Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation
Comments 5

The pleasures of Villa Farnesina

Ceiling detail

If yesterday’s post – full of gruesome scenes of martyrdom from Santo Stefano Rotondo – turned your stomach, we found the antidote today in the pleasures of Villa Farnesina.

Front facade of Villa Farnesina
The facade of Villa Farnesina

Commissioned in 1508 by the wealthy Sienese banker Agostino Chigi and designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi, this suburban villa is at the foot of the hill from the American Academy in Trastevere.  We joined our friend Jeff Cody there for a guided tour and concert of Renaissance music on a beautiful Sunday spring day in Rome.

Detail of Cupid and Psyche
Detail of the Frescoes in the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche

The Wikipedia entry gives a good description of the difference between this suburban villa and an urban palazzo (or palace).

Renaissance palaces typically faced onto a street and were decorated versions of defensive castles: rectangular blocks with rusticated ground floors and enclosing a courtyard. This villa, intended to be an airy summer pavilion, presented a side towards the street and was given a U shaped plan with a five bay loggia between the arms. In the original arrangement, the main entrance was through the north facing loggia which was open.  Today, visitors enter on the south side and the loggia is glazed.

The interiors are a delightful display of classical myths and astrological scenes (showing the position of the stars at the time of Chigi’s birth).  This was clearly a party house, and artists, poets, cardinals, princes, and the pope himself were entertained here “in magnificent style.”

So – away with yesterday’s beheadings and attacks by wild dogs – and bring on the nymphs and cherubs for fun and frolic!

Triumph of Galatea
Triumph of Galatea by Raphael in the main hall
Detail from the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche
Detail from the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche
Ceiling of the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche
Ceiling of the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche
Hall of Perspectives
This scene from the Salone delle Prospettive shows the Torre delle Milizie as it looked in the 1500s
Stairway ceiling at Villa Farnesina
Stairway ceiling at Villa Farnesina

We had a delightful day, and recommend the villa for those who need an occasional break from the saints.

More to come…


Image: Ceiling detail at Villa Farnesina

This entry was posted in: Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Tracy Quinn says

    Breathtaking, David – Thanks for posting. Looks like this trip is an amazing adventure!

    • DJB says

      Thanks, Tracy. It has been wonderful and somewhat transforming – just what you want out of a sabbatical. Hope you are well. Let’s catch up this year when I am in New York. DJB

  2. Janice says

    I miss you but when you return I will really miss these blogs from Italy. Each is more interesting and beautiful than the one before

  3. Pingback: Top Posts of 2016 (The “Whatever Else Tickles My Fancy” Edition) | More to Come...

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