Villa Farnesina, a Raphael-era palace

Villa Farnesina in Rome

Villa Farnesina in Rome

Villa Farnesina is a museum, which will be interesting to visit for both Renaissance aficionados and ordinary tourists. Here you can see what looked like the house of a rich Roman family in the 16th century. The villa is decorated with frescoes by Raffaello Santi and other famous artists.


At the very beginning of the 16th century (1506-1510) a famous Renaissance master architect and painter, Baldassare Peruzzi, designed the building which would later be known as Villa Farnesina.

The villa was originally built for the banker Agostino Chigi, who was well known at the time for hosting lavish feasts.

The building was called Palazzo Chigi. This rich man gave loans to popes – Julius II and Leo X, and his clients were also representatives of the Medici and Borgia families. Chigi patronized Raphael (Rafael), who took part in the decoration of the building. In 1577 the villa was bought by Alessandro Farnese, whose name it bears to this day. He was a cardinal, and also famous as a patron of the arts and a collector. The Farnese family had plans to connect the villa to their palace across the river with a bridge. But the idea did not materialize. In the 18th century the Bourbons took over. Today Villa Farnesina belongs to the Accademia dei Lincei. A large part of the building is devoted to the Museum of Architecture and Painting. The top floor, which is not open to the general public, houses the Graphics Institute as well as the National Study of Prints.

The villa not only organizes tours, but also regularly hosts concerts of early music.

What to see?

The building of the Villa Farnesina differs from the typical constructions of its time. Back then, houses were usually in the form of rectangular blocks. And here the facade is not flat, the wings of the house protrude forward. There is a fountain in front of the entrance, and one can enter the house through a loggia. There are fruit trees in the garden of the villa and connoisseurs recommend to visit this place when it is in bloom.

There are three rooms on the first floor:

  1. The Room of the Friezes. There are frescoes telling the myths of Ancient Greece.
  2. The Loggia Galatea. It takes its name from Raphael’s fresco “The Triumph of Galatea”, depicting one of the scenes from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. You can also see a fragment of a mural – the head of a young man – by Michelangelo. According to legend, he came to see Raphael, who was working on the painting of the villa, but did not catch him. Instead of a note, Michelangelo left a drawing, which Raphael decided to keep.
  3. The Loggia of Cupid and Psyche. Here visitors are greeted by frescoes that are based on the works of Apuleius.
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In the fireplace room on the second floor one can appreciate the “deceptive” painting by Baldassare Peruzzi.

Painting by Baldassare Peruzzi in the fireplace hall at Villa Farnesina

He painted a columned exit to the garden which creates the illusion of the absence of a wall. In the painted aperture he has a view of Rome with recognizable sights – the Colosseum, the Tiber River, and churches.

The room that served as a bedroom for the former owners of the house is now called the Wedding Hall. The name was given by the fresco depicting the wedding of Alexander the Great.

The wedding hall and bedroom at Villa Farnesina

Other frescoes tell scenes from his life. For example, there is the Taming of Bucephalus. According to legend, Alexander the Great was able to tame the wayward horse when he was still a 10-year-old boy.

Villa Farnesina in Rome

In one of Rome’s colourful and distinctive districts, on the west bank of the Tiber, stands a magnificent architectural monument, the Villa Farnesina. This distinctive Italian Renaissance cultural heritage site is famous for its aristocratic interior. The beautiful interiors of the mansion’s halls are decorated with unique frescoes and colorful paintings created by renowned masters of the brush of the 16th century. Villa Farnesina in Rome is an important landmark with a special quiet and peaceful atmosphere. It is like a precious jewel box where the architecture merges into a marvelous synthesis with the works of art. Here tourists have the opportunity to enjoy unique works of art without the hustle and bustle.

History of construction

Villa Farnesina in Rome

The history of the construction of the ancient mansion dates back to the 16th century. The famous banker Agostino Chigi, who was engaged in crediting the popes and nobles of the Eternal City, decided to build a country residence for himself. The implementation of the villa was entrusted to the famous Italian architect of the time – Baldassare Peruzzi.

