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The most magnificent palazzi in Rome
“A nation of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, migrants”: This is written on the façade of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the EUR district, better known as the Colosseo Quadrato (because of its 54 travertine arches on each side). It’s a monumental structure of Roman architecture of the 20th century, much loved by the cinema and advertising groups, and since 2015 has been the headquarters of the Fendi fashion house.
Why not start with a less conventional example (and more modern one) to recount the magnificent historic buildings in Rome? Those related to politics, nobility and culture: an artistic journey from the middle ages to the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical period. It was Carlo Maderno who began works on Palazzo Barberini in 1625, before being replaced by Bernini, assisted by Borromini. Today, inside, we find the National Gallery of Ancient Art with works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Vanvitelli.
Taking via delle Quattro Fontane you get to via Nazionale and Palazzo delle Esposizioni, a monumental neoclassical building designed by Pio Piacentini, which remains the largest interdisciplinary exhibition space in the centre of Rome (over ten thousand square meters on three levels) with a Michelin-starred restaurant (the Open Colonna) on the rooftop terrace.
Walking down via Quattro Novembre, you’ll find Piazza Venezia and Palazzo Venezia, also known as Palazzo Barbo, built between 1455 and 1467, a shining example of Roman Renaissance and today home to the National Museum of Palazzo Venezia and the Library of Archaeology and History of Art. Head up to the “Cordonata” to the Capitoline Hill to admire the Bell Tower and the double staircase of Palazzo Senatorio, the symbol of civil authority in the city. From there, walk through the Ghetto and walk to the heart of Rione Regola up to Campo de’ Fiori and the adjacent Piazza Farnese where you can find a fine example of 16th-century Sangallesca Renaissance architecture: Palazzo Farnese, now the French Embassy headquarters.
If you want to get a taste of Italian political scene, you have to reach Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat, since 1871, of the Chamber of Deputies, and the adjacent Palazzo Chigi, the seat of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, overlooking Piazza Colonna. Next to Piazza Navona is Palazzo Madama, which owes its name to Margaret of Austria, called Madama. You can visit every first Saturday of the month. On Sundays, do not miss the ritual (an extremely addictive one!) of the changing of the guard in front of Palazzo del Quirinale, located on the highest of the ancient Rome’s seven hills. For nearly three centuries, this palazzo has served as the summer residence for the popes, as the Palace of the Kings of Italy starting in 1870, and since 1946, as the seat of the Presidents of the Republic.
The last two stops are along the Tiber river. First in the Prati district, at the imposing Palazzo di Giustizia – better known as the “Palazzaccio” (meaning ‘decrepit building’) because of its construction not being free from suspicion of corruption – was inspired by the stile Umbertino Baroque architecture. Then there’s the Villa Farnesina in the Trastevere district, one of the most harmonious Renaissance buildings ever made, best known for its frescoes inspired by the classical myths created by Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo and Sodoma.