Anyone familiar with Roman Holiday will have seen at least part of Galleria Colonna as its Great Hall is the site of the film’s famous press conference scene. This gallery is part of the sumptuous sprawling Palazzo Colonna on the lower part of the Quirinal Hill.
The Colonna family was one of the noble families to emerge in Middle Ages Rome, and they began to build this spectacular building – first a fortress then a palazzo – in the 14th Century. Like the Doria Pamphillj, members of the family still live here today, while past members number cardinals, senators, a Pope (Martin V) and poet/artist Vittoria Colonna.
It’s possible to get a guided tour of the complete Palazzo, but most vistiors come to the see the Galleria, which was completed in 1700. Baroque greats Bernini and Carlo Fontana both had a hand in its construction, and it is very much a visual feast.
The family get their name from a small town outside Rome, and the colonna or “column” is used to great effect as a heraldic device in artwork, even in the courtyard.
The gallery has quite restricted opening hours: Saturday mornings only. But it’s well worth the wait when you get to see the Great Hall, with its ceiling depicting the Battle of Lepanto (a Colonna was Captain of the Fleet), and cannonball fired from the Gianiculum Hill in the 1840s still embedded in the staircase.
From there it’s room after room of sumptuous splendour, with paintings from Bronzino, Annibale Caracci, Van Dyck, Rubens; sculpture; furniture and tapestry. Rooms are themed, such as this one, the Room of the Landscapes.
As in the Galleria Doria Pamphilij, the throne room points an empty chair towards the family Pope’s portrait..
Despite the short opening hours, this is definitely a place not to miss. You can explore yourself like we did, or take advantage of a guided tour in English.