Palazzo Massimo in Rome - Open to the Public every March 16th, since1583
Even though my husband and I had been to Rome several times, we stayed pretty much in the area we liked most: for us, the Hotel Raphael behind Piazza Navona was the absolute best place to be in the Eternal City. There was nothing we enjoyed more than tramping up and down the narrow streets and tiny squares surrounding the enormous and sumptuous oval of Piazza Navona, stopping here and there to have an espresso at a coffee table. Each time we took one of those walks, we discovered something we had never seen or noticed before, even though we thought we knew the place well.
Two years ago in March, we found a Renaissance palace on Corso Vittorio, right behind Piazza Navona, that we had probably passed a dozen times but never "seen." The doors were open so we walked right in, past the vestibule and into the courtyard. We felt a little funny at first, as if we were trespassing, but the doors had been open.
Rounding a corner, we ran into a group of five or six people. Embarrassed, we started to back out, until we heard English spoken and realized that one of the men, who turned out to be a guide, was inviting us to join them. He explained that the Massimo family opened their palace to visitors each March 16th in honor of a miracle that occurred there may years ago. We tagged onto the back of the group as they headed up the old stone steps. We passed through room after room filled with rarely-seen paintings, sculptures and furnishings that were sumptuous beyond belief.
At one point, when we passed a red velvet rope strung across a stairway, we were told that the Massimo family still occupied the palace and retired upstairs each year on visiting day. The guide led the group away, but we hung behind, staring beyond the velvet rope in fascination, remembering "The Grass is Greener," an old movie where Texas oil millionaire Robert Mitchum is part of a tour group visiting one of the great manors of England. He crashes the family's private quarters and falls madly in love with Lady Deborah Kerr, who promptly returns his sentiments because, for some unfathomable reason, she is bored with her husband, Lord Cary Grant. (Ah, Hollywood, the things you expect us to believe!)
Resisting the temptation to step over the red velvet rope, we wandered after our fellow visitors. Eventually we came to an exquisite chapel, which our guide explained had been created to commemorate the miracle of Palazzo Massimo. This astonishing event had taken place on March 16th, 1583, when Saint Filippo Neri brought back the Massimos' young son from death's door. It is said the saint talked to young Prince Paolo as he lay on his deathbed, with the grieving and praying family gathered about him. When the boy had uttered his last prayers and declared he was ready to die, Saint Filippo Neri told him to, "Go and be blessed and pray to God for me." Paolo promptly recovered, and in gratitude for God's intervening hand, Pap Massimo turned the boy's bedroom into a chapel. From that day forward, every March 16th the family has thrown open its doors to welcome those who come and visit the place where the miracle occurred.
A lovely story! A beautiful place to visit if you happen to be in Rome on that particular day, March 16th. It costs nothing, and to get in, all you have to do is show up. If you can't be in Romeon March 16th, the portico and vestibule of the palace are always open and you can peek in if you want. Also, you can go around behind the palace to the seldom-visited Piazza dei Massimi, onto which the back door of the palace opens. Its painted faade, executed by Polidor da Caravaggio, is worth the added effort needed to find a way into what may be the tiniest piazza in Rome.
Palazzo Massimo is located on Corso Vittorio Emanuele between Piazza San Pantaleo and Corso Rinascimento.
Message Edited by lhbrown on 08-28-2007 12:56 PM