From Palace to Palace (part I)

March 11, 2010 / Art & Archaeology
Rome, Lazio

In the heart of the historical center near piazza Venezia, two luxurious palaces await your visit. One is Galleria Colonna on Via della Pilotta  and the other, Galleria Doria Pamphilj on via del Corso. Why visit them together?

Apart from their physical proximity, a tour to both will give you an excellent idea of the wealth and power certain Roman families waged when their star was in the ascendant, so to speak. You will also learn the true meaning of “nepotism”—the word was born when Giovanni Battista of the Doria family brought his family to prominence by becoming Pope Innocence X. Subsequently this Pope and King assigned his nipote (nephew), Prince Camillo, to the position of Cardinale Nipote, or Secretary of State.

A scandal at the time, the prince declined the offer in order to marry Olimpia Aldobrandini, the very wealthy widow of Paolo Borghese—another important family name in Italian history.

Happily, the current Genoese-English branch of the Doria Pamphilj family has opened the doors of their home to the public, even dictating a free tour on the helpful art-phones. It is possible to see an enchanting gallery of paintings from different eras, artists the likes of Tiziano to Filippo Lippi to Caravaggio to Velázquez.


by Alejandra Fabris

— Contributed by Alejandra Fabris, writer, American University of Rome Senior, Italian Notebook Editorial Intern.

7 Responses to “From Palace to Palace (part I)”

  1. Evanne Brandon Diner

    Brilliant note, Alejandra. To walk through the Palazzo is a sneak peek at how these people lived, and perhaps inspiration to read about the lives of these people when back at home. Do you think the residents took these marvels for granted?

  2. Tom Brandon

    The photos of the paintings are gorgeous, but please identify them. Photos, in my opinion, require captions.
    Thanks, Tom

  3. Stef Smulders

    Interesting to learn that the first person to profit from nepotism actually declined the offer. That’s a lesson for all those who are inclined to accept …
    (If the nepotists are smart though, they should say that their acceptance of the position offered is actually a proof that it’s not nepotism in the historical sense)

  4. Another ” Walked Right By” is the backdrop in Piazza Navona for Bernini’s Fountain of the 4 Rivers, designed in 1647 for Pope Innocent X. Construction occurred under the dominating eye of his sister-in-law Donna Olimpia, the reputed power behind the papal throne who lived in a palazzo (now the Brazilian Embassy) on Piazza Navona.  The relationship between the cardinal who would become pope and his brother’s wife created Inside Edition-style gossip as well as her nickname of  La Papessa, the female pope.

  5. Linda Boccia

    Having lived in Rome as a student and also for my husband’s engineering company work on the now defunct Messina Straits Bridge project, and the fact that my husband was born in Rome, we also miss things unless they are pointed out. As to the question of do you think that Romans know about such gems….the answer of our friends is decidedly “yes they do”. However there are so many things to visit they often forget about specific palazzi. I am glad in grad school in Italian to have had European history and specifically Italian history.


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