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Palazzo Venezia over centuries

Palazzo Venezia faces Piazza Venezia and the monument to Vittorio Emanuele, the king appointed at the time of the unification of Italy in 1861.  It’s a huge building and not much to look at from the outside, and is surrounded by heavily trafficked streets and a huge number of bus stops.  It is now a museum.   It’s 162 steps up to the museum level, itself containing huge chambers, two of which measured 33 meters or about 100 feet in length.  There is an elevator for those unable or unwilling to make the climb.

We probably had the place to ourselves, except for the guy I thought at first was a security guard who wanted to tell us something about the palace.  But then he did not leave and provided running commentary.

Palazzo Venizia (1455-67) was built for the Venetian cardinal Pietro Barbo, later called Pope Paul II.  He continued to reside in it after election to the papacy.  They used travertine from the Coliseo (Coliseum)  and the Teatro de Marcellus.  Pope Pius IV gave the building to the Republic of Venice, thus giving the palace its name (Venezia is Venice in Italian).   In 1797 it became the embassy of Austria to the Holy See.  In 1929 Mussolini chose it as his headquarters and it is from the huge room decorated with chiaroscuro columns that he gave the speech from the tiny balcony seen in newsreels in which his smug expression and macho strutting are clearly visible. 

  

Mussolini address the crowd from the small balcony holding 1 or 2 people at a time
Palazzo Venezia

There is a library of archaeology and the history of art used by scholars from around the world.

Aside from large chambers of state and the tranquil papal garden, the museum houses terracotta sculptures by Bernini, a huge ceramics collection gifted to Mussolini, numerous portraits and other paintings, including one that I believe to be a good example of the style later perfected by Caravaggio. 

Due Amici, Girogio Castelfranco circa 1502
Cleopatra, Carlo Maratta, also using the light to focus the viewer’s attention