Rome has some of the most astonishing frescos in the world. Ranging from ancient roman villa interiors, to eighteenth century wall tapestries. The great masters of art history have all been fascinated by painting on walls, encouraged by the possibility of a limitless canvas.
On the top floor of the Palazzo Massimo, you will find yourself in a magical painted garden, known as the Villa of Livia. The perfectly preserved frescos from the suburban Villa of Livia Drusilla, were commissioned by the wife of Augustus for her triclinium in 30 -20 BC. This dining room was in the cool underground of the villa, and therefore, the frescos were used as the imaginary view of flowers, fruits and animals. The ticket for the National Roman Museum will allow access to three other sites, including the magnificent Baths of Diocletian.
Largo Villa Peretti, 2 (Termini)
Tue – Sun, 9am -7.45pm
€7 full, €3.50 reduced
Villa Farnesina is the perfect example of the splendor of the Italian Renaissance. The villa was commissioned in the sixteenth century by the Sienese banker Agostino Chigi, and it holds some of the finest frescos in Rome. Each room has been exquisitely decorated by a Renaissance master, most notably Raphael. The Raphael frescos narrate the story of beautiful Psyche, who was loved by Cupid but persecuted by Venus. These episodes are symbolic of the patron’s complicated love life. After visiting the villa, make sure to take a stroll through the perfectly geometrical gardens.
Via della Lungara, 230 (Trastevere)
Mon – Sat, 9am – 2pm
The Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museums hold by far the most famous frescos in the world, including those by the infamous rivals of the High Renaissance; Michelangelo and Raphael. Michelangelo’s relentless work between 1508-1512, culminated in a fresco that is worth the fuss. Upon entering the Sistine Chapel, visitors will encounter a visual experience like no other. Also in the Vatican museum, are the multiple Raphael rooms. The Stanza della Seganturan was the first room to be decorated by Raphael and houses the world renowned School of Athens painting. This fresco has enchanted viewers since its realization and according to Vasari, depicts Raphael himself.
Mon – Sat, 9 am – 4 pm
€16.00 full, €8.00 reduced
The Church of Gesu
The Church of Gesu is the mother church of the society of Jesus, a Catholic order. The astonishing vault was painted by one of Bernini’s pupils; Giovanni Battista Gaulli and competed in 1679. It is believed that Bernini intervened in the planning and execution of the multi-media extravagance. Battista has combined fresco painting, stucco and architecture, to create a Baroque masterpiece that deceives even the most well trained of eyes. The dome is in fact an optical illusion, which upon closer inspection is entirely flat.
Via degli Astalli, 16 (Piazza Venezia)
7am – 12.50, 4pm – 7.45pm
Sant’Ignazio di Loyola
Another church of the Jesuit order, Sant’Ignazio has two astonishing trompe l’oeil frescos. The baroque painter, Andrea Pozzo has depicted St. Ignazio in a riot of colours, being welcomed into heaven by Christ and Madonna. Move further towards the altar, and you will find the central dome is also an optical illusion. This highly effective fresco is only given away by a cloudy day – when the illuminated golden light is no longer believable.
Via del Caravita, 8 (Pantheon)
Mon – Sat, 7.30am – 7pm; Sun, 9am – 7pm
The Italian painter Pietro da Cortona painted The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power between 1633-1639. Teaming with Barberini family symbols; suns and bees, this fresco is thought to represent the Barberini papal election, their triumph in Roman aristocratic society. This overwhelming whirlpool of flying figures and landscapes is empowered by the grandeur of the salon. Not only is this an often overlooked fresco in Rome, but is also significant in defining the artistic progression from the Baroque style, to Rocco.
Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13 (Barberini)
Tue – Sun, 8am – 7pm
€8.50 full, €4.50 reduced
The Capitoline Museums are not renowned for its frescos, but rest-assured, they will not disappoint. The magnificent rooms found on the first floor of the Palazzo were originally used for Public and Private Council meetings, and therefore, are known as the Conservators’ Apartment. Find yourself emerged in the Far East in the Hall of Hannibal, decorated with exotic symbols, turbans and elephants. Alternatively, head to the Hall of Tapestries, which houses enormous tapestries depicting scenes from Ancient Rome.Piazza del Campidoglio, 1 (Piazza Venezia)
open daily 9.30am – 7.30pm
€15 full, €13 reduced