Palazzo Barberini is one of the most overlooked art museums in Rome.
I think part of my hesitation was the name of its gallery – Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.
Plenty of that in Rome!
Or so I thought.
It turns out that the magnificent building creates an incredible backdrop for the collection.
Borromini and Bernini worked together to finish this Palazzo.
You might remember the duo from other projects like Palazzo Spada.
But the same art collection that I dismissed as ‘old’ and mentally labeled as ‘potentially very boring,’ is exactly what differentiates this palace from the others.
The blood squirting out of Holofernes while he is beheaded by Judith? Not bad, Caravaggio. Not bad.
And the frescoes are INSANE.
As much as I enjoyed exploring the beautiful building, the gardens leave even more to be discovered.
As you enter the gates of the Palazzo, you can proceed directly through the center archway instead of buying a ticket to climb the stairs to the museum on the left of the building.
Continue to the back, and you will emerge in a large garden.
The garden has been restored to its original design and can be visited without a ticket.
It is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to open spaces in the middle of Rome. It feels miraculously hidden in plain sight because there is nothing inconspicuous about Palazzo Barberini itself.
The palace’s facade makes no attempt to blend in with the rest of Rome. It is unapologetically grand.
For a final splendid taste, peek in the other door (opposite side from the museum entrance) to see Borromini’s spiral staircase on your way out.
While the gardens are free all year, you can also visit the museum for free on the first Sunday of the month.
Palazzo Barberini Opening Hours
Tuesday – Sunday from 8:30 am to 7 pm. (Ticket office closes at 6 pm). Closed Mondays.
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