Palazzo Farnese

posted Nov 9, 2011, 6:54 AM by Stefano Capoccioni   [ updated Nov 9, 2011, 6:54 AM ]
Day trip from Rome to palazzo Farnese

Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, or Villa Farnese as it also known, is one of the best examples of a Renaissance residence, built for the Roman Farnese family in Caprarola. In 1530 Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III, asked Antonio Sangallo the Younger to build a fortress in Caprarola. Sangallo designed an impressive pentagonal building, but works were suspended in 1534 when Alessandro Farnese was elected pope.
The grandson of Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese Jr came into possession of the property in Caprarola and in 1555 ordered the architect  Jacopo Birozzi da Vignola, known as Vignola, to continue work on the building, creating a luxurious palace instead of the original fortress.
Vignola carried out his task marvellously, succeeding in designing and building a prestigious palace on the existing large-scale foundations of a military structure, thus creating a harmonious construction which is looked on as his masterpiece. He succeeded in combining perfectly the beauty of the surrounding landscape with his architectural inventiveness so as to obtain a work of unmatched originality and grandeur.
The construction of this splendid building, erected in just 27 years, led to a series of works to adapt the layout of the town of Caprarola to Palazzo Farnese’s architectural needs, pulling down some buildings in order to put up bridges and building a new large raised road to access the palace called the Via Diritta (straight road), now known as Via Filippo Nicolai.
The building comprises 5 floors, including the basement, and is surrounded by a large ditch. It has a pentagonal shape and an internal circular courtyard. In memory of its original use as a fortress, four corners were reinforced with buttresses which end on the first floor terrace while the fifth has a tower which rises above the roof.
The palace is accessed via a double staircase with the flights of stairs firstly diverging and then coming together to lead up to the main door. The servants’ quarters were separated from the cardinal’s domain and were built into the thick palace walls.
Vignola was also responsible for the frescoes on the internal spiral staircase (Scala Regia). The staircase features 30 peperino columns which, legend has it, the cardinal used to go up on horseback in order to reach the first floor.
Over the years, many leading artists helped to fresco and decorate the inside of the palace, especially the brothers, Federico and Taddeo Zuccari, Jacopo Zanguidi (known as Bertoja), Raffaellino da Reggio and Giovanni de Vecchi.
The cardinal’s bedroom known as the Camera dell’Aurora and the room known as the Stanza dei Fasti Farnesia (Room of Farnese deeds), with frescoes recalling the life of the Farnese family are located on the first floor. On from this you can find the Anticamera del Concilio which takes its name from the fresco of the Council of Trent. In the same room there is a fresco of Paul III. Further on there is the Sala di Ercole which also takes its name from the frescoes located therein.
One of the palace’s most representative rooms is the Stanza delle Geografiche or the Stanza del Mappamondo (Room of the World Map) which takes its name from the frescoes by Giovanni Antonio da Varese. The fourth and fifth floors were assigned to grooms and cavalrymen.