Kathleen Lewis

Exploring Palazzo Malta

Discover the historical allure of Palazzo Malta in Rome's Centro Storico, a journey through architectural grandeur and cultural significance.

Attraction Centro Storico
Palazzo Malta in Rome's Centro Storico


Palazzo Malta, also known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, is a historic building in Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Knights of Malta. It is one of the few extraterritorial properties of the Holy See, meaning that it enjoys diplomatic immunity and sovereignty. In this article, you will learn about the history, architecture, and art of this unique attraction, as well as some practical tips for visiting it.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Palazzo Malta is not open to the general public, except for a few days a year when special events or exhibitions are held. The only way to access it is by booking a guided tour in advance through the official website or a reputable tour operator. The tours are usually conducted in Italian, English, or French, and last about an hour. They cover the main rooms of the palace, such as the Grand Magistral Chapel, the Throne Room, the Council Chamber, and the Library. The tours also include a visit to the gardens, which offer a stunning view of Rome.

The downside of visiting Palazzo Malta is that it can be quite expensive and difficult to secure a spot. The tours are limited to a maximum of 15 people per group, and they are often fully booked months in advance. The price varies depending on the tour operator, but it can range from 40 to 100 euros per person. If you are interested in visiting Palazzo Malta, you should plan ahead and book your tour as soon as possible.

Tips for your visit of Palazzo Malta

  • Bring your passport or ID card: You will need to show it at the entrance to prove your identity and nationality. Palazzo Malta is a sovereign entity and has its own security protocols.
  • Dress appropriately: Palazzo Malta is a religious and diplomatic institution, so you should respect its dress code. Avoid wearing shorts, skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops, or hats. You may also be asked to cover your shoulders or head with a scarf.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors are to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled tour time, as you may have to wait in line to enter the palace. You should also follow the instructions of your guide and refrain from touching anything or taking photos inside the palace. Palazzo Malta is a treasure trove of art and history, so pay attention to the details and enjoy the experience.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: Palazzo Malta is open by appointment only on weekdays from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. It is closed on weekends and public holidays.

How to Get There: Palazzo Malta is located on Via dei Condotti 68, near Piazza di Spagna. You can reach it by metro (line A, Spagna station), by bus (lines 62, 63, 81, 85, 117, 119), or by taxi.

Price: The admission fee for Palazzo Malta varies depending on the tour operator and the type of tour. You can expect to pay between 40 and 100 euros per person.

Crowds: Palazzo Malta is not very crowded, as it only admits a limited number of visitors per day. However, you may encounter some queues at the entrance or security check.

Weather Considerations: Palazzo Malta is an indoor attraction, so it is not affected by the weather conditions. However, you may want to avoid visiting it during the summer months, as it can get very hot inside.

Photography: Photography is not allowed inside Palazzo Malta, except for some areas of the gardens. You should respect this rule and keep your camera or phone in your bag or pocket.

Accessibility: Palazzo Malta is not very accessible for people with disabilities, as it has many stairs and narrow corridors. There is no elevator or ramp available. If you have mobility issues, you may want to contact the tour operator before booking your tour to see if they can accommodate your needs.

Facilities: Palazzo Malta does not have any public facilities, such as restrooms, lockers, or cafés. You should use the facilities nearby before or after your tour.

Tours: The only way to visit Palazzo Malta is by booking a guided tour in advance through the official website or a reputable tour operator. The tours are usually conducted in Italian, English, or French, and last about an hour. They cover the main rooms of the palace, such as the Grand Magistral Chapel, the Throne Room, the Council Chamber, and the Library. The tours also include a visit to the gardens, which offer a stunning view of Rome.

Bringing Children: Palazzo Malta is not very suitable for children, as it can be boring and restrictive for them. There are no interactive exhibits or activities for kids, and they have to follow the rules and etiquette of the palace. If you decide to bring children, you should make sure they are well-behaved and interested in the topic.

Bringing Pets: Pets are not allowed inside Palazzo Malta, as it is a sacred and diplomatic place. You should leave your pets at home or with a trusted person.

These details are subject to change; please check the official website for the latest information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Palazzo Malta?

    Palazzo Malta, also known as Palazzo di Malta or Palazzo dell'Ordine di Malta, is the headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome. It is a historic building that dates back to the 16th century and has been the seat of the Order since 1834.

  • How can I visit Palazzo Malta?

    Palazzo Malta is not open to the public, except for special occasions such as the European Heritage Days or guided tours organized by the Order. You can check the official website of the Order for more information on how to book a visit.

  • What can I see inside Palazzo Malta?

    Palazzo Malta is rich in art and history, featuring a magnificent courtyard, a grand staircase, a chapel, a library, and several salons decorated with frescoes, paintings, tapestries, and furniture. Some of the highlights include the Sala del Magistrato, where the Grand Master receives guests, the Sala dei Ritratti, where portraits of past Grand Masters are displayed, and the Sala del Tesoro, where precious relics and objects are kept.

Must see

  • The facade of Palazzo Malta

    The facade of Palazzo Malta is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Rome, thanks to its distinctive design by architect Giovanni Antonio De Rossi. The facade features a large portal flanked by two columns with statues of saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, the patrons of the Order. Above the portal, there is a balcony with a coat of arms of the Order and a Latin inscription that reads: "Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem called of Malta". The facade also has several windows with elaborate frames and decorations.

  • The courtyard of Palazzo Malta

    The courtyard of Palazzo Malta is a splendid example of Baroque architecture, with a geometric pattern of white and black marble on the floor and a fountain in the center. The fountain is adorned with four statues representing the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. The courtyard is surrounded by arcades with columns and arches that create a harmonious and elegant atmosphere.

