Each year towards the end of May, Italy’s Dimore Storiche – Historic Homes – open their doors to the public, giving visitors the opportunity to admire a singular part of the country’s cultural heritage: its private residences.
The Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (ADSI) is a network that works to preserve and promote Italy’s Historic Homes. The association consists of 4,500 palaces, castles, villas and gardens that carry forward the history of Italy by preserving the legacy of its most influential families. A portion of these palazzi are open regularly as museums – for instance, Galleria Colonna in Rome and Castello Ruspoli near Viterbo – but most of them are only open by appointment or during special events throughout the year.
The Giornata Nazionale delle Dimore Storiche Italiane is one of these days. And in Rome it is marked by an annual “Cortili Aperti” initiative which sees dozens of private courtyards open to the public for one weekend each May. This tradition has been ongoing for 30 years and it offers a rare opportunity to explore some of the most hidden treasure of the capital. The “Cortili Aperti” is one of the most interesting events held in Rome each Spring.
This upcoming Saturday and Sunday (May 18-19), 26 courtyards in the city’s centro storico will be open to the public, including Palazzo Pamphilj (the seat of the Brazilian Embassy) in Piazza Navona, the leafy courtyard of Palazzo Capponi Antonelli on Via di Monserrato and the arcades of Palazzo Odescalchi in Piazza Santi Apostoli, just steps from the Trevi Fountain. The owners and members of the family are often present, as are volunteers and students to help give tours of the property. Visits are free of charge.
“For the past few years we have invited architecture students from the Sapienza University to give tours of the courtyards,” says Filippo Massimo Lancellotti, President of the Dimore Storiche Lazio region. “This has been a very successful collaboration because normally visitors enter a courtyard, look around and leave. Visiting these homes is a completely different experience when you are hosted by the owner or a student eager to its story with you.”
The courtyards will also host some of the city’s leading artisans to underscore the importance of artisanship for the preservation of Italy’s historic homes. “Artisans have always played a vital role for the Dimore Storiche,” explains Mr. Lancellotti. “Between the 1500s and the 1700s, many artisans lived on the properties because they needed to be on-hand to help with maintenance and repairs.”
Marble workers, art restorers, silversmiths, painters, mosaicists and other artisans will hold demonstrations within the courtyards. “It is very concerning to see that craftsmanship is slowly dying so this is one of the ways we help give them visibility and honor their contributions,” he says.
For more information, please visit the ADSI website.