Palazzo Colonna: A Step Into 1600s Roman Magnificence

Strolling through the streets of Rome, pausing in its squares to look up at the palaces and street signs, one cannot help noticing how certain names such as Savelli, Barberini, Borghese, Corsini, Colonna (to mention only a few) occur over and over again.

These family names, which now mark government palaces, art galleries, parks and museums, still hold visible traces of power struggles, political competition, and alliances secured through marriages. All of this shaped centuries of Roman history and contributed to the vast majority of Rome’s artistic heritage.

Palazzo Colonna, just off via del Corso is one such place. The breath-taking palazzo is still today a private palace and the Colonna family has been living there for over 700 years. Walking through the magnificent gallery, you will feel the grandeur of one of the oldest homes of Roman aristocracy. The painting collection is one of the most important private ones still surviving in Rome. Paintings by Bronzino, Salviati, Tintoretto, and Annibale Caracci, decorate the rooms alongside unique, large, gilded mirrors and painted ceilings.

Moving through the “Galleria”, a real masterpiece of Baroque architecture, and walking on the lovely marble floor  you will be able to imagine the life, parties, and receptions that took place many years ago in the palace.

The Colonna family constructed this beautiful residence in the fourteenth century. Throughout the 1600s the palace was slowly turned into a masterpiece of Baroque architecture with works from Bernini, del Grande, Fontana and Schor. Today the famous Gallery also includes works of art by Pinturicchio, Carracci, Tintoretto, Guercino, Ghirlandaio, Bronzino and many others. The ceilings of the Gallery are elaborately painted in vibrant colors, recounting the glories of Marc Antonio Colonna, who captained the Christian fleets victory over the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

A noteworthy aspect to the Galleria Colonna is a cannon ball that you will find planted firmly on the short flight of stairs, going down into the Great Hall. In 1849, during the period of the Roman Republic, the French army occupied Rome for a few months. The cannon was shot from the Janiculum Hill, under the orders of General Oudinot, who arrived at Porta San Pancrazio to help Pope Pius IX from the Republican insurgents. The Colonna family decided to leave it in the Galleria as a symbol of Roman history.

While visiting the Galleria Colonna one also has the chance to take a look into the Princess Isabelle’s apartments. Her rooms provide a unique chance to see what it was like to live as a member of one of the most influential Roman families at the time, surrounded by a superb display of wealth as much as influential personalities on the international political scene. Here 1600s and 1700s politics, art and history, are told through magnificent works of art, furniture and sculptures which have mostly survived in their original settings. The apartments of Princess Isabelle have been preserved as they were formerly set up by the princess herself, with the same attention to detail and her family photos in their original position: next to the famous collection of Vanvitelli’s view of 1700s Rome and superb the paintings by Brueghel.

The Gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings between 9:00am and 1:15pm near P.zza Venezia on via della Pilotta, 17. However, the apartments of Princess Isabelle can be visited only upon private booking.  Context runs visits to both the Galleria Colonna, including the apartments of Princess Isabelle for our clients.