Italy is ALWAYS a popular tourist destination and every year there's more to see. This summer you can see how the "other half" lives as a number of Roman aristocrats have opened their palaces. At Montoro Palazzo Patrizi, Marquis Corso Patrizi Montoro conducts tours of his home which has been in the family since 1642. Decorated with statues of Greek gods and Renaissance frescoes, the building is located near Piazza Navona and the Pantheon and is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rome. Just in front of the Spanish Steps lies the Residenza Ruspoli Bonaparte. Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati in the 1500s, Emporer Napoleon III grew up here. The current resident and hostess, Princess Giacinta Ruspoli, enjoys having tea with her guests while sharing the history of the palace. Tenuta di Pietra Porzia was built in the 1200s by monks and bought by the ancestors of Count Vittoro Giulini in the 1800s. The Count has turned his family's summer home into an inn with 16 bedrooms and a restaurant serving locally grown artichoke specialties. Palazzo Ferrajoli is located on the Piazza Colonna and offers a unique view of Marcus Aurelius' pillar. Built in the 16th century, the palace is famous for its Etruscan columns, floors of Venetian mosaics, coffered wooden ceilings, a labyrinth of mirrors and more. Guests are guided through the palace by owner, Marquis Giuseppe Ferrajoli, who also offers them wine and snacks on the terrace at the end of the tour. The Residenza Principi Ruspoli Cerveteri was built in the 1500s to defend the Vatican. Now an exquisite inn, you can stay in splendid suites once inhabited by Handel, Caldarc and Benvenuto Cellini.
As a man of the people, Pope Francis has eschewed such luxury and the Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer retreat on the shores of Lake Alban, has been opened to the public as a museum. Not only are visitors able to tour the grounds, but for the first time in history, one can view the pope's private chambers.