Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a historic stately home and art gallery in the heart of Rome, is a treasure trove of dramatic Italian history, priceless art, and even an unmissable restaurant, Caffè Doria.
The blink-and-miss it block on the corner of Piazza Venezia and Via del Corso hosts contemporary shops on the ground floor, so you could be forgiven for underestimating what secrets lie within.
However, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj guards Galleria Doria Pamphilj, an incredibly opulent and valuable art collection hung in the private home of the Doria Pamphilj dynasty, a line of statesmen and powerful aristocrats.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is also home to Caffè Doria, an elegant but affordable cafe and bistro which is a winning choice when looking for a restaurant near Piazza Venezia.
The top floor apartments of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj are occupied by The Anglican Centre, the ambassadorial seat of the Anglican Church’s envoy to the Holy See.
In short, it’s a building worth your attention when in Rome, and especially when looking for something to do – and eat – near Piazza Venezia!
Family secrets of Doria Pamphilj
The compact but rich collection at Galleria Doria Pamphilj has made it perhaps Rome’s best-loved private gallery. Still run today by the descendants of the Pamphilj family, it is definitely worth picking up the complimentary audio guide offered as part of the ticket price to fully discover both its history and art.
To get the most out of this gallery visit, it is helpful to understand what an impact the Doria Pamphilj family has had on Rome and Italy over the years.
The Doria family gained power and influence in the fifteenth century through Andrea Doria, a renowned sea Admiral whose profitable voyages benefitted both the Doria family and the Republic of Genoa, then a great naval power. Even today, the name Doria is closely associated with the city of Genoa.
The Pamphiljs, meanwhile, came to fame in the sixteenth century when lawyer Giovanni Battista Pamphilj rose through the Vatican ranks, becoming Pope Innocent X in 1644. Known for his irascible and stern nature, one of the most famous paintings in the gallery today is the portrait of Innocent X. Spanish master Velaquez painted the Pope with his typical scowl in a bravely contemporary style.
The Pope’s niece, Anna Pamphilj, married into the Doria family in 1671, uniting these two great houses with her marriage to Giovanni Andrea II Doria Landi. Future descendants would proudly carry both names.
Other interesting and important family members included Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj, the Pope’s sister-in-law and a rich noblewoman who owned several houses of note in Rome. Intelligent and wilful, Donna Olimpia helped build the family art collection, acquiring several masterpieces by Caravaggio, and receiving many more priceless pieces as gifts.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, a few English and Scottish noblewomen married into the Pamphilj family, such as Mary Alethea Beatrix Talbot, daughter of the Count of Shrewsbury, and Emily Augusta Mary Pelham Clinton, from the Duchy of Newcastle-under-Lyne.
The last politically active member of the Doria Pamphilj family was Filippo Andrea VI Doria Pamphilj, who opposed Mussolini and was sent to the front to fight on order of the Dictator himself in 1940. Filippo was later selected by the Allied forces to be the new Mayor of Rome after the war, holding the position from 1944-1946.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj: secrets of the art collection
This magnificent collection of art, containing paintings that date from the 15th to the 18th century, began to be amassed by Pope Innocent X in the 17th century. Today representing over 400 works of art, Galleria Doria Pamphilj’s most famous pieces include works by Bernini, Brueghel the Elder, Caravaggio, Raphael, Tiziano and Velazquez.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj’s free audio guide is narrated by a descendent of the family who has all the inside-secrets on this impressive collection!
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj itself is a wonderful backdrop for this rich collection, as one of the finest Rococo palaces of its kinds preserved in Rome today. The palace was constructed on the foundations of a residence belonging to Cardinal Fazio Santoro at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
It has taken over 500 years of extensions and refurbishments to become the incredible building we see today. Interestingly, the order in which the Galleria Doria Pamphilj collection was hung hasn’t changed much over the years, with most of the paintings still in their original locations.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj is also worth visiting simply to wander through its opulent halls, from the Hall of Jupiter to the Salon of the Velvets, guarding rich, historic wall coverings. Don’t miss the Gallery of Mirrors as well.
For a small, additional fee, tours of the private rooms of the current Princess Pamphilj are also available. This can be combined with the main entrance ticket, or purchased separately. The entrance to the private apartments are atVia del Corso 305.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj entrance ticket: Adult / reduced – €12/ €8
Caffè Doria: contemporary bistro next to Galleria Doria Pamphilj
Caffè Doria is the palazzo’s historic ground floor restaurant and bar, next to Galleria Doria Pamphilj. This occupies the former stable block of the palace, hence the opulent, internal fountain which was once used to water the horses.
Dating back to 1999, the former cafe and pastry shop has been recently transformed into a well-appointed bistro, remaining one of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj’s best-kept secrets.
Its extremely elegant refurbishment features reproductions of some of Galleria Doria Pamphilj’s finest works of art – and some great Italian masterpieces.
Caffè Doria operates partly as an all-day, upmarket coffee bar and diner, selling hand-made Roscioli pastries and desserts produced by the famed De Bellis Pasticceria of Campo de’ Fiori.
At lunchtimes and evenings it comes into its own as a smart but affordable bistro, offering high quality food in a calm location just seconds from the bustling Piazza Venezia. Caffè Doria enjoys its own direct street entrance on Via della Gatta, and also has a secret corridor leading directly into Galleria Doria Pamphilj.
I recently popped along to sample lunch at Caffè Doria. I was served tasting portions so I could try more dishes, so the photos don’t necessarily do the portion size justice. At the helm of the new bistro is chef Massimiliano Mazzotta, whose dishes combine the informality of comfort food with carefully plated delicacies, focusing on farm-to-table ingredients.
Lunch kicked off with a breaded and fried fresh anchovy, served with a lightly tart fresh orange sauce. The usual serving portion includes two anchovies, priced at €14.
Moving on, we tried a wonderful, palate cleansing salad, dressed with fresh passion fruit and wild flowers. The next dish comprised hearty potato gnocchi, served with an escarole and provola sauce and crispy pancetta (€16). This dish was delicate in flavour yet suitable robust.
The main course was this Turkish-delight-tender marinated salmon steak, gently cooked sous vide and served with a sweet garlic sauce and dill, paired with a wild leaf salad. (€20). Ticking all the right boxes for healthy-eating and flavour this was a delicious and satisfying dish for any time of day.
We rounded things off with a delicated stewed pear, served with ricotta and salted crumble (€12). Not over-sweet, this also felt indulgent without being sinful.
Caffè Doria’s marvellous Gin Trolley
One of the best kept secrets of the marvellous Caffè Doria is its mobile Gin Trolley, a portable gin bar featuring a mix of international and small batch gins. With a touch of old-world glam, this is wheeled over to your table at the start or end of your meal if you fancy trying a gin and premium tonic. It was one of the most fun aspects of our lunch and I really recommend it.
One more thing I would like to try is brunch at Caffè Doria. I noticed that apart from the wonderful pastries and desserts on view in the main hall, you can also order a savoury breakfast here, served until 12 noon. Featuring dishes such as avocado toast, salmon and poached eggs (€8), or a croque-monsieur with cooked ham, emmental and taleggio (€8) the prices are very competitive for this corner of Rome and I can’t wait to share this – the best secret of all – with someone special!
Testaccina was a guest of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj and Caffè Doria