vespa and feel like a local exploring EUR fascist architecture, “LA Galleria Nazionale” of Modern Art, Renzo Piano’s Auditorium, the MAXXI or the street art in Quadraro and Ostiense districts.

If you still have some time the program could be completed with a first day dedicated to the Etruscans (on the way from the airport you could stop at the fascinating necropolis of Cerveteri and then spend a couple of hours in Villa Giulia Etruscan museum in Rome). And several day trips around Rome might be interesting too: lakes (Bracciano, Nemi….), sanctuaries (Subiaco or San Nilo in Grottaferrata….), hilly towns (Castelli, Tivoli….).

All that said, we know it is unlikely you’ll have all these days at disposal just for Rome, but you can get ideas and advices from the above list to turn your Roman days into your “perfect” Roman days!

Do not feel compelled to rooted itineraries, Rome is a many-sided city, explore the facets you like the most!

Churches you cannot miss in Rome !

Posted on Apr 13, 2016 in Arts and History, On your own | No Comments

208781723_f4a659df12_bCan you guess how many churches are there in Rome? Nobody really knows, but rumours say more than 900 (and nobody has seen them all, despite what they say!)

The problem is that you don’t have enough time to visit them all and they all contain incredible treasures, from a fascinating crypt to a masterpiece of a great artist just hanging there in a side chapel! Rome churches come in all shapes and sizes, from the IV to the XXI century, they are all free and generally a calm place to sit down far from crowd and heat, so do not hesitate to sneak in when you see one open in front of you (they usually close at lunchtime between noon and 3 p.m.), just remember to be compliant with the dress code (covered shoulders and knees) and respectful behaviour (do not eat and drink indoors, check  if you are allowed to take pictures, respect the silence).

All that said, our job as tour guides is exactly to help you maximise your time in Rome and suggest the best visits, according to your interest and taste. I checked with several of my expert colleagues to make a “top 10 list”, but it was impossible to cut the story so short. So I ended up with a list of 10 types of churches and my advice is to touch base with one of each category. Let’s start!

  1. St Peter’s basilica: ok, I know,  you knew that already, but in fact this is a MUST. The biggest and most incredible church in the entire world… of course you cannot miss that while you are here. BUT (there is a but!) crowd is becoming hard to cope with, security check are making lines very long so best advice is to go early in the morning (from 7.00 a.m.) or late in the afternoon (after 5 p.m.) or visit it during our Vatican tour of the museums with the special shortcut of the guided visits. Also check with us if there are special events going on at the Vatican during your stay, as the church will be off limits for special celebrations (sometimes with no pre-notice, e.g. for a Cardinal’s funeral….). In case you cannot visit St Peter’s for any reason see point 2.
  2. Another Papal Basilica: yes, we have other 3 major basilicas in Rome, i.e. St. Paul,  St. John and S.Mary Major. They are all rich in history, relics and masterpieces. St. John is in fact the cathedral of Rome and the oldest official church of the Christian history, St. Paul was redone after a huge fire (1823) and  – despite being the newest – it is the most preserved (it was reconstructed exactly as it was in the IV century), St. Mary Major has dazzling ancient mosaics… So, even if you did have the chance to visit St. Peter’s already, I think you should include one of these three in your itinerary.
  3.  a paleo-Christian church: hidden charming simple churches preserving the atmosphere of the first centuries of the Christian faith. They are my favorite and I recommend Santo Stefano Rotondo on the Coelian Hill (10′ away from the Colosseo), Santa Sabina on the Aventino, San Giorgio al Velabro (just at the back of the Forum, but amazingly quiet), San Saba (you will be surely alone in there!) or – a bit farer from the centre – San Lorenzo outside the walls (a good opportunity to go off-the-beaten-path)
  4. If you are into mosaics, you will be embarrassed: San Clemente (also famous for its 3 layers explaining the whole history of Rome in one block!), Santi Cosma e Damiano, Santa Prassede, Santa Pudenziana, S.Maria Maggiore, S.Maria in Trastevere, Santa Cecilia…. And a bit farer from the centre the hidden jewel of  Costanza’s mausoleum!
  5. Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a stone’s throw from the Pantheon (which, BTW, is a church but I do not consider it in this list as – to me – this is first of all the best preserved monument of Ancient Rome… another spot you cannot miss!) is considered the only gothic church in Rome: in fact it has a dark interior with unusual stained glass windows, but above all it’s an art museum for free! To enjoy a bit of the medieval atmosphere which is often lost in Rome, I also suggest you a visit to the Abbey of the “Tre Fontane”: the proof will be in the pudding!
  6. For those of you who are fond of Renaissance architecture and  miss Florence so bad… well, we have pretty nice stuff here too: Santa Maria degli Angeli, Santa Maria della Pace, San Pietro in Montorio and its perfect Temple of Bramante nearby, Santa Maria del Popolo and Sant’Agostino so, if you become a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings in there, go and visit also San Luigi dei Francesi…ohi ohi, the list is getting longer and  longer!
  7. And now the period which is mostly representative of Rome, the Baroque. So many churches in this category, but I would say you can’t miss the jesuit  Chiesa del Gesù or Sant’Ignazio (interesting “3D effects” in the paintings in both churches), Sant’Agnese in Agone on Piazza Navona, Sant’Andrea al Quirinale (if you like Bernini) or San Carlino (if you prefer Borromini)….
  8. Something unusual is a neo-gothic church built in the XIX century district of Prati: it is called Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, but also known as “the small duomo of Milan”… you enter the main nave and you forget you are in Rome!
  9. After so many historical churches, you can understand how hard it can be for a contemporary architect to plan something new in the field, and still worth seeing (and worth a long trip to the suburbs!), but I think the Church Dives in Misericordia by Richard Meier reached the goal.
  10. Last but not least, remember in Rome there are places of worship for everybody, from non -catholic christian churches (like the interesting St. Paul within the Walls) to the Jewish Synagogue (with an interesting museum) and a Great Mosque.

