Palazzo Colonna: Crashing the Cribs of the Noble
The amazing thing about Rome is that you never know from the outside what you will find on the inside. When flying down from the Via Nazionale on your bicycle or motorino to land in the swooshing pool that is Piazza Venezia it is hard to imagine that just some cobblestones away behind the symmetrical walls of the Renaissance palace one of the highlights of the Italian Baroque lies to be disclosed: the Galleria Colonna. The palazzo and galleria belong to the Colonna family, one of the oldest noble families in Rome who for already over twenty-three generations enjoy the hustle of Roman life. Although the family still occupies the upper levels of the palazzo, they open the doors every Saturday for the public to grant us a peek in their world and let us be awed away by the splendorous paintings and decorations they had centuries for to collect.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth century palazzi like this popped out of the ground like mushrooms and the wealthy families, who could miss a dime or two, weren’t afraid to let the money flow and adorn them lavishly to exhibit their power and win the favour of the pope, an of course very welcome and illustrious guest. And the Colonna’s may be called the winners, because lavish it is: multi-coloured marble floors, curled-up bronze figures serving as table legs, enormous chandeliers and numerous paintings by famous painters in flamboyant frames covering every inch of the walls. Commissioned in the mid-1600s we are in the overflowing heart of the Baroque. Entering the Great Hall we are even given a tip about how to become rich and famous as well: just win a decisive battle like Marcantonio II Colonna, the commandant of the pontifical fleet, did in 1571 in Lepanto. An important moment in history the Colonna’s were happy to display elaborately in the form of fresco’s on the ceilings.
After wandering through the different high-ceilinged rooms it is also possible to descend to ground level with a likeable and knowledgeable guide who while chattering away about the family’s history and the valuable artefacts and furniture takes you through the dreamlike apartments of Princess Isabelle, the aristocratic socialite who died in 1984. If you weren’t ignited by the grandeur of the palazzo yet, this residential area will definitely get you closer. The fresco’s on the wall invite to escape to the countryside of Napels and the effect of nature is enhanced by the plants and birds that you can almost hear twitter. Equally amazing are the collections of paintings, witnesses of the intimate dinner parties held by Isabella for her high society friends, with in particular the paintings of Jan Brueghel the Elder that with their intense colours and particular perspective leave a profound imprint. The last room, the laundry room, is yet another example of the ‘why do it the normal way if we have the money to exaggerate-mentality’; the water basin that was used to wash the, undoubtedly impeccable, clothing of Isabella is not just a simple stone, but a classical fountain font with a bearded mask dating back to the second century.
If you are for some reason not one to be enchanted by pictorial marvels and glistering adornments but go instead weak for Italian cinema, than it is good to know that Palazzo Colonna is the place in the classic Vacanze Romane where Gregory Pecks finds out that Audrey Hepburn is in fact nothing less than a princess. Either way it is a Roman crib definitely worth to crash.
Entrance at Via della Pilotta 17
Open every Saturday from 9am – 1.15pm
Free guided tour in English at 12pm, in French at 10.30am, in Italian at 10am, 11am, 12.30pm – Private tours on request seven days a week
Full entrance ticket €12, reduced entrance ticket €10