When visiting the scenic country of Italy, there are plenty of historic Italian palaces to see and explore for a glance into the past. While some palaces are private residences today, there are many that you can visit as a tourist.
For centuries, palaces in Italy served as the residences for royalty, as well as heads of state and dignitaries. Today most of them house extensive art collections and museums open to the public for your enjoyment.
Pull out your map and get ready to plan your trip to Italy, exploring the many Italian palaces scattered throughout the country.
Most Famous Italian Palace
While there are many palaces in Italy, one stands out as perhaps the most famous and well-known, the Royal Palace of Caserta.
Royal Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest palace built in the 18th century in Europe. The palace is the largest royal residence in the world, with over 1,200 rooms.
The Italian palace is located in southern Italy north of Naples and was designed by Luigi Vanvitelli. Vanvitelli is considered one of the most celebrated Italian architects of the 18th century.
The grand palace was built for King Charles VII of Naples, but he never resided in the Italian palace, as he abdicated the throne in 1759. His son, Ferdinand IV of Naples, was his successor and lived in the palace after he was gone.
When you visit the Royal Palace of Caserta, you will be in awe of its Baroque-style architecture, inspired by the Palace of Versailles. The gardens surrounding the palace incorporate existing nature seamlessly into its layout.
You can visit the palace for tours of the massive royal park, theater, library, and many impressive rooms. Bike tours and horse-drawn carriages offer another way for you to explore the grounds.
Italian Palaces in Florence
There are many palaces in Italy, but Florence features some of the most beautiful and oldest. Visiting Florence’s palaces will give you a firsthand look at life in the time of royalty and extravagance.
Palazzo Pitti or Pitti Palace is Florence’s largest palace. The Italian palace’s facade features giant stone blocks and high-vaulted windows. Visiting this palace is certainly one of the best things to do in Florence.
Located on the bank of the Arno River, outside of the city, this Italian palace has sprawling grounds. Beautiful gardens surround the back of the palace, and the main building overlooks the city of Florence.
You will find massive collections of Renaissance paintings in the Palatine Gallery, featured in the Palazzo Pitti. The royal apartments inside of the palace house private art collections arranged as they would have been when they were inhabited.
The grounds of this incredible palace in Italy also include a Costume Gallery, Porcelain Museum, and Silver museum. You will find endless things to see that make a visit to the Palazzo Pitti well worth your while.
The Palazzo Vecchio is located in the heart of Florence and serves as the city’s town hall. This Italian palace overlooks Piazza dell Signoria which features a copy of Michaelangelo’s The David statue.
The Italian palace was built in 1299 and has been added over time. A tower with a clock was later added and replaced with a replica in 1667.
In 1865, the Palazzo Vecchio served as the seat of Italy’s government, while Florence served as the temporary capital of Italy. Today it houses the mayor’s offices and City Council.
This palace in Italy features a museum, ruins, secret passages, and Renaissance-style paintings. You can see firsthand through a tour the corridors hidden under the palace used as an escape route. When visiting, definitely grab a skip-the-line ticket to avoid the long queues.
This Italian palace was designed for the Medici family, a prominent Italian banking family and political dynasty. Palazzo Medici-Riccardi was built between 1444 and 1484.
The Medici family lived in the palace until around 1540 when they moved to the Palazzo Vecchio. The Riccardi family later inhabited the Italian palace and altered and enlarged the structure.
Today, the Medici Museum is one of the few original spaces in the entire Italian palace. You can see the famous painting “Madonna and Child” featured in the gallery at the palace. A 50,000-volume-sized library features frescoed ceilings that will impress anyone who appreciates medieval art.
Tour the palace with a guide if you want to really learn about the history and important art pieces.
Built in the late 14th century, the Palazzo Davanzati was the townhouse of a family of medieval wool merchants. The Italian palace was constructed by joining earlier medieval tower homes behind one facade.
The architecture of this palace is different from most palaces in Italy since it is smaller and narrower. The palace features an interior courtyard and an atrium on the ground floor.
When you visit Palazzo Davanzati, you can enjoy the fantastic painted interiors. The bedrooms are restored to their original colors and feature items typical of the period the palace was inhabited.
Palazzo del Bargello
The Palazzo del Bargello, or Palace of the People, is an Italian palace built by the citizens of Florence. Construction began in 1255, and the palace housed the chief magistrate and other members of the Podesta.
The palace served as an ecclesiastical court and prison from 1502 to 1574 before becoming the headquarters for the chief constable. Today the National Museum is housed within the palace.
Like many Italian palaces of the time, the Palazzo del Bargello features a tall tower and crenels along the walls. The central courtyard is an architectural work with large columns and an octagonal fountain.
