Trastevere is a lovely residential neighborhood of Rome just across the Tiber from the centrale storico (historic city center)… a taxi or bus ride away or a rather lengthy but enjoyable walk on a sunny spring or autumn day.
It is a must see for an authentic side of the city with wonderful local restaurants and little shops and cafes and bars and a piazza which boasts one of the oldest and most beautiful (and Byzantine!) churches in the city.
It is my favorite place in the Eternal city to people watch and to get out of the crowded tourist spots. The Almost Corner Bookshop is there and sells books in English, too, and Trastevere has an ancient portico and a sumptuous small villa museum built in the sixteenth century, the Villa Farnese, owned by a Sienese banker named Agostino Chigi, who commissioned the architect Baldassarre Peruzzi to build him a splendid little palazzo.
The interior of the Villa Farnese is decorated with frescoes by Raphäel Sanzio, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giovanni Bazzi (known as il Sodoma), Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni, and Baldassarre Peruzzi himself… among their studio artisans and apprentices, as well.
At the end of the sixteenth century this Villa was purchased by the famous Cardinal Alessandro Farnese from whom it takes its name “Farnesina” to distinguish it from the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber (which I will be writing about in detail soon).
The Villa was also used by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and is used for other important Roman events and groups today.
It is a “boutique museum” so its intimate setting is a perfect place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of what it was like to live in a Renaissance villa, and to imagine the Farneses wandering the halls or Raphäel painting the walls…
The garden is small and lovely to view, with architectural details and lush trees and other hidden gardens among the grounds you can peek at through gates. It’s one of Roma’s many green spaces and respites from the crowds.
From the official website:
Villa Farnesina is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm, closed on Sunday and holiday.
Visitors who present their admission ticket to the Vatican Museums (within 7 days from the date of visit to the Vatican Museum) will be entitled to a reduced entrance fee to the Villa Farnesina
On Saturday at 10 am (english), at 12.30 (italian)
Audio guides are available to visitors (italian, english and french)
The Villa will be open the second sunday of each month. Info: +39 06 68027268; firstname.lastname@example.org
The website is villafarnesina.it
All photographs are by me, Rebecca Butler, shot on analog film in spring 2008, for alovelettertorome.com
I have some interesting stories I picked up about the Villa Farnesina I will post next time. This will be included in my FARNESE family chapter in my book. There is a fascinating Borgia and Medici connection to the Farnese and I’ve spent a lot of time in their amazing Roman and Neapolitan villas (now museums). Alessandro Farnese eventually became pope.