Palazzo Altemps is home to one of the four branches of the Museo Nazionale Romano, and the last we still had to visit (the others are Palazzo Massimo, the Baths of Diocletian and Crypta Balbi). It’s just steps away from busy Piazza Navona, yet still remains a relatively peaceful gem to explore.
The palazzo was originally designed in the 15th Century for Girolamo Riario, one of the nephews of Pope Sixtus IV. Memories of the family remain, for example in this fresco celebrating his marriage to Caterina Sforz.
The name of the Palazzo comes from Cardinal Altemps, who came to own the property after the Riarios’ decline. He was German and a distant relative of the Medici family. The building is as much a draw as the collections within it, with a gorgeous courtyard and beautifully decorated porticos around it providing a dramatic setting for classical sculpture from some notable noble family collections, including those of the Mattei and the Ludovisi.
The Ludovisi Gaul is perhaps the site’s best known masterpiece, while the 3rd Century sarcophagus is known for its vivid representation of a battle between Romans and Goths.
Overall, it’s an extensive collection and well worth a visit. Possibly my favourite item on display was this cute little example of children’s toy crockery. Each of these little pots was no more than a couple of inches high, but have miraculously survived intact bringing us as close as we can get to the lives of their young owners.
Have you visited Palazzo Altemps – what was your favourite item on display?