Each year towards the end of May, Italy’s Dimore Storiche – Historic Homes – open their doors to the public, giving visitors the opportunity to admire a singular part of the country’s cultural heritage: its private residences.
The Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (ADSI) is a network that works to preserve and promote Italy’s Historic Homes. The association consists of 4,500 palaces, castles, villas and gardens that carry forward the history of Italy by preserving the legacy of its most influential families. A portion of these palazzi are open regularly as museums – for instance, Galleria Colonna in Rome and Castello Ruspoli near Viterbo – but most of them are only open by appointment or during special events throughout the year.
The Giornata Nazionale delle Dimore Storiche Italiane is one of these days. And in Rome it is marked by an annual “Cortili Aperti” initiative which sees dozens of private courtyards open to the public for one weekend each May. This tradition has been ongoing for 30 years and it offers a rare opportunity to explore some of the most hidden treasure of the capital. The “Cortili Aperti” is one of the most interesting events held in Rome each Spring.
This upcoming Saturday and Sunday (May 18-19), 26 courtyards in the city’s centro storico will be open to the public, including Palazzo Pamphilj (the seat of the Brazilian Embassy) in Piazza Navona, the leafy courtyard of Palazzo Capponi Antonelli on Via di Monserrato and the arcades of Palazzo Odescalchi in Piazza Santi Apostoli, just steps from the Trevi Fountain. The owners and members of the family are often present, as are volunteers and students to help give tours of the property. Visits are free of charge.
With hidden gardens, ornamental fountains and architectural details, the courtyards are a beautiful glimpse into an exclusive side of the city, though it is easy to miss their historical context.
“For the past few years we have invited architecture students from the Sapienza University to give tours of the courtyards,” says Filippo Massimo Lancellotti, President of the Dimore Storiche Lazio region. “This has been a very successful collaboration because normally visitors enter a courtyard, look around and leave. Visiting these homes is a completely different experience when you are hosted by the owner or a student eager to share its story with you.”
The courtyards will also host some of the city’s leading artisans to underscore the importance of artisanship for the preservation of Italy’s historic homes. “Artisans have always played a vital role for the Dimore Storiche,” explains Mr. Lancellotti. “Between the 1500s and the 1700s, many artisans lived on the properties because they needed to be on-hand to help with maintenance and repairs.”
Marble workers, art restorers, silversmiths, painters, mosaicists and other artisans will hold demonstrations within the courtyards. “It is very concerning to see that craftsmanship is slowly dying so this is one of the ways we help give them visibility and honor their contributions,” he says.
Some courtyards will also host small concerts, choirs and photography exhibitions.
Schedule of Rome’s Cortili Aperti
Palazzo Avila: Via del Governo Vecchio 14 (Sat 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Berardi Guglielmi: Via del Gesù 52 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Boncompagni-Cerasi: Via del Babuino 51 (Sat 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Caetani: Via delle Botteghe Oscure 32 (Sat 10:00-18:00)
Palazzo Capponi Antonelli: Via di Monserrato 34 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Cenci: Piazza de’ Cenci 56 (Sat 11:00-19:00)
Palazzo Cisterna: Via Giulia 163 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo D’Aste: Via Monserrato 149 (Sat 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Del Drago: Via dei Coronari 44 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Del Gallo: Piazza Farnese 44 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Della Valle & Visit to Sala Serpieri: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 101 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Gomez-Silj: Via della Croce 78/A (Sat 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Grazioli: Via del Plebiscito 102 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Malvezzi Campeggi: Via del Consolato 6 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Massimo Lancellotti: Piazza Navona 114 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Montoro: Via di Montoro 8 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Odescalchi: Piazza Santi Apostoli 80 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Pamphilj: Piazza Navona 14 (Sat 11:00-16:00)
Palazzo Pasolini Dall’Onda: Piazza Cairoli 6 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Convento Pio Sodalizio dei Piceni: Piazza S.Salvatore in Lauro 15 (Sat 10:00-19:00 / Sun 10:00-12:00)
Palazzo Sachetti: Via Giulia 66 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Scuderia Palazzo Ruspoli: Via Fontanella Borghese 56/B (Sat & Sun 11:00-18:00)
Palazzo Sforza Cesarini: Corso V. Emanuele II 284 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Sterbini: Via del Banco di Santo Spirito 30 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
Palazzo Taverna: Via di Monte Giordano 36 (Sat & Sun 10:00-17:00)
Palazzo Torlonia: Via Bocca di Leone 78 (Sat & Sun 10:00-19:00)
For more information, please visit the ADSI website.