You can visit this palace and museum today to see various works of art and masterpieces by Michelangelo and Cellini, to name a few. You are sure to admire the impressive architecture of the building from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Italian Palaces in Rome
Rome, the capital city of Italy, gives visitors lots to fill their day with when visiting. The many Italian palaces found in Rome are an excellent way to see and learn about endless treasures from the past. There are many popular things to do in Rome but don’t forget to check out the stunning Italian palaces.
From its ornate ceilings to walls covered in frescoes, Villa Farnesina is a palace in Italy that you do not want to miss. Built in the 16th century and designed by Baldassare Peruzzi, the palace is not typical in the layout of other Italian palaces.
The palace was built for Agostino Chigi, a treasurer for Pope Julis II. With no signs of defensive features in this palace, it is unique and designed to be more open and airy. The loggia features frescoes depicting secular myths throughout.
Artists like Michelangelo and Raphael contributed works to the palace, and many popes and royalty were entertained within its walls. This Italian palace is a true masterpiece of Renaissance art.
You can visit Villa Farnesina by tour and see the optical illusion created in frescoes of the city of Rome through marble columns. This opulent Italian palace is not to be missed.
Palazzo Barberini is a 17th-century Italian palace near the Piazza Barberini. The palace is a converted villa named for Pope Urban VIII or Maffeo Barberini.
Today this palace in Italy houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art, with important works of art from many significant Italian artists. The palace itself is designed in the Baroque style, typical of many buildings in Italy at the time.
When you visit Palazzo Barberini, depending on how much time you have, there are more than 5000 paintings to see. The two different galleries in the museum house paintings and frescoes important to the art of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
With its impressive courtyard and fine private art collection, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is another Italian palace in Rome. The palace was initially built by the Pamphilj family but was given to the Doria family in the 18th century.
The palace was home to different royalty throughout the 17th century and beyond. You can visit some private residences that have historically housed princes and princesses.
The ornate and elaborate palace hallways will give you lots to marvel at. The inlaid floors and several galleries throughout this palace in Italy are impressive and beautiful. Reserve your ticket beforehand for quick entry to see the masterpieces.
Palazzo Venezia, located in central Rome, is best known as Mussolini’s residence during the Fascist regime. This Italian palace was initially built to house cardinals of the church of San Marco at the beginning of the 16th century.
The grand palace was built from the medieval tower that stands at one end. Many of the stones used to make this palace in Italy came from the famous Colosseum standing nearby.
Today the palace houses the Palazzo Venezia Museum and the National Institute of Archaeology and Art History. You can visit the palace to see sculptures, paintings, textiles, and even weapons from different centuries.
Italian Palaces in Bologna
The historic city of Bologna is located in northern Italy and is home to a mix of modern and medieval architecture. Here you will find several impressive Italian palaces to visit and explore.
The Archiginnasio is one of the more important buildings in the city of Bologna. Pope Pius IV commissioned the palace to be built in the mid-16th century in the city’s center.
This Italian palace was home to the first European university, the University of Bologna, until 1803. Today, the Municipal Library of Archiginnasio is housed in the palace, containing important literature about Bologna.
When you visit this Italian palace, you can take in the incredible architecture of the central courtyard. Visit the Anatomical Theater, where lectures for anatomical studies were once held.
Lots of well-preserved wood and marble adorn the staircases and hallways of this impressive palace in Italy. Painted coats of arms cover the walls, representing head students that once attended the school.
The Palazzo d’Accursio is located in Bologna’s central square, Piazza Maggiore. Today it is the city’s town hall, but it once held administrative offices for the city of Bologna.
The Italian palace gets its name from the law professor Accursio, who lived in the palace at one time. Over time, more buildings and additions have been added, including a clock tower.
When you visit this impressive palace in Italy today, you can find the Municipal Art Collections on the palace’s top floor. The hall ceilings on the main floor display painted frescoes with scenes depicting the gods and goddesses Minerva, Mars, and Cybele.
Palazzo Dei Notai
One of the several Italian palaces found on the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna is the Palazzo dei Notai. Initially built by the city’s notaries guild, you can find the coat of arms depicting three inkwells and goose feathers on the front facade.
The Italian palace was built in the 13th century and restored in 1908 by architect Alfonso Rubbiani. The rectangular brick building features crenels on the roof, a classic attribute of gothic defensive buildings.
You will find 15th-century frescoes in the Hall of Notaries inside the palace. The palace is located between the Palazzo D’Accursio and the Basilica of San Petronio.
Palazzo del Podesta
Also located on the Piazza Maggiore is the Palazzo del Podesta, an Italian palace erected in the 13th century. The palace was intended for government use by the mayor and officials.
