Built in the 15th century by a wealthy Italian family, the Palazzo Altemps has been home since 1997 to very fine collections of ancient sculptures belonging to the National Roman Museum.
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Brief history of the Palazzo Altemps
The origins of the Palazzo Altemps
Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, undertook the construction of the palace at the end of the 15th century (probably around 1480). When the pope died, the palace was abandoned. A few decades later, Cardinal Francesco Soderini acquired the building and had it renovated.
But it is after its following owner that the palace is named. In the 2nd half of the 16th century, Cardinal Mark Sittich von Hohenems, known as Marco Sittico Altemps in Italian, acquired the palace and had it enlarged. The Palazzo Altemps was then considered as one of the most beautiful Roman residences.
In the 17th century, Giovanni Angelo Altemps built the library, the theater and the chapel. The palace’s chapel is the only private chapel retaining the remains of a pope (Pope Anicet, who ruled in the 2nd century).
In the 19th century, the Palazzo Altemps became the seat of the Academy of the Lynceans, the oldest scientific academy in Europe (today located in the Villa Farnesina), before becoming home to the Spanish seminary.
The Palazzo Altemps today
In the 20th century, the Palazzo Altemps gradually fell into ruin. In 1982, the Italian Ministry of Culture acquired the palace and undertook major renovations.
Converted into a museum housing collections of ancient sculptures, the Palazzo Altemps opened its doors to the public in 1997. It is part of the National Roman Museum, the collections of which are spread over 4 sites: the Palazzo Altemps, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Crypta Balbi and the Baths of Diocletian.
Visiting the Palazzo Altemps
The architecture of the Palazzo Altemps
Like many museums and galleries in the Italian capital ( the Borghese Gallery, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj…), the Palazzo Altemps is worth a visit for its sumptuous architecture as much as for its collections.
Before entering the palace, take the time to admire the altana, the corner tower: it is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – in Rome.
Inside the building, the cortile the inner courtyard, is also beautiful. The loggia covered with frescoes is simply grandiose.
The walls and ceilings of the palace are covered with somptuous Renaissance and Baroque frescoes!
The collections of the Palazzo Altemps
The majority of the sculptures on display at the Palazzo Altemps come from collections assembled by wealthy Roman families in the 16th and 17th centuries, such as the Altemps collection, the Mattei collection, the Del Drago collection abd the Boncompagni-Ludovisi collection.
Many of the statues in the museum were restored in the 16th and 17th centuries as was customary at the time.
Among the emblematic statues and historical remains on display at the Palzzo Altemps, be sure to have a look at:
- The Ludovisi Gaul (aka The Galatian Suicide)
- The Ludovisi Ares (restored by Bernini)
- The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus
- The Ludovisi Throne
- The Ludovisi Dionysus
- The Juno Ludovisi
The Palazzo Altemps, one of Rome’s top tourist attractions?
If you’re not fond of museums or are only staying in for a few days Rome, the Palazzo Altemps might not be high on the list of priorities.
Otherwise, Captain Ulysses can only recommend visiting this beautiful museum, which is unanimously considered one of the finest in the Italian capital.
The Palazzo Altemps is located in Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, north of Piazza Navona. Many buses stop near the museum.
Admission tickets are €13 at full price, €2 for European nationals aged 18 to 25 and free for European nationals under 17 and over 65. The ticket also provides access to the three other sites of the National Roman Museum: the Baths of Diocletian, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and the Crypta Balbi.
👉 The entrance to the Palazzo Altemps is included in the Roma Pass. More info here.
Unlimited access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card.
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For flights as well as trains and buses, the Captain recommends Omio.