On one level, you have to feel a little sorry for Doria Pamphilj. In any other city, selfie stick-wielding visitors would be standing cheek-to-jowl in its halls which are wallpapered with artistic treasures.
However, this is not just any city. This is Rome where most visitors are doing the Caesar Shuffle between its ancient sites and gazing in awe at Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s Basilica.
But if you are an art lover or are simply seeking refuge from the tourist throngs, make space in your Rome itinerary to visit Galleria Doria Pamphilj (pronounced pam-fee-lee). Housed within the unassuming walls of this 15th Century palace is the city’s largest private art collection.
It is one of my favourite places in Rome.
Make the most of your visit to Doria Pamphilj armed with my guide to the works of art that you cannot miss. It also includes the history of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, how to get there and how to buy tickets.
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A Brief History of Galleria Doria Pamphilj
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj’s fascinating history spans several centuries and multiple owners, notably the powerful Aldobrandini, Pamphilj and Doria families.
The palace was first built in 1435 and changed ownership a few times until it fell into the hands of the Aldobrandini family in 1601. In 1647, Olimpia Aldobrandini married Camillo Pamphilj and gave him the palazzo as part of her dowry.
In 1651, Camillo’s uncle Cardinal Giambattista Pamphilj, better known as Pope Innocent X, embarked on an ambitious project to expand and renovate the palazzo. He enlisted the services of the best artists and architects of the day, including Francesco Borromini, to transform the residence into a rare showcase of Roman Rococo art and architecture.
After the male line of the Pamphilj family died out in the 18th Century, the Pamphilj merged with the Genoese Doria Landi family, to whom they were related through the 1681 marriage of Anna Pamphilj to Giovanni Andrea III Doria Landi.
Today, the Doria Pamphilj family continue to live in the palazzo and its collection has been protected by the state since 1816.
Until the marriage of the Doria and Pamphilj surnames, the palace was known as Palazzo Pamfilio. Today, the spellings Pamphilj and Pamphili are both used, but the family prefers Pamphilj.
Highlights of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
To make the most of visiting Doria Pamphilj go with a plan.
The palace’s opulent rooms and hallways are covered floor-to-ceiling with paintings and, unlike some other galleries, there is no information displayed other than the name and artist. Audioguides were not available when I visited in March 2023.
The bottom line is that you need a guide to Galleria Doria Pamphilj.
Hit the ground running with my guide to the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj collection. These appear not in order of importance but trace the visitor route through the palazzo.
GOOD TO KNOW
As you enter the first room, pick up an English language information leaflet. This has a plan of Galleria Doria Pamphilj and a list of the artworks.
In the first three rooms, there are also laminated A4 sheets that describe the room and its highlights.
Poussin Room (Sala del Poussin)
This vast room takes its name from the Italian painter, Gaspard Dughet (1615 – 1675), nicknamed Il Poussin or Poussino after the last name of his brother-in-law Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665). He was known for his classical landscapes, many of which decorate the walls of this room, and was one of the favourite artists of the Pamphilj family.
Velvet Room (Sala dei Veluti)
Taking its name from the sumptuous red velvet wallpaper, the Velvet Room contains two fine marble busts by Alessandro Algardi (1598 – 1654), who was commissioned by the Pamphilj family as a sculptor and architect.
To the left of the door is a bust of Innocent X, looking particularly stern.
Sporting a splendid ruff, the second bust is of Benedetto Pamphilj.
Ballroom (Sala da Ballo)
Made up of two adjoining spaces, the golden-hued ballroom was decorated with silk hangings in the second half of the 19th Century by the architect Andrea Busiri Vici (1818 – 1911).
I liked the orchestra stall in this room. It features a sketch for the Apotheosis of Hercules by Giuseppe Bottani (1717 – 1784) and a small bird cage bearing the coat of arms of Pope Clement XIII.
Passing through a small gift shop, you reach the first gallery and where the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj start coming thick and fast. The paintings in these galleries have been placed in their original 18th Century positions, thanks to a manuscript in the archives dated 1767.
It really is like stepping back in time.
This ornate gallery is home to 17th Century landscapes, six of which were painted by Annibale Carracci, who was a famous member of the Bolognese school of painters. His work influenced Claude Lorrain, who is also represented here.
Don’t miss Bernini’s bust of Innocent X as you enter the gallery with the crack running through his beard.
Further down the hall is the bust of Olympia Aldobandini Pamphilj, the family matriarch, created by Giovanni Carrara in the late 17th century. Despite pushing 60 when this likeness was sculpted, she appears remarkably youthful.
MUST-SEE PAINTINGS IN THE ALDOBRANDINI GALLERY
- Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, Annibale Carracci
- Erminia Finds Tancredi Wounded, by Giovan Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino
- View of Delphi with Procession, Claude Lorrain
Velazquez’s Portrait of Innocent X is considered so important that it has its own room.
This is not a warm and cuddly pope. Instead, he is stern and frowning, both despotic and vindictive. A pope not be messed with.
Painted between 1649 and 1650, many art critics consider it to be one of the greatest portraits ever committed to canvas.
Contrast this painting with Bernini’s Pope Innocent X bust displayed in the same room where the pope is portrayed as a benevolent leader, verging on the heroic. It is thought that he created this second bust of the pontiff around 1650 after the first was damaged.