A bell tower, the Torre dell’Arengo, was built alongside the palace to alert the citizens of Bologna in an emergency. Statues of the four religious protectors of Bologna: San Petronio, San Francesco, San Domenico, and San Procolo, stand in the palace.
You can visit this palace in Italy to take in the 20th-century frescoes throughout the building. The Voltone del Podesta or Mayor’s Vault allows you to play telephone with one another from across the large room due to its unique ceiling structure.
Palazzo Re Enzo
Palazzo Re Enzo was built as an extension to the Palazzo del Podesta after realizing that it had insufficient space for civic activities. The palace housed war machines and a chapel, as well as offices.
This Italian palace’s name comes from King Enzio of Sardinia, son of Emperor Frederick II. Enzio was a captured prisoner in the palace from 1249 until his death in 1272.
Today the well-preserved palace in Italy houses conventions and exhibitions. You can take a guided tour through the medieval palace and enjoy the vast history of the building and the city of Bologna.
Other Famous Italian Palaces
While traveling around Italy, you will find palaces everywhere. Check out some of these Italian palaces located outside in various cities and some off the beaten path.
Located in the city of Venice, Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, is an important Venetian landmark. Built in 1340, this Italian palace was once the residence of the Doge of Venice, the leader of the Republic of Venice.
The Italian palace faces the Grand Canal on one side and a Piazzetta on the other. Saint Mark’s Basilica sits on the north side of the palace, with a courtyard in between.
You can visit this beautiful architectural treasure when in Venice. The outside of this palace in Italy changes color depending on the time of day. The palace’s light pink tone appears to be paler and almost white.
You will see impressive Gothic art throughout, and on the facade, which is revered as a masterpiece. Set your eyes on The Staircase of The Giants, used for the crowning of doges throughout history.
This is one of the top things to do in Venice among others.
The Italian palace Palazzo Madama is located in Turin, Piedmont, in northern Italy. The name Madama comes from the two queens that resided there at different times and did most of the renovations that still exist today.
Christine of France, Duchess of Savoy, inhabited the palace as her residence in 1637. She saw that the inner apartments were redesigned and renovated.
Years later, Marie Jeanne of Savoy, also known as Madama Reale, resided in the Italian palace. She commissioned several artists to renovate the building and contribute works of art to the walls and chambers.
Nowadays, like many palaces in Italy, it houses a museum. You can visit the palace and the City Museum of Ancient Art to see an extensive collection of porcelain, decorative art, paintings, and statues from the Middle ages through the 18th century.
Palazzo Reale is the Royal Palace of Milan, located in northern Italy. This Italian palace housed government offices for many centuries.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the palace was used primarily as a fortress and later restored to its prior use as a palace. The Duomo Cathedral stands in the same inner courtyard as the palace.
The Hall of the Caryatids is the grand space within the walls of this palace in Italy. The hall was used to hold royal receptions of Italy’s elite. Unfortunately, the hall was bombed in 1943, leaving it unusable and destroying pieces of art.
The hall was restored, lacking some of the extravagances of the original. Pablo Picasso exhibited his painting, Guernica, there in 1953.
Today, when you visit the Palazzo Reale, you can experience the four historical eras that the palace went through in its museum. These include the Neoclassical era, Napoleon’s period, the Restoration, and the Unification of Italy.
The Palazzo Carignano is located in the center of the city of Turin. It was built in the 17th century as the residence for the Princes of Carignano.
The Italian palace was designed by architect Guarino Guarini in the Baroque style. Inside the palace, you will find beautiful painted frescoes and stucco decorations.
In 1997, Palazzo Carignano became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The outer brick facade of this unique palace has a concave and convex pattern, appearing like waves.
You can take a tour of this palace in Italy, where, for a brief time in 1861, the palace housed Italy’s first parliament. A museum dedicated to Italy’s 19th-century history is also found within this palace.
Also known as the Red Palace, this palace is located in the city of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. As with many other Italian palaces, this one hosts a wide variety of art collections and galleries.
This Italian palace was built in 1675 and was decorated with frescoes by several artists such as Gio Andrea Carlone and Antonio Haffner. This palace in Italy houses art collections by renowned artists throughout different eras.
Today you can visit the palace for special events and exhibitions. The incredible frescoes throughout the walls and ceilings are a sight to see for any avid art lover.
Discovering The Italian Palaces In Italy
There are many incredible Italian palaces to visit all over the entire country of Italy. Depending on your interests, there is something for any history lover who wants to visit the many palaces of Italy. If palace hopping is your kind of jam, you will likely have a lot of fun checking out some of the stunning castles in Italy as well.