Rome is full of famous palazzi built by the ruling families that became fabulously rich by having a family member become Pope. Some have become Embassies like the Palazzo Farnese which is now the French Embassy. many have been sold to the state and have been converted into museums and galleries like the Villa Borghese and the Palazzo Barberini which are both art galleries.
There is one that is still in the family’s hands and can give you a wonderful insight into the lives of the Papal families. The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is right in the centre of Rome and is probably the largest palazzo of this type still in private hands
The entrance ticket also provides for an audioguide. The thing that really struck me is that the English version is narrated by Jonathan Doria Pamhplij who is one of the owners of the building and its incredible art collection. It is the best audioguide I have ever had, It is like being led through the palace by someone who knows and loves the place. He takes us through the rooms that have been restored and maintained with the care that only family owners can give.
In the 1600s art was used to cover walls and the paintings were even commissioned to fill spaces. They have kept the positioning of the paintings as they were originally. These were some of the richest people in Rome and were very serious art collectors. They have works by Caravaggio, Raphael. Titian, Breughel and many other famous artists. In any other gallery they would have a room to themself but here they are all mixed together. However the most famous is the portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez and his carved bust by Bernini
If you want to have a preview they have an excellent website at http://www.doriapamphilj.it/ukhome.asp
Apart from the incredible art there is a collection of Roman sculptures and the furnishings and frescoes of the palazzo to amaze you.
However the most interesting thing for me was the way the Jonathan Doria Pamphilj on the audioguide talked about the colourful history of his ancestors. I loved the story about Pope Innocent’s sister-in-law Olympia Maldaichini who convinced him that it was immoral for the church to be collecting taxes from all the brothels of Rome so he should give them to her which certainly helped the families finances. She then put the Popes coat of arms over the doors so they would not be raided by the police. This was a woman to be in awe of. She was Princess of San Martino nel Cimino near us and there she instituted a social planning experiment where retired prostitutes from her brothels could have a house if they married local miners and settled down. It looks like a mining town from the midlands as all the houses were the same.
I can really recommend this gallery as a great thing to do in Rome. Here are all the details.How to get there: Take the train from Orte to Termini then take the No 40 bus to piazza Venezia (4th stop) Hours: Almost every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm Check the website I advise you to visit in the morning and then go for lunch. Suggested places nearby: If you want something light don’t disregard the tea rooms in the galleria. They are an oasis of calm in the caos of Rome and serve panini or salads. For something more substantial you can walk from here to the Pantheon and we recommend “Da Armando al Pantheon”. Otherwise walk down via del Corso to “Dal Cavalier Gino” . Both serve typical Roman cuisine and it is best to search for them on the net or Google maps.