I made a deal with myself in November: I would visit at least one museum each week. Except for the Christmas holiday weeks, I’ve done well. So far I have two favorites—the Museo di Roma (Museum of Rome, on Piazza Navona) and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj (pronounced pom FEE lee) on the south end of Via del Corso. I wouldn’t recommend the Museo di Roma to the casual visitor to Rome unless that person has a deep interest in the pictorial history of the city. For people who have lived in Rome or who know the city well, the collection of paintings, etchings, photos, and models of Rome from the 16th through the 19th centuries is fascinating! A special treat in November was an exhibit of photos of World War II in Italy by war photographer Robert Capa. Stunning and heartbreaking, especially his photos of Troiana.
I recommend the Galleria Doria Pamphilj to anyone. Although the collection of paintings and sculptures at the Galleria Borghese is more impressive, valuable, and famous, you usually need advance reservations (you can buy tickets online). Not only do you need reservations, you must reserve a specific time, and you can remain in the museum for only the two hours following your entry time and then you must leave (they actually kick you out).
You can buy a ticket to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj at any time, walk right in, and stay as long as you want. I’ve visited the museum twice, and I’ve had it almost to myself both times (although both times have been in the winter, so that may make a difference). In addition to a collection of 650 paintings and sculptures (one of the largest private collections in Rome), the gallery is part of a 16th-century, privately-owned villa that occupies an entire city block, and before you enter the gallery, you walk through or can look into 12 of the 1,000 rooms. The remaining Doria Pamphilj family members, a brother and sister, occupy separate apartments in the villa, and some of the rooms are leased for shops, offices, and apartments. A friend of mine recently sent me a fascinating Vanity Fair article about the Doria Pamphilj generation today (thanks, Nikki).
The Doria, Pamphilj, Aldobrandini, and Landi families, which were eventually united by marriage, began collecting paintings and statues in the 16th century. Hung from floor to ceiling (making the paintings at the top difficult to see), the resulting collection includes copies of three paintings by Caravaggio (one is a copy, but be still my heart!) as well as works by Titian, Memling, Lippi, Bernini, Raphael, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and other famous painters and sculptors. Visitors are not allowed to photograph the most famous and valuable painting in the gallery, the Portrait of Innocent X Pamphilj, by Velásquez (click on the title of the painting to see it). Innocent X became pope in 1644, and Velásquez completed this masterpiece around 1650. See photos of some of my favorite pieces below.
Even if you ignore the paintings and sculptures (I defy you to do that!), the wall coverings, the elaborate frescoes on the ceilings and around the windows, the floors, and the furniture make the gallery a fascinating place to visit. It even has a room called the Gallery of Mirrors, which resembles the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles (but on a much smaller scale).
The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is a glorious, peaceful place, and you can find it just a block or two north of the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument. If you love art or old homes, don’t miss it, and don’t forget to buy a photo permission at the gift shop so you can take photos. You’ll thank me!