Often times, when visitors come to the eternal city, they tend to overlook some of the most prestigious and powerful palazzi (palaces or buildings) when crossing the ‘must-see’ sights off their checklist. Tourists often snap a photo or two in front of these buildings simply for their sheer beauty, without ever knowing the history of the politics that’s linked to these architectural icons.
PALAZZO DEL QUIRINALE
Piazza del Quirinale
Bus 40 from Termini
Entry fee €5
Since 1948, this immense palace located on the Quirinal hill (the tallest of all seven hills in Rome) has been the home of the Presidente della Repubblica, Italy’s official head of state (not to be confused with the Prime Minister). Before becoming the presidential palace, it once was a papal summer residence for nearly three centuries. Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Italy’s finest architects and artists during that time to construct the summer home: Domenico Fontana (the facade), Carlo Maderno (the chapel) and Guido Reni was responsible for the frescos inside. On the other side of the piazza is the Scuderie del Quirinale, a fantastic exhibition space. Palazzo Quirinale is typically open to the public on most Sundays.
PALAZZO DI MONTECITORIO
Metro A Spagna
First Sunday of every month
This magnificent palace is home to Italy’s Chamber of Duties (Camera dei Deputati) and is also the centre stage for political powerplay in the Bel Paese. The baroquesque palace was built by none other than master himself, Bernini in 1653. Other modifications were later added on by the great architect Carlo Fontana in the late 17th century and a further facelift was given to the building in 1918. Visitors are allowed to view the palace’s extravagant reception rooms and the main chamer where deputies debate orders of the day. If you’re lucky, you might even witness a session taking place during your visit.
Bus 40 or 64 from Termini
Guided public visits to Palazzo Madama are conducted on the first Saturday of each month.
This highly guarded palace has been the house of the Italian Senate since 1871. The building where the senate meets, Palazzo Madama was originally constructed atop ruins of the ancient baths of Nero in the 16th century as a lavish townhouse for the nobile Medici family. The prestigious palace takes its name ‘Madama’ from Madama Margherita of Austria, the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Charles V who once lived there.
Piazza Colonna, 370
October-May (Saturdays only) 9am-1pm
By reservation only
Palazzo Chigi is a nobile palace that has officially housed Italy’s Prime Minister since 1961. It was constructed by Giacomo della Porta in 1562 and later finished by the famed architect Carlo Maderno in 1580 for the Aldobrandini family. The building takes its name after the Chigi family, who bought the precious palace in 1659. It was once the residence of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Its current tenant is Italy’s new technical Prime Minister, Mario Monti, who’s been there since November of 2011.
Piazza del Campidoglio
Palazzo Senatorio is where Rome’s city council and the mayor Marino’s office is located. It was constructed in the XII century and built over the remains of the ancient Tabularium. Michelangelo initially designed the monumental staircase and was also responsibile for portions of the facade. The work was later completed by Giacomo della Porta. The building along with two other palazzi (Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, which house the famous Capitoline museums) is located in one of the most exquisite piazzas in all of Rome on the Capitoline Hill. The piazza and palaces are celestially complimented by the sublime staircase that leads up from Piazza d’Ara Coeli.