The banker Chigi patronized many artists, among whom was the outstanding Raphael Santi. The genius painter and his students took part in painting the walls and ceilings of the halls of the mansion. As a result, every room of the villa was filled with colorful frescoes illustrating classical subjects of ancient Roman and Greek myths.

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In 1577, the palace was purchased by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, a renowned art patron and collector. It was the family Farnese gave the name of this wonderful architectural wonder. Today the mansion is the property of the municipality of Rome. The building is a masterpiece of Renaissance architectural style and a cultural monument of architecture of the Italian capital.

Architecture and interiors

Villa Farnesina in Rome

The two-story pavilion-type mansion has a horseshoe shape in plan. The two wings of the structure are connected by a glazed loggia decorated with high arches. The villa differs from the typical Renaissance architecture. This is indicated by the absence of columns, marble ornaments, arched window openings, and stone facing of the exterior.

The facade of the building is surrounded by a frieze. The main decoration of the exterior is the bas-reliefs on the attic, as well as the pilasters and the horizontal brackets. In the courtyard of the palazzo landscaped park. The alley of orange and tangerine trees, which fill the air with wonderful scents during the blooming period, gives a special charm to a luxurious building.

The interiors of Palazzo Farnesina are a delight. Its halls are abundantly painted with magnificent frescos made by famous Italian artists of the 16th century. The rooms of the villa were decorated by Raphael, Piombo, Penny, Peruzzi, Romano, and Sodoma. Admirers of the beautiful will enjoy contemplation of the unique paintings.

Room of the Friezes

Villa Farnesina in Rome

The “Frieze Room” deserves attention. The main element of the decoration of this room are the colorful drawings located under the ceiling of the room. The broad stucco frieze that encircles the upper part of the walls is decorated with picturesque illustrations. The multi-figured band depicts scenes of the exploits of Hercules and hunting scenes from the mythology of ancient Greece. The Friezes Hall is painted by Baldassare Peruzzi, the mansion’s architect himself.

Galatea Loggia

Villa Farnesina in Rome

One of the impressive halls of Villa Farnesina is the Loggia Galatea. Here visitors can see Raphael Santi’s famous fresco from the early 16th century. It is a fascinatingly picturesque and unique panel, The Triumph of Galatea. The fresco depicts a scene from an ancient myth telling the love story of the beautiful nymph Galatea and the shepherd Aquida.

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The daughter of the sea god Nereus, surrounded by newts and nereids, she moves swiftly over the waves in a shell-shaped chariot pulled by dolphins. She is escaping the pursuit of the one-eyed Polyphemus, who wishes to possess her. The smooth and supple light-golden lines of the nude figures combine with the soft blue sky and the blue of the sea water.

Next to the “Triumph of Galatea” fresco is a giant figure of Polypheus painted by the Venetian master Piombo. The vaults of the hall are decorated with polygonal medallions. They contain colorful panels with silhouettes of various mythical deities. The central part of the ceiling is decorated with the family coat of arms of the Chigi family. The space between the decorative elements is filled with images of angels seated on mythical animals.

The Loggia of Cupid and Psyche

Villa Farnesina in Rome

The Loggia of Cupid and Psyche, which is the main entrance of the Villa Farnesina, is particularly remarkable. The wide room is striking for its delightful ceiling frescoes and the amazing paintings on the walls which give the interior a solemn and sumptuous appearance. Raphael and his talented pupils created some truly picturesque masterpieces.

The main theme of the frescoes was the story of heavenly and earthly love between the god Cupid and the beautiful Psyche. The central part of the loggia’s ceiling is decorated with two expressive paintings that look like tapestries. The impressively sized paintings depict the feast of the gods and the wedding celebration of Cupid and Psyche. Painted figures of the characters of picturesque panels delight with their realism.

