A STROLL INTO BEAUTY: PALAZZO ALTEMPS & VIA DEI CORONARI
‘A Stroll into Beauty’ begins with Palazzo Altemps, a luminous and airy Renaissance home with a dazzling art collection, and then continues along Via dei Coronari, in 2019 classed by ‘Architectural Digest’ as one of the ten most beautiful streets in the world. As it always happens in Rome, it will be also a ‘Stroll into Time’.
We are just a few steps away from Piazza Navona, not far from the Tiber. On the opposite side of the river stands Castel Sant’Angelo. Palazzo Altemps, now a branch of the National Roman Museum, was built in the 1480s for Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV Della Rovere, married to Caterina Sforza. He was the guy who plotted the assassination of Giuliano de’ Medici in 1478. Got murdered himself ten years later.
The 13-year-long restoration of the palace has brought back the original brick floors from this period and some lively frescoes, the most noteworthy shows a trompe-l’oeil plate-rackdisplaying Girolamo and Caterina’s wedding gifts. When Girolamo was killed the house was looted and later sold out of the family.
Powerful Cardinal Francesco Soderini acquired it in 1511. Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio and Baldassarre Peruzzi signed the astounding new courtyard, were our stroll into beauty will stop to admire the exquisitely frescoed Loggia, the statues, the mosaic fountain. Our eye will be caught by the unusual oval structure which reproduces the original covering, sheltering the courtyard’s treasures from atmospheric agents.
Finally, in 1568 the house was acquired by
Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps, of German origins, but nephew, from mother’s side, of Pope Pius IV Medici. As it was fashionable at the time, Marco Sittico was an avid books and art collector. He started to fill the house with ancient statues, and his descendants continued.
Notwithstanding he was a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Marco Sittico had a son, Roberto, who was condemned to death by the Pope for adultery. You will learn this sad story while visiting the splendid inner church.
The Altemps kept the property until the end of the 19th century, when they ceded it to the Papacy. Although most of the original collection is now spread in different museums and places, it was possible, through old guidebooks and other documents, to reconstruct the original setting. Part of the original Altemps statues, that had been acquired by the legendary Ludovisi-Boncompagni collection, are now back.
The ancient art collection we admire today comes mostly from Cardinal Ludovisi’s Villa and from three other smaller private groups. Walking into the sunny and spacious rooms, with long vistas and few visitors around, you will not feel like a modern tourist in a museum but rather like an old times’ traveler. The Suicide Gaul, the splendid Ludovisi Sarcophagus, the delicate Ludovisi Throne will talk to your imagination.
The silent halls will help you to perceive the flow of time, the murmurs of admiration of former visitors before you. The eternal marble bodies standing around you will almost look alive, in their endless and timeless beauty. Quoting someimmortal verses by Thomas Stearns Eliot: ‘Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past’. (T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”).
Our Stroll into Beauty goes on into narrow and straight Via dei Coronari, still retaining some of the charm of old days – if you see a fast food or a souvenirs’ stand please turn your head the other way! – with its ‘golden’ plaster palaces, the intimate little squares and a row of antique dealers and other eccentric shops. One of our preferred gelato places can also be included in our tour for a quick refreshing stop…
This many centuries old road – it was the only access for pilgrims to St Peter’s– is also peppered with historical ‘gossip’– your guide will tell you – mostly focusing on‘honest’ courtesans (Fiammetta de Michaelis had two properties here), wealthy noblemen, pilgrims, and a plethora of ‘reluctant’ churchmen.
Do not forget to ask about the origin of the word ‘Coronari’, you will find out it has nothing to do with the virus…! If you found our ‘Stroll into beauty’ interesting and instructive you might like this very special Venice tour.
Cost of this tour
This tour lasts three hours and costs 280 euros up to six people (not per person).
Only private parties.
For larger parties send us an email!
Entrance fees per person: Palazzo Altemps (closed on Mondays) 10 euro per person
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