Barberini Palace (Palazzo Barberini) is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rome, built by the city’s great Renaissance architects: Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Now home to the National Gallery of Ancient Art, the palazzo contains an important collection of paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries.
Worth a visit for the architecture itself, the 17th-century Palazzo Barberini has a soaring marble facade with three tiers of arches—the upper two glazed to form towering windows—facing a semi-enclosed courtyard. Inside, Borromini’s remarkable spiral staircase leading up to the piano nobile (main level), and the Grand Salone decorated by Pietro da Cortona's Baroque Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power ceiling fresco, influenced the art and architecture of later palaces across Europe. The magnificence of this Renaissance palace now forms the backdrop to some of the most beautiful paintings in Rome, including Raphael's La Fornarina, a portrait of King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein, Guido Reni's portrait of Beatrice Cenci (beheaded for patricide in 1599), and a number of works by Filippo Lippi, Titian, and Caravaggio—including his unforgettable depiction of Judith Beheading Holofernes.
To fully appreciate Barberini Palace’s important architecture and artistic masterpieces, consider joining a private tour of the National Museum of Ancient Art that includes skip-the-line tickets and a guide. Some Rome night tours and walking tours include a stop by the palace to view its facade, courtyard, and garden...an excellent option for touching on the city’s highlights.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The museum is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
- Large bags and backpacks must be left in the lockers near the entrance.
- This is an especially interesting stop for art lovers who want to avoid the crowds in Rome’s more famous museums.
- The palace’s Renaissance garden is open for free to the public daily all year.
How to Get There
Palazzo Barberini is located just off Piazza Barberini, one of the main bus and metro hubs in the city. A number of bus routes and metro line A have stops in the square, and from there it is just steps to the museum entrance.
When to Get There
The museum is closed on Mondays, but open throughout the day the rest of the week. Visit around midday when most the museum is quiet to enjoy the collection virtually to yourself.
Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art is located on two sites: Palazzo Barberini and Galleria Corsini. The latter is set in Palazzo Corsini, an 18th-century Baroque palace in Trastevere on the opposite side of the Tiber river next to Villa Farnesina. The palace is home to a beautiful botanical garden covering the slopes of Janiculum hill in addition to a collection of paintings by primarily Italian artists dating from the early Renaissance to the late 18th century.