Saturday, August 2, 2014

Living in a Renaissance Palazzo in Italy: Viterbo

Palazzo Chigi's tower
In central Italy  it is not  so unusual to live  surrounded by affreschi  of Renaissance masters.  The other day we were invited to visit  Serena Filoscia and her uncle Luciano who live in one of Viterbo’s most imposing buildings: Palazzo Chigi.
stairway to piano nobile

 Located in the very center of Viterbo, adjacent to City Hall
 (Palazzo dei Priori), over the ages the austere building has been home to numerous  powerful local families:  Caetani, Chigi , Montoro, Patrizi and  Crescenti.

For the past  few generations   the Egidi family  have called  it home and have done major  restorations, including that of the palazzo’s  tiny  private chapel.

loggia of Palazzo Chigi 

“The roof is so huge that it seems we are always repairing  it”, confided Serena as she greeted us at the front entrance doorway.   She and various other family members   live in apartments located  on the  main floor,  il piano nobile, where the ceilings  rise up  to an enormous height.  

Entering the  portone one catches a glimpse of  a beautiful fresco  by  Antonio del Massaro   (known as Pastura)  hidden behind a car and a dusty  Vespa.
Madonna attributed to Pastura 

 On the upper levels  frescoes greet  visitors at every turn: at the  top of the steep staircase, on the  loggia and throughout the reception rooms.

The windows  of the main salone  face an  imposing stone fireplace and give sunlight to the   numerous plants.  To one side, an  early piano-like instrument  ( un clavicembalo)   awaits  restoration.  

Renaissance  fireplace 
Uncle Luciano leads us into a smaller living room with  silk covered walls and family portraits. In one corner a 1980s  music center  and a piano  show that this was the room the family used for parties. 

A curtain is pulled up with a cord to reveal another room, the family chapel. Luciano shows us the chest of drawers in a niche that serves as sacristry.

 It must have been constructed on site, since it is  too large to have gone through the doorway.

sacristry of the  chapel 

The frescoes of Palazzo Chigi  have been the object of a university  thesis  and I understand why when we are shown a further, smaller  room completely  covered  with frescoes of gods, landscapes and hunting scenes  by Antonio Tempesta. 

At eye level there is a  parrot which gave  the room its name, Stanza del Pappagallo.

How does  this  Renaissance scenario and lifestyle  fit  in with today’s  world ?

 Just a short  walk from the historic  palazzo,  in Piazza S. Maria Nuova, you can visit the shop  GustoSi Senza Glutine where   Serena’s companion  has just opened  the area’s first laboratory  preparing  gluten free bread, pasta, pizza and sweets.  It is located  across  from the  outdoor  pulpit where St. Thomas Aquinas used to preach to the crowds in  the open air, many centuries ago. 

You will find many more stories of life in the Tuscia/Etruria  area in  my books which can be ordered directly from the website. 
Feel free to leave a comment  below and share with your friends  by clicking on the  icons.  
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  1. Fantastic article.Viterbo is such a wonderful place to visit and stay! I love your blog Mary Jane,such great information and so entertaining too!

  2. This is incredible..I must see the room covered in silk..I think I need to plan another trip there.

    1. Whenever you can, we will be waiting for you. Where are you writing from ? Mary Jane

  3. Carissima Mary Jane,
    Grazie per il bellissimo articolo su Palazzo Chigi e i suoi abitanti, nonche' per la bella pubblicita' del nostro laboratorio che sta muovendo i primi passi. E' stato un piacere incontrarti! Lo zio ti fara' sapere presto la sua opinione sul tuo libro che ha appena iniziato. Sicuramente condivideremo il piu' possibile il tuo bel' articolo. Grazie ancora ti aspettiamo per degustare le nostre delizie gluten free. A presto Serena

  4. Thank you Serena, I am glad you are happy with my article and photos about your beautiful home. Looking forward to your uncle's opinion on my book. And thank you for sharing with your friends. Good luck with the new business.

  5. Dear Mary Jane: What a wonderful posting. The photos are so telling and the story of the Palazzo is intriguing and fills one's imagination with thoughts of what life would be like there and with questions about the building, family, and history.
    Thank you for this selection. Sharon in Seattle

    1. Thanks for the comment Sharon. Please share with friends

    2. Thank you for the nice comment Sharon. Dont forget to share with friends.

  6. Dear Mary Jane, this is Paolo, Serena companion, crazy gluten free man ;-) thanks for posting; the article is the "exact picture" of the beautiful Palazzo Chigi in Viterbo. Looking forward to meet you again; will be for me a great pleasure. Paolo.

  7. Thank you Paolo and I am glad you like the "photo" of the palazzo . It is so interesting for my readers to see the people behind the facade of the ancient buildings . I think you will soon have some American visitors : for your special delicious products and also looking for an invitation to visit the palazzo. !!