Chigi’s Villa Farnesina

Loggia of Galatea – Raphael’s “Triumph of Galatea”

You may recall that I was downright grumpy in June about the renovation of the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. I had looked forward to seeing Raphael’s work there and despaired that I might never have the chance during the two years we’re in Rome. Well, here’s the good news: Right across the Tevere from our apartment is Agostino Chigi’s Villa Farnesina, which contains many frescoes designed by Raphael and painted by his students. Raphael designed the Chigi Chapel, but because Raphael and Chigi died on the same day in 1520, Raphael didn’t finish the chapel—Gian Lorenzo Bernini finally finished it more than a century later. Raphael did finish the work in the villa.

Chigi (KEE-gee), one of the richest men in Rome, made his fortune in banking and was the treasurer for Pope Julius II. He was also a patron of the arts and befriended and supported Raphael and other great artists of the Renaissance. Chigi’s villa at the north end of Trastevere was completed in 1510 (Trastevere was considered the suburbs at that time). According to Wiki, “Chigi held sumptuous repasts. To show his contempt of money, he was said to have all the silver dishes thrown into the river after the end of the parties; however, his servants were secretly ready to recollect them with nets draped under the windows.” Ha! No wonder he was so rich!

Michelangelo’s bridge across Via Giulia

The Farneses acquired the Villa Farnesina in 1577, hence its name, and Michelangelo proposed linking it to the Palazzo Farnese (in Piazza Farnese on the opposite side of the river) by a private bridge. Before this plan eventually fell through, Michelangelo completed a beautiful bridge from Piazza Farnese across Via Giulia, unfortunately to nowhere. I love the bridge and wish Michelangelo had completed the entire project, which would have been beautiful and would also have made Trastevere that much closer for us. Someday I’ll do a blog post about Palazzo Farnese, but I have to learn to speak Italian first. Tours of the palace, which is now the French Embassy, are given only in French and Italian!

South side of the villa. The original entrance was on the north side; today visitors enter on the south side.

Michael visited Villa Farnese on Easter Sunday and took many photos so that I could see it. I had long wanted to visit the villa, but I never seemed to get around to doing it until one morning in early August. I was blown away! What a divine place, as you’ll see from the millions of photos below, which lead you on a room-by-room tour. I was disappointed that I couldn’t wander through the gardens, which are usually closed.

On the second Sunday of each month Villa Farnesina offers guided tours with live music. Michael enjoyed a father and son playing Renaissance-period instruments and made two short videos, Part II of which shows the glorious Hall of Perspectives.

I intend to return to my neighborhood villa some second Sunday soon—distance is certainly no problem!


P.S., If you want to visit Villa Farnesina, check the hours. Right now it’s open only from 10 to 2 Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and from 9 to 5 on Monday and Saturday.

Hall of Galatea – originally an open-air garden room

Hall of Galatea – painting originally attributed to Michelangelo but now believed to be by Baldassarre Peruzzi – vastly different from the other art in the villa

Loggia – original open-air entrance (front porch) of the villa

Loggia – vaulted ceiling by Raphael

Loggia – vaulted ceiling by Raphael

Loggia – ceiling detail

Loggia – ceiling detail

Base of a lamp

Hall of the Frieze – probably a study

Hall of the Frieze – frieze of mythological scenes by Baldassarre Peruzzi

Hall of the Frieze – ceiling

Ceiling above the stairway from the lower level to the upper level

Hall of Perspectives – ceiling

Hall of Perspectives – paintings by Baldassare Peruzzi – Chigi held his wedding reception here in 1519

Hall of Perspectives

Hall of Perspectives

Hall of Perspectives – window detail

Hall of Perspectives

Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxane – ceiling

Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxane (Chigi’s bedroom)

Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxane

Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxana

Detail of the exterior


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