Kathleen Lewis

Piazza Farnese: Everything You Need to Know

A comprehensive guide to Piazza Farnese, delving into its history, significance, and visitor information.

Piazza Farnese in Rome


Did you know that Piazza Farnese is one of the most elegant squares in Rome, with a history that dates back to the 16th century? If you are looking for a place to admire the beauty and charm of the Eternal City, you should not miss this square, which is dominated by the imposing Palazzo Farnese, home to the French Embassy since 1874. In this article, we will explore the historical and cultural aspects of Piazza Farnese, and give you some tips on what to do and where to eat in this area.

Historical Context

Piazza Farnese owes its name and its origin to the Farnese family, one of the most powerful and influential families in Rome during the Renaissance. The square was created in the 16th century, when Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III, bought several houses on the square and demolished them to make room for his new residence, Palazzo Farnese. The palace was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, and later completed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, and Giacomo Della Porta. The palace was considered one of the four wonders of Rome, along with Borghese harpsichord, Caetani staircase, and Carboniani's portal.

The square was paved in 1545, and decorated with one of the two granite basins that are still visible today. The basins were originally from the Baths of Caracalla, and were moved to Piazza Farnese by Cardinal Farnese in 1589. The second basin was added in 1626, when Girolamo Rainaldi transformed them into fountains. The fountains are surrounded by iron gates, and have four lions at their base. The fountains are also connected to the Mascherone fountain on Via Giulia, which provided water for the people and the animals.

Besides Palazzo Farnese, the square also features other noble buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Palazzo del Gallo di Roccagiovine, Palazzo Mandosi Mignanelli, and Palazzo Pio Righetti. On the right side of the square, there is also the church and the convent of Santa Brigida, where the Swedish saint lived with her daughter St. Catherine from 1350 until her death in 1373. The church was built in 1391, after the saint's canonization, and is now run by the Brigidine Sisters.

Piazza Farnese was also a place for holding tournaments, bullfights, and popular festivals, especially during the summer floods that later became a characteristic of Piazza Navona. Today, Piazza Farnese is a quiet and refined square, where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll or a coffee break in one of the nearby cafés.


Architectural Features

The main attraction of Piazza Farnese is undoubtedly the Palazzo Farnese, built in the 16th century by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. The palace was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, and later modified by Michelangelo, who added the third floor and the monumental cornice. The palace has a symmetrical facade with three portals and two rows of windows, decorated with coats of arms and statues. The interior boasts a rich collection of frescoes, paintings, sculptures and tapestries, some of which are open to the public by reservation.

The two fountains on the square were added in the 17th century by Girolamo Rainaldi, who used two ancient granite basins that were originally part of the Baths of Caracalla. The basins are supported by stone pedestals with heraldic symbols of the Farnese family. The fountains are purely ornamental and do not have any water jets or spouts.

Other notable buildings on the square include the church and convent of Santa Brigida, founded by the Swedish saint in the 14th century; the Palazzo del Gallo di Roccagiovane, a baroque palace with a curved facade and a balcony with a wrought iron railing; and the Palazzo Mandosi Mignanelli, a 19th-century reconstruction of a medieval tower house.

Tips and Recommendations

Piazza Farnese is a great place to admire the elegance and harmony of Renaissance architecture, as well as to enjoy a quiet and relaxing atmosphere away from the crowds. The square is especially charming at night, when the palace and the fountains are illuminated.

The square is also a good starting point to explore other attractions in the area, such as Campo de' Fiori, with its colorful market and lively nightlife; Via Giulia, one of the most picturesque streets in Rome; and Piazza Navona, another stunning square with baroque fountains and churches.

If you want to visit the interior of Palazzo Farnese, you need to book a guided tour in advance through the website of the French Embassy. The tours are available in Italian, French and English, and last about an hour. They include access to some of the most important rooms, such as the Sala dei Fasti Farnesiani, with frescoes by Annibale Carracci; the Sala del Mappamondo, with a huge map of the world painted on leather; and the Sala degli Dei Olimpici, with paintings by Francesco Salviati.


Piazza Farnese is one of the hidden gems of Rome, a square that combines history, art and elegance in a harmonious way. It is a must-see for anyone who appreciates Renaissance architecture and culture, as well as for those who want to discover a more tranquil and refined side of Rome.