In the design of the loggia you can see numerous images of floral ornaments. They are paintings of leafy garlands with a huge number of vegetables, fruits and berries. Amazing authenticity of the gifts of nature will not leave anyone indifferent.

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Fireplace room

Villa Farnesina in Rome

The second floor of the mansion is the Fireside Hall. This spacious room is decorated with a masterpiece of grand artistic perspective. Painter Baldassare Peruzzi used a special technique to create an optical illusion. Two rows of marble colonnades are depicted on the walls of the room. Through them one can see the sights of Rome – the Colosseum, the Tiber, the bell towers of cathedrals, architectural ensembles and suburban landscapes.

The upper part of the hall is belted by a wide frieze decorated with ancient Greek mythological scenes. In illusory niches above the window and doorways are panels with figures of the gods of Olympus who influence people’s earthly life. These are Mars and Jupiter, Neptune and Juno, Diana and Minerva, Venus and Apollo, and Saturn and Mercury. There is a fireplace in the room, above which is depicted the forge of Vulcan, the patron saint of blacksmithing and fire.

The wedding hall

Villa Farnesina in Rome

An equally famous room of the villa is the Wedding Room, which once served as the marital bedroom of the owners of Villa Farnesina. Legend has it that here was a gilded luxury bed with carved ivory details. The huge bed was lavishly decorated with a scattering of precious stones, the value of which far exceeded the cost of building the villa itself.

The walls of the Wedding Room were painted with frescoes by the Sienese painter Sodoma. The colorful paintings artistically depict a fragment of the life of one of the greatest military leaders in history, Alexander the Great. The subjects depicted tell viewers about Alexander’s marriage to Roxana, the taming of Bucephalus, and the pardoning of Darius’ family.

In the main painting of the room, depicting scenes of the wedding celebration, the painter emphasized the interiors of a Roman palace. Under the canopy of the bed Roxana sits, and winged cupids dress her up. Alexander the Great holds out a crown to his beloved.

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Archaeological Treasures.

Villa Farnesina in Rome

Villa Farnesina attracts the attention of tourists both connoisseurs of architectural and artistic masterpieces, as well as admirers of Italian history. At the end of the XIX century during the improvement of the waterfront under the garden area of the mansion the remains of an ancient Roman villa were discovered. The found archaeological artifacts are decorated with ancient frescoes of historical value.


Villa Farnesina in Rome

Tourists can visit the Villa Farnesina together with a professional guide, who has extensive encyclopedic knowledge of art history. The tour program includes a tour of the halls of the mansion, where the celebration of colorful paintings reigns supreme. The guests of the villa get acquainted with the works of outstanding artists of the Renaissance epoch. The walls and ceilings of the halls are painted with works of art that depict the glorification of beauty and life.

The guide will fascinatingly tell the endless romantic legends associated with the centuries-old history of the mansion. Tour participants will have the opportunity to explore the frescoes of Raphael Santi himself without the hustle and bustle of crowds and queues inherent in famous museum complexes. Contemplation of the many characters from mythological stories, the starry sky, the colorful paintings of ornamentation, and the illusionary artwork will make an unforgettable impression on visitors to the villa.

Opening Hours and Ticket Prices

Villa Farnesina in Rome

Villa Farnesina receives its guests from Monday to Saturday. Opening hours are 9:00-14:00. In addition the doors of the mansion are open every second Sunday of the month from 9:00 to 17:00. The ticket costs 6 euros. For younger visitors from 14 to 18 years and people over the age of 65 to visit the museum costs 5 euros.

Where is it located and how to get there

Villa Farnesina in Rome

To find Villa Farnesina, tourists need to go to the opposite bank of the Tiber from the ancient Roman sites. The Renaissance country house is located in the Trastevere neighborhood, with its narrow, winding streets lined with garlands of plants offering a measured, tranquil atmosphere. You can reach the villa by bus number 23, 125, 271, 280 or by streetcar number 8.

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