North of Piazza Venezia, the first building on the left is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, one of the city’s finest Rococo palaces, and inside, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj is perhaps the best of Rome’s private art collections. The Doria Pamphilj family still lives in part of the building, and you’re guided through the gallery and the state apartments beyond by way of a free audio-tour narrated by the urbane Jonathan Pamphilj.
The picture gallery extends around the main courtyard, the paintings displayed in old-fashioned style, crammed in frame-to-frame, floor-to-ceiling. It has perhaps Rome’s best concentration of Dutch and Flemish paintings, with a rare Italian work by Brueghel the Elder showing a naval battle being fought outside Naples, a highly realistic portrait of two old men by Quinten Metsys and a Hans Memling Deposition, in the furthest rooms off the main gallery, as well as a further Metsys painting – the fabulously ugly Moneylenders and their Clients – in the main gallery, close by Annibale Carracci’s bucolic Flight into Egypt. Also in the rooms off the courtyard are three paintings by Caravaggio – Repentant Magdalene and John the Baptist, and his wonderful Rest on the Flight into Egypt – hanging near Salome with the head of St John, by Titian. The gallery’s most prized treasures, however, are in a small room on their own – a Bernini bust of the Pamphilj pope Innocent X and Velázquez’s famous, penetrating painting of the same man. All in all it’s a marvellous collection of work, displayed in a wonderfully appropriate setting.