THE DEBATE RAGES: NEW DEAL FOR THE QUIRINALE?
After 9 years a new president inhabits the Quirinale compound, a huge palace with a majestic park. A few weeks before the election of our head of state (which is not the head of government), an interesting debate started about the destiny of this building, one of the biggest and most prestigious in Rome having hosted 30 popes, four Italian kings and 12 Italian Presidents.
After Sergio Mattarella was sworn in the discussion went on since the new president is a low profile figure and has chosen a smaller office than his predecessor’s. An opening up of Quirinale and/or a big transformation in the use of this landmark are definitely on the cards.
Many have compared Italy’s President to Pope Francis who decided to abandon the Papal Apartments and stay in the S. Marta Residence where many other Vatican short and long-term guests live.
Others have mentioned the kings of Spain and Sweden who left their Palaces in Madrid and Stockholm to live somewhere else, opening them to tourists.
Honestly I don’t think these comparisons really hold as the Pope is a religious figure who has to inspire other people, while the kings of Spain and Sweden are largely ceremonial figures, unlike our president who has quite some powers and therefore needs a well manned staff.
Some say that Italy as such lacks a National History museum and think that the more than 1,200 rooms could host it. It’s an idea but I don’t honestly think that Rome would benefit from an additional museum. And our public coffers would suffer as the presidential staff would be moved to other downtown expensive offices to rent out. Too expensive.
Let’s first see when you can visit the Quirinale and what you can actually see/do in there.
Every Sunday morning from early September to late June (with a few exceptions) you can visit 26 monumental halls in the main section of the building. Jaw-dropping 1-hour visit full of frescoes, tapestries, incredible pieces of furniture originating from other Italian princely palaces since the last Pope, Pius IX, took away everything he could before the Italian invasion.
On the same Sunday mornings you can enjoy top-notch classical music concerts in the beautifully frescoed Paolina Chapel. Free of charge. This Chapel also hosted four Conclaves, including the one for the last pope who was the head of a real state, the Papacy.
Throught the year, Tuesday-to-Sunday, you can have a glimpse of the Quirinale’s huge court while going to the complimentary exhibits held in two relatively small rooms.
One in the monumental Corazzieri Hall has just been inaugurated about the figure of Joseph in the Medici Flemish tapestries by Bronzino and Pontormo.
They are not physically part of the Quirinale compound but Scuderie del Quirinale are functionally part of it as they were the building’s Stalls. Major paid exhibitions on display here (always open) in what is one of the top venues in Rome for art and archaeology. Very nice view of the Quirinale itself and of downtown Rome from the highest of the seven hills of Rome.
This is quite recent. A museum of historical coaches belonging to the popes and various Italian kings, dukes and princes has been opened to the public. It can be seen ten Saturdays per year: usually the last Saturday of the month (July and August excluded). Booking required.
The majestic park of the Quirinale palace is only open on June 2, our national holiday celebrating the start of the Republic in 1946. Free of charge, very long line.
FEASIBLE VISITOR-FRIENDLY DEVELOPMENTS
Visitors should be able to visit the 26 monumental rooms currently open on about 35 Sunday mornings for more days and longer hours. They’re currently staffed by voluntary, unpaid, ex-workers of the Quirinale. We thank them for their support but we think that the 1,635 people working for skyrocketing salaries at the Quirinale should be able to set up a few more shifts to let more tourists in, more often. Same holds for the coaches museum, open only 10 days each year!
Going back to the main building, there are about 30 fantastic rooms that can’t be visited. Some are used by the President himself, but some of them could be opened to the public without major hassle.
The most important thing, however, is the park which would really be a major addition to the Roman downtown landmark scene. One day out of 365 is really too little. Big improvements expected here with small extra effort.
Let’s leave Rome and go south to Castel Porziano which should also be open to individual visitors. Stop buying expensive animals at the mansion and use that budget to pay the costs of more visits!