Pope Paul's PalazzoJust behind the bustling Campo de' Fiori is the Piazza Farnese, where you will find the enormous Palazzo of the same name. Farnese was the name of the family of Pope Paul III, who was born Alessandro Farnese before becoming a cardinal under the Borgia Papacy (and who did very well for himself indeed).
The Palazzo was built for the family in 1517 during the High Renaissance, and is considered one of the most important palaces of the era to be found in all of Italy. Alessandro ordered elaborate expansion and redesign to the palace he when became Pope in 1534. He commissioned the venerable Michelangelo, who restyled the third floor and the courtyard. The interior is full of stunning frescoed rooms depicting classical scenes, such as the Hercules room and the famous Gallery with 'The Loves of the Gods' by Annibale Carracci, an extremely important Renaissance fresco.
House of learning
Pope Paul III was a lover of classical art and myth, and stocked the palace with his vast collection of Greco-Roman sculptures. It also houses a large scholarly library. The design of the building has been copied around the world, notably by the National Building Museum of Washington DC and the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
In 1936 it was leased to the French government for €1 a year for a period of 99 years, and today it serves as their embassy in Italy. If you visit the courtyard today you will see the magnificent façade by Michelangelo as well as two large granite fountains, which are actually basins taken from the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla.