The center of Rome is full of bucket list-worthy landmarks like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, so it is natural that many visitors don’t prioritize the more secret spots that are hidden in plain sight. That is totally understandable but it is also a shame because the best way to see the real Rome is to explore side streets (and not-quite-centro-storico neighborhoods).
Let me give you one of the easiest secret places in Rome to spot when you are out sightseeing, but one that most tourists never notice: Palazzo Zuccari. There is no need to budget a lot of time to see this palace because you can’t actually go inside and it is only a one-minute walk from the top of the Spanish Steps. This is a walk-by opportunity to enjoy something that is technically off the beaten path, and snag a photo-op at the monstrous mouth that serves as the palazzo’s door.
The monsters consuming the doors and windows of the palace were dreamed up by the original owner, artist Federico Zuccari. Zuccari purchased the plot of land in 1590 and began construction on what would be both a family home and a studio. His inspiration for the architectural flair came from the Monster Park (Bosco Sacro) in Bomarzo.
After Zuccari’s death, the palace went through several owners, and the Queen of Poland even rented and expanded the porticoes of the palace in the 1700s. Through out its history, the palmetto has always managed to remain a meeting spot for artistic minds on their Grand Tour, as well as among those in Rome’s high society.
The final owner was Henrietta Hertz, who filled the palace with art and a vast collection of German books. Hertz donated the books to the German government upon her death, and they still manage the private library to this day.
If a day trip to Bomarzo feels a bit too far, Palazzo Zuccari is the best place to experience the monsters of Rome – even if you can only admire them from outside!
Palazzo Zuccari (Biblioteca Hertziana)
Via Gregoriana, 28 (at the corner with Via Sistina)