top of page

Palazzo Besso

The history of Palazzo Besso is complex, with various building phases and numerous owners.

The building stands on the remains of the Baths of Agrippa in an area of Rome of particular historical and monumental importance. In medieval times this area, called Calcararia from the kilns in which the ancient marbles were transformed into lime, saw a growing building revival with the rise of churches and later noble residences, some of which, like Palazzo Besso, along the route of the procession of the Pope from the Vatican to the Lateran (via Papalis ).

Palazzo Besso presents itself today with a unitary and organic prospect in Umbertino style, but with a structure deriving from the amalgamation, developed over time, of several buildings around four courtyards. There is news of the presence on the site of the Rustici houses since the fifteenth century. At the end of the sixteenth century the Vestri took over the Rustici as owners of the palace. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the building was purchased by Cardinal Ottavio Paravicini who had it enlarged by the architect Domenico Paganelli. Then it passed to the Gallo, Olgiati and finally to the Strozzi .

Palazzo Besso_epoca.jpg

Palazzo Besso in the early 1900s


Palazzo Besso - demolition interventions (late 19th century)

After the Strozzi, owners of the building for more than 200 years, the new owners of the building, the Municipality of Rome in 1882, and subsequently the Banca Tiberina in 1884, transformed it with important demolition and reconstruction works which ended in 1886.

The two photographs of the late nineteenth century, taken just at the time of the demolition, document the first, inside the main courtyard, the presence of a loggia with two superimposed orders with arches interspersed with Ionic columns on the lower floor and composite columns on the floor. upper and a monumental fountain in late Mannerist style, and the second, the portion of the building cut for the construction of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.      

In 1900 the ownership of the building passed to the Bank of Italy.

Marco Besso in 1905 bought the entire building and on the first floor, where the most significant historical remains remain, he created his library and lived there with his family. Then in 1918, by his will, his house became the headquarters of the Marco and Ernesta Besso Foundations.


Palazzo Besso - portion of the building for the construction of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (late 19th century)

The palace today, with the new redefinition of the facades of the late nineteenth century, still retains a nobility of lines and decorations in the ornate portals, windows and cornices, such as to constitute an elegant architectural backdrop compared to the archaeological remains of the Sacred Area of Largo Torre Argentina, subsequently brought to light at the end of the 1920s.

The facades of the building find unity in the simplicity of the materials typical of the Roman tradition, travertine, plaster and stucco, while the hierarchization of the windows between the first noble floor and the three upper floors helps to give it a certain monumental severity, which is however lightened by the openings of the ancient shops on the ground floor, and by the strongly projecting upper cornice.

description of the environments


Palazzo Besso

Palazzo Besso chronology: summary

1400: The first owners are the Rustici; there is news from Flavio Biondo of their presence in the area of the current Palazzo Besso, then the Vestri family take over
1606 - 1620: Cardinal Ottavio Paravicini expands the palace and decorates the Galleria Nuova - now the Council Room - with the frieze of Tarquinio Ligustri
1620: Cardinal Antonio Maria Gallo is the owner only for a few months but then the palace is bought by the banker Settimio Olgiati who commissioned the portal in front of the Church of the Stigmata from Carlo Maderno
1649 - 1882: The Strozzi, the famous Florentine family, tenants from 1636 to 1648, who became owners, enlarged it and decorated the interiors with frescoes and precious marbles where they exhibit the important family collections
1882: The Municipality of Rome demolishes a portion of the building for the construction of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II
1884: the Banca Tiberina restructured it by elevating it by two floors
1900 - 1905: Ownership passes to the National Bank of the Kingdom
1905: Marco Besso buys the entire building
1918: is the year in which Marco Besso creates the Foundation named after him

Palazzo Besso is located in an important area,

since ancient times, for the history and culture of the city

► The Palace stands on the remains of the Agrippa Baths, the first public baths, in the area called, in the Middle Ages, Calcararia

► It has various building phases starting from the end of the fifteenth century;

in the first, the building has access to the route of via Papalis

► In the eighteenth century, in the “Strozzi” period, it is mentioned in the guides of Rome for the precious collections inside

► At the end of the 19th century the building was partially demolished for the construction of the new Corso Vittorio Emanuele II road axis

► From 1918 the Palace became the seat of the Marco Besso Foundation, created “ to promote culture to make society grow ”, which from the end of the 1920s overlooks the Sacred Area.

Palazzo Besso_epoca.jpg
bottom of page