Gallery of Mirrors (Galleria degli Specchi)
Lined with small-scale Roman statues, chosen to fit their setting, this gallery is the loveliest in Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Refurbished in 1731, it shimmers with gilded mirrors and its vaulted ceiling was painted by the Bolognese artist Aureliano Milani.
These frescoes represent The Stories of Hercules, reflecting the Pamphilj family’s belief that they descended from the Greek mythological hero Hercules.
Rooms overlooking Via del Corso
At the end of Mirror Gallery is a series of four rooms overlooking Via del Corso. Here, you’ll find two early masterpieces by the bad boy of Italian Art, Caravaggio.
In his charming and naturalistic Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1596) the Virgin Mary sleeps with the Christ Child in her arms as a graceful young angel plays the violin. It’s magical.
His Penitent Magdalene is slumped in a chair, weeping as she is surrounded by symbols of the vanities of the world; a pot of oil and jewellery.
The Pamphilj Gallery (Galleria Pamphilj)
Once home to the Portrait of Innocent X, the Pamphilj Gallery displays several important paintings of the 16th Century.
Take a look at Domenico Fetti’s Penitent Magdalen. Light and colour are woven to portray the saint gazing at a skull in meditation, a symbol of the fleeting nature of mortality.
OTHER MUST-SEE PAINTINGS IN THE PAMPHILJ GALLERY
- Eden, Jacopo da Ponte also called “Bassano”
- Madonna Adoring the Child, Guido Reni
- Battle in the Port of Naples, Pieter Bruegel the Elder
The Doria Gallery (Galleria Doria)
The Bolognese artist, Alessandro Algardi, was closely associated with the Pamphilj family for many years. In the Doria Gallery, you’ll find one of his most famous sculptures, the bust of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj, completed around 1650.
Algardi did a superb job of capturing her legendary strong-minded and forceful character. I wouldn’t mess with her.
MUST-SEE PAINTINGS IN THE DORIA GALLERY
- Eden and the Creation of Adam, Jan Brueghel the Elder
- Allegory of Water, Jan Brueghel the Elder
Aldobrandini Room (Salone Aldobrandini)
Located in the Renaissance part of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, the Aldobrandini Room is a treasure trove of paintings and sculptures. It hosts some of the most important paintings in the gallery’s collection.
Many of the statues and ancient reliefs were taken from the Villa Pamphilj garden and include a large sarcophagus that depicts the myth of Selene and Endymion, dated to the 3rd Century.
A centaur in polychrome marble makes a spectacular centrepiece for the room.
The room’s masterpiece is Titian’s Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (1511 – 1515). Just look at the way that Salome cannot tear her gaze away from the saint’s severed head. She almost looks proud.
OTHER MUST-SEE PAINTINGS IN THE ALDOBRANDINI ROOM
- Descent from the Cross, Giorgio Vasari
- Double Portrait, Raphael
Recently opened to the public, the Primitives Room contains the oldest paintings of the Doria Pamphilj collection. It is also home to my favourite paintings in the palazzo.
For dramatic intensity and sheer pathos, it’s hard to beat the Lamentation on Christ’s Body with Donor by Hans Memling, created between 1475 and 1485.
The wonderful Annunciation by Filippo Lippi is a recent acquisition by the gallery. He devoted a number of pictures to the Annunciation and other examples hang in the National Gallery in London and Florence’s Uffizi Galleries amongst others.
Visiting Doria Pamphilj, Rome: Practical Guide & Tips
Address: Via del Corso 305
How to get to Doria Pamphilj
The closest metro station is Barberini on Line A. From here, it’s a ten-minute walk.
Doria Pamphilj is a short distance from some of Rome’s most famous landmarks, including the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Venezia and the Altar of the Fatherland.
Doria Pamphilj is open from Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 7 pm and from Friday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm. It is closed on the third Wednesday of the month, 1st January, Easter and 25th December.
In 2023, an adult ticket costs €14 (a €1 fee applies if you book online).
Tickets are sold for entrance slots every 30 minutes and are non-refundable if booked online from the official website.
If you want more flexibility in your travel arrangements, consider buying a ticket from a 3rd party reseller. Although you will pay a premium for your ticket, you will be able to cancel up to 24 hours before your visit for a full refund. Find out more here.
Check current opening hours and ticket prices on the gallery’s website here.
Guided tours of Doria Pamphilj
At the time of writing (June 2023), Doria Pamphilj does not offer guided tours. However, you can book a private tour with a local guide here.
Photography at Doria Pamphilj
Private photography is allowed but turn off your flash and leave the tripod at home.
Eating and drinking
There is a lovely cafe in the courtyard of Doria Pamphilj. Sadly, this lovely café was shut when I visited.
You’ll find visitor toilets near the entrance to the Poussin Room.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj FAQs
How long does it take to visit Galleria Doria Pamphilj?
As a bare minimum, put aside at least one hour to visit Doria Pamphilj. However, I recommend spending 90 – 120 minutes admiring the gallery’s masterpieces in a more leisurely fashion.
When is the best time to visit Doria Pamphilj?
Doria Pamphilj attracts a fraction of the visitors who flock to Rome’s better-known attractions. However, it is likely to be busier on Mondays when many galleries and museums in Rome are closed. If possible, steer clear of visiting on Mondays, or pick the first slot of the day.
And That’s a Wrap!
I hope that my guide to the Scrovegni Chapel and the Giotto frescos has sparked your curiosity and helps you plan your visit.
If this has been useful, you may enjoy some of my other guides to art in Italy: