Unexpected Rome: The Perspective at Palazzo Spada

My plan to get married in a castle did not quite work out.

Obviously, the next best thing is a palace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get married in a palace either.  Such is life.

However, one of the perks of living in Rome is being able to visit a palace whenever you damn well please.

There are palaces a-plenty.
Galleria Spada facade

Palazzo Spada is located in heart of the city, a few minutes walk from Campo de’ Fiori.  You may well be able to spot it based on its gorgeous facade as long as you are paying enough attention to look up from the cobblestones.

The lovely stucco decorations continue in the courtyard, which is usually closed by a gate. However you can peak through for a sense of the architecture.

Galleria Spada art in Rome

The inside is not terribly shabby either.

After purchasing a €5 ticket (€2.50 if you are an EU citizen under 25), you can climb the stairs to the first floor which houses the Galleria Spada.

Galleria Spada sculpture

The palazzo and the galleria are named for Cardinal Spada, the man who transformed the palace after he purchased it in 1632.

Galleria Spada paintings

The Church was big business to afford the luxury of such a living space, and Spada did not let that space go to waste.

Galleria Spada

The gallery stretches through four rooms, filled with 16th and 17th century work by the likes of Caravaggio, Reubens and Titian.

Galleria Spada ceiling

While the art collection is no joke, the real draw is the architecture. I loved spotting details like the ornate carved ceiling-  similar to the ceiling of Palazzo Farnese which is just up the street.

When Cardinal Spada purchased the palazzo, he quickly hired Borromini to redo it for him.

The master architect added a trick – the forced perspective in the internal courtyard.

How long does this corridor look?

Galleria Spada perspective

The columns and arches seem to stretch on for 35 m, but it is really less than 9 m (28 ft) in length.

And the statue? How tall do you think it is?

Borromini's perspective

He stands 60 cm, or just 23 inches, high.

The ceiling at the end of the colonnades is so low that only a child would be able to stand.

Borromini perspective trick

The optical illusion is so unnecessary which it was makes it so fun. Why did Borromini do it? To show off his wit?

The complicated, mathematics of the tunneling archways were the work of a perfectionist.

Unfortunately, that perfectionist Swiss architect was also sometimes described as ‘neurotic.’  In 1667, he stabbed himself in the neck with his own sword.

Borromini died with many of his works unfinished, but visiting The Perspective at Palazzo Spada offers a wonderful glimpse at his genius, and is one of the most under-visited sites in Rome.

It is also free the first Sunday of the month! Which is when I went, naturally.

Palazzo Spada
Vicolo del Polverone, 15/b

Closed Tuesdays; open every other day from 8:30 am – 7:30 pm. (Ticket office closes 30 minutes before).


  • Reply Ilene Modica March 22, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Wonderful article. I enjoyed it and learned so very much. Been to Rome twice and missed this so we are moving shortly (as citizens – yaaa!) and I have it on our list. Thank you very much. Wonderful pictures by the way.

    • Reply Natalie March 22, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      Thanks so much! There is an amazing amount to discover– I am sure you will have a great time!!

  • Reply N March 24, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I really enjoy reading your blog, and your writing style.
    I am planning to move to Rome this summer. From SoCal to Rome- for love!
    Seeing it through your eyes and experiences makes me love the place even more!

    Thank you.

    • Reply Natalie March 24, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Yay! The best city for the best reason– though I do miss SoCal sometimes. Especially the Mexican food.

      Thanks so much for the nice comment- hope your planning for the move is going well!

  • Reply Palazzo Braschi: Rome’s Museum at Piazza Navona – An American in Rome September 26, 2016 at 6:22 am

    […] will have to decide if this is worth the price of admission, but I would tend to recommend both Palazzo Spada and Palazzo Barberini […]

  • Reply Explore Rome: September 2016 Events – An American in Rome September 27, 2016 at 7:50 am

    […] 24 and 25 September: As part of the European days of Culture, many of Rome’s sites are staying open into the night for just €1! This includes the Pantheon (open until 10:30 pm) as well as museums like Palazzo Spada. […]

  • Reply Explore Rome: November 2016 Events in Rome – An American in Rome January 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    […] the month, when many of Rome’s museums and landmarks are free. These include the Colosseum, Palazzo Spada, Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Borghese (with reservation) and Palazzo Braschi (with Roman […]

  • Reply December 2016 Events in Rome: What to do – An American in Rome January 17, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    […] December: Free museum openings for Domenica al Museo. Have you seen the perspective at Palazzo Spada yet? That’s free! As is the always lovely Palazzo Barberini. Book ahead and you can even […]

  • Reply Lawrence Wolfley September 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I’m trying to figure out if there is a genuine Caravaggio in the Galleria Spada, or rather just followers, etc.

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