Opera under the stars

224547882-a2baf4f1-4def-49bb-a583-2557152930ecRome’s Opera House holds its summer opera and ballet season framed by the incredible ruins of the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), where you can enjoy opera under the stars. The performances feature the orchestra, chorus and the ballet company of the “Teatro dell’Opera di Roma” as well as international stars.

For over 70 years the monumental archaeological site has been a wonderful stage for unforgettable shows  set up in a magical frame of antiquity: in fact it was the year 1937 when the Teatro dell’Opera set up its summer season at the Caracalla Baths for the first time!
The Baths of Caracalla were among one of the major spa complexes in ancient Rome, maybe the richest for its splendid decoration. The baths were in use until 537 when Vitige, King of the Goths, cut the aquaeducts during the siege of Rome. In the first half of the 19th century the palaestra was rediscovered and mosaics of athletes and sporting judges were removed (they are now in the Vatican Museums). Since then, non stop excavations have contributed to our knowledge of the monument revealing recently the underground galleries and a mitrhaeum.

Opera was invented in the Renaissance Florence by a group of intellectuals who aimed to recreate the Greek drama combining poetry and music: the “sung theatre” (il recitar cantando) was originally just poems read aloud to the accompaniment of few chords. Opera flourished during the Baroque era, becoming a real business, a new world populated impresarios, librettists, divas and castratos (male singers who were evicted at the age of 8 to prevent their voice from breaking during puberty and giving them a great vocal extension from sopranos to tenor voices… This cruel practice was illegal, but perpetrated among the poor who hoped their children would make good money from Opera).

In Rome the Counter Reformation stopped the development of the Opera which was only accepted in the 19th century when it had reached every social class, not only aristocracy. The Torre Argentina theatre (still in activity!) became the centre of the city’s musical life and here Rossini performed his first “Barber of Seville” in 1816, followed by Verdi’s “Trovatore” in 1853. The Rome Opera House opened in 1880, under the name of Teatro Costanzi from his patron, an hotelier. It became a public theatre in 1926 and was massively restored, boasting a wide stage and the largest Murano crystal chandelier in Europe.

If you are not in Rome during the Summer Festival, check the Opera House program and do not hesitate to book a seat if your read “Tosca” on it: it is the most Roman of all operas, a story of jealousy, obsession and lost love set in Rome during the tense period of the French Revolution and the fall of the first Roman Republic. The plot is played out over 24 hours in three important Roman monuments as backdrops, which can be the stops of a nice walk in the centre: the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo.

Feeling home in a “palazzo”

Posted on Feb 1, 2012 in Arts and History | No Comments

palazzo doria pamphiljDo you know a large number of Roman masterpieces remain tentalizingly behind the gates of private palaces? Of all European cities, Rome has most of historical palaces and villas still in private hands, due to the papacy tradition. Every time a new Pope was elected, another family came to power and was able to commission wonderful buildings and collect major works of art.

Some of these palazzos were acquired by the governement, some others are still owned by the illustrious families, but in any case most of them can be visited now. Some examples?

Palazzo Barberini, which houses the exceptional “Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica”, but it would be a treasure even completely empty with its wonderful ceiling by Pietro da Cortona, the gardens, the staircases by Bernini e Borromini, the magical atmosphere of bygone days. And now we can also include a special section of the palace that was private since not too long ago, where you see a real apartment of a wealthy family of the xix century.

Or Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, preserving major works by Velasquez, Caravaggio and Raphael, but not only (it is one of the major private collections in Europe!)

Not to forget  Palazzo Colonna dating back to the XV century when the pope of the family, Martino V, started it.

A world of splendor and opulence will be revealed in front of your eyes while you enjoy incredible masterpieces far from the tourist crowd. If you wish to feel like home in a a palace, do not forget to include a visit to one of this sites during your next trip to Rome!