  • The chapel of Palazzo Malta

    The chapel of Palazzo Malta is a sacred place where the members of the Order pray and celebrate mass. The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Philermos, the patroness of the Order, whose icon is displayed on the main altar. The chapel also has a beautiful ceiling painted by Mattia Preti, depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The walls are decorated with paintings by Carlo Maratta, Giuseppe Passeri, and other artists.

  • The library of Palazzo Malta

    The library of Palazzo Malta is a treasure trove of books and documents related to the history and culture of the Order. The library contains over 100,000 volumes, including rare manuscripts, incunabula, maps, prints, and medals. The library also has a collection of musical scores by composers such as Palestrina, Vivaldi, and Mozart. The library is open to scholars and researchers by appointment.

If you have the chance to visit Palazzo Malta, you will be amazed by its beauty and significance. It is not only a symbol of the sovereignty and dignity of the Order, but also a testimony of its humanitarian and diplomatic mission in the world.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • The Order of Malta's sovereignty

    Palazzo Malta is not just a historical building, but also the seat of a sovereign entity that has diplomatic relations with 110 countries. The palace enjoys extraterritoriality, which means that it is not subject to Italian law or jurisdiction. The Order of Malta issues its own passports, stamps, coins, and medals.

  • The founder of Christian archaeology

    The palace was originally owned by Antonio Bosio, a Maltese-born scholar who is considered the founder of Christian archaeology. He devoted his life to exploring the catacombs of Rome and documenting the relics and inscriptions of the early Christians. He left his palace and his library to the Order of Malta in 1629.

  • The Aldobrandini connection

    The palace was enlarged and renovated by Carlo Aldobrandini, a nephew of Pope Clement VIII and the ambassador of the Order of Malta to the Holy See in the 17th century. He added a monumental staircase, a chapel, and a gallery with frescoes depicting the history of the Order. He also hosted lavish parties and receptions for the Roman nobility and clergy.

  • The Napoleonic invasion

    In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Malta and expelled the Order of Malta from its island stronghold. The Order lost its territorial sovereignty and was reduced to a dispersed and impoverished community. The palace in Rome became one of its few remaining possessions and a refuge for some of its members. It was also looted by the French troops during their occupation of Rome.

  • The hospitaller tradition

    The Order of Malta has a long history of providing medical and humanitarian assistance to those in need. It runs hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and relief projects around the world. In keeping with this tradition, the palace in Rome hosts a day-care centre for elderly people on its ground floor. The centre offers social and recreational activities, as well as health care services.

Historical Background

Palazzo Malta is a testament to the rich and turbulent history of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, one of the oldest and most prestigious religious orders in the world. The Order traces its origins to a hospice founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century by merchants from Amalfi, Italy. The hospice was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and served pilgrims and crusaders visiting the Holy Land.

In 1113, Pope Paschal II recognized the hospice as an independent religious order with a military and hospitaller mission. The Order became known as the Knights Hospitaller or the Knights of St. John. It acquired lands and fortresses in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Malta, where it defended Christendom from Muslim attacks. It also established a network of hospitals, hospices, and pharmacies throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

In 1798, the Order lost Malta to Napoleon Bonaparte and was forced to leave its island home after 268 years of rule. It settled in Rome in 1834, where it received Palazzo Malta as its headquarters from Pope Leo XII. The palace had been in the possession of the Order since 1629, when it was bequeathed by Antonio Bosio, its representative in Rome and a renowned scholar of Christian archaeology.

Today, the Order is a sovereign subject of international law that maintains diplomatic relations with 110 countries and has observer status at the United Nations. It has about 13,500 members, 80,000 volunteers, and 42,000 medical personnel. It is active in 120 countries, where it carries out humanitarian and medical projects for people affected by war, poverty, disease, and natural disasters.

The palace is not only the residence of the Grand Master and the seat of the government of the Order, but also a cultural centre that houses a library, an archive, a mint, and a post office. It also hosts official ceremonies, receptions, and meetings with heads of state, ambassadors, and dignitaries. The palace is open to the public on special occasions, such as the European Heritage Days and the Open House Roma.

Nearby Restaurants

  • Antico Caffè Greco A historic café that dates back to 1760 and was frequented by famous artists and writers, such as Goethe, Byron, Keats, and Stendhal. It serves coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads in a refined atmosphere.
  • Nino A traditional restaurant that specializes in Tuscan cuisine, such as ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, bistecca alla fiorentina, and cantucci. It has a cozy and elegant dining room with wood-panelled walls and a fireplace.
  • Gina A modern and chic bistro that offers a variety of dishes, from salads, soups, and pasta to meat, fish, and vegetarian options. It also has a deli counter where you can buy gourmet products and take-away meals.

Nearby Attractions

  • Spanish Steps One of the most iconic landmarks of Rome, the Spanish Steps are a monumental staircase of 135 steps that connect Piazza di Spagna with Piazza Trinità dei Monti. They were built in the 18th century and are adorned with flowers in spring and summer.
  • Trevi Fountain The largest and most famous fountain in Rome, the Trevi Fountain is a masterpiece of baroque art that depicts Neptune, the god of the sea, surrounded by tritons and sea horses. It is a popular tradition to throw a coin into the fountain and make a wish.
  • Piazza del Popolo A large and elegant square that marks the northern entrance of the city. It is dominated by an ancient Egyptian obelisk and flanked by two twin churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. It also features three fountains and a gate designed by Bernini.


Palazzo Malta is a fascinating place to visit if you want to learn more about the history and culture of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, one of the oldest and most respected institutions in the world. It is also a great starting point to explore the beauty and charm of Rome's historical centre, where you can find many other attractions, restaurants, and shops. Don't miss this opportunity to discover a hidden gem in the heart of the Eternal City.