(more information here). A wonderful opportunity to glimpse behind closed gates. There are, however, equally splendid courtyards to be viewed all year round and ,what is more, they are all free to visit.
Palazzo Mattei di Giove
We were hurrying along to show our guests the Tortoise Fountain in Piazza Mattei when a kindly American gentleman insisted that we slowed down and take a peek into this courtyard. Aren't we glad that we did - a showcase of ancient sculpture accompanied by the strains of music emerging from unseen rooms. One of many magical moments that this city has a habit of creating at unexpected times.
Palazzo della Cancelleria
Named after the offices of the papal chancellery who resided here in the 16th century, this palazzo boasts a beautiful Renaissance courtyard. The rose motif alludes to the emblem of the Riario family who built the palazzo.
Palazzo della Sapienza
This palazzo was the seat of Rome's university until 1935. The courtyard frames a Borromini masterpiece , the church of Sant'Ivo. The decoration of this church is based on the heraldic emblem of the Barberini family - bees. The spire is said to represent a bee sting!
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
This courtyard is fragrant with the scent of orange blossom from the trees that thrive here. You can enter the courtyard for free but it is well worth paying the fee to visit the Galleria, the ticket office for which is on the right hand side as you came in.
Not all the best courtyards are to be found in grand palazzos. The tiny Arco degli Acetari is tucked away off Via Pellegrino and is named after the vinegar makers that had their workshops here. The combination of terracotta & lush vegetation makes for an idyllic corner of Rome.