Palazzo Farnese, nowadays the seat of the French Embassy in Rome, was commissioned by Alessandro Farnese (1468-1549), who in 1534 was to become Pope Paul III and from that moment on greatly expanded the building, in order to underline the status and power of the Farnese family.
Palazzo Farnese Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Piazza Farnese, 67 – Rome (tel. +39 06 686011). The building can only be visited as part of a guided tour in Italian. These take palce on Mondays and Fridays at 17.00 and on Wednesdays at 15.00 and 16.00. The visit lasts 45 minutes. Minimum age is 10. Admission: 9 Euros. Reservations are obligatory and need to be done at least one week in advance.
The visit includes Sangallo‘s atrium, the courtyard and the garden, the Salone d’Ercole and Caracci‘s hallway.
History and description
Like many palazzi in Rome, it took so long to build that more than one architect ended up being responsible for the final result: Antonio da Sangallo the Younger started construction in 1514, in 1546 Michelangelo took over and three years later Vignola and Giacomo della Porta took command and finally finished it (1589).
Michelangelo redesigned the third floor, added the cornice and designed the courtyard. Above the facade a large coat-of-arms with papal tiara can be seen. Giacomo della Porta designed the facade on the other side.
Originally the Tiber could be seen from the rear side of the building and Michelangelo had also planned to construct a bridge that would connect the Palazzo Farnese with the Villa Farnesina across the river, but this never happened.
The Cardinals Ranuccio, Alessandro and Edoardo Farnese, descendants of Pope Paul III, entrusted the decoration and design of the interior to the major artists of the time an example of which can be seen in Annibale Carracci‘s fresco cycle The Loves Of The Gods and other frescoes by Daniele Da Volterra.
At the time there were several important art collections in the Palazzo Farnese, which can now be seen in Naples’ National Archeological Museum and in the Capodimonte Museum of the same city.
After the Farnese family moved to Parma, the palazzo remained uninhabited for 20 years, before being rented out to Sweden’s Queen Christina, who turned out a rather irreverent tenant, letting her servants steal objects and even demolish parts of the building.
After the family became extinct the Bourbon family from Naples acquired the Palazzo (which also explains how the Farnese art collections ended up in museums in that city.
Although some French ambassadors had had their residence in the Palazzo Farnese since the 16th century, it did not become the official French Embassy in Italy until 1874. The year after the Ecole Française de Rome, which keeps the famous Farnese Library here, was also established in the building.
Later the state of France first acquired the building and then sold it back to the Italian state. At the moment (since 1936) there is a reciprocal rental agreement in place whereby the French Embassy will stay in the Palazzo Farnese for 99 years as will its Italian counterpart in Paris, both for a negligible sum of money.