Twenty-four dwellings of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome (and two elsewhere)

An illustrated essay by Carol Cofone (Rutgers’17)

For an interactive version of this map showing domiciles of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome, click here.

The extraordinary documents of the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Villa Aurora have many stories to tell. Previous posts have drawn on a large set of unpublished monographs written in the 1940s and early 1950s by family tutor and archivist Giuseppe Felici: 15 detailed studies in 48 volumes on family history from ca. 1550 to 1815.

This post, however, explores a much smaller Felici work: a 6-page, hand corrected typescript of an essay entitled The Dwellings of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome. The essay belongs to the collection of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, in Rome. Below I have translated it from the Italian, with minor organizational adaptations.

In this essay (probably penned in the early 1950s), Felici gives us a rapid fire accounting of the palazzi, casini and apartments that members of the family owned, rented, accessed and abandoned in Rome through the course of 17 generations. Though his writing style in his monographs is expansive, in this essay he uses less than 2000 words to introduce us to more than two dozen Boncompagni and Boncompagni Ludovisi properties—hardly mentioning their famed Villa Ludovisi, and leaving ones inhabited post-1900 to the side.

Mid-17th century view of Palazzo di Sora in Parione (see B below), with towers. From G. B. de Rossi, Palazzi diversi nel’Alma Cità di Roma et altre (1638).

We’ll leave it to future posts to tell the story of life in these properties individually in greater detail, and also those that Felici omits (e.g., the major Boncompagni holdings in Vignola and Frascati). This post aims to survey, through the eyes of Felici, the amazing scope of Boncompagni Ludovisi holdings that he does choose to mention, many of which still stand today looking much as they did in the days members of the family lived there.

Click here for an interactive version of the map above: a modern day “dragon hunt” through the streets of Rome.  For convenience, I offer a summary of the domiciles Felici presents for each member of the Boncompagni and Boncompagni Ludovisi he discusses (*=head of family).

*Ugo Boncompagni = Pope Gregory XIII (1505-1572-1585): (D) Palazzo Boncompagni (Bologna)

*Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612) + (m. 1576) Costanza Sforza (1560-1617): (F) Palazzo Campeggi Torlonia in Via della Conciliazione (formerly Piazza Scossacavalli); (G) Palazzo del Priorato [after 1578]; (H) Palazzo Colonna del Vaso [after 1578]; (I) Palazzo Muti, later Balestra [between 1578 and 1585]; (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [after 1585]; (B) Palazzo di Sora in Parione [purchased in 1607]

Card. Filippo Boncompagni (1548-1572-1586): (I) Palazzo Muti, later Balestra

Card. Filippo Guastavillani (1541-1574-1587): (I) Palazzo Muti, later Balestra

*Gregorio I Boncompagni (1590-1628) + (m. 1607) Leonor Zapata y Brancia (1593-1679): (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [main residence]; (B) Palazzo di Sora in Parione [from 1607]

*Ugo I Boncompagni (1614-1676) + (m. 1641) Maria Ruffo di Bagnara (1620-1705): (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [main residence]; (B) Palazzo di Sora in Parione

*Gregorio II Boncompagni (1642-1707) + (m. 1681) Ippolita Ludovisi (1663-1733): (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [main residence until 1700]; (B) Palazzo di Sora in Parione [after 1700, part of year]; (K) Villa Ludovisi in Rome [after 1700, part of year]

*Antonio (I) Boncompagni (1658-1731) + (m. 1702) Eleonora Boncompagni Ludovisi (1686-1745): (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [until 1731]; (Q) Palazzo Mellini sul Corso [until 1731]; (L) Palazzo Boncompagni Cerasi in Via Babuino [after 1731]

Francesca Cecilia Boncompagni Ludovisi (1705-1775) + (m. 1722) Francesco Maria Carafa (1696-1773): (L) Palazzo Boncompagni Cerasi in Via Babuino [after 1745]

*Gaetano Boncompagni Ludovisi (1706-1777): (M) Casino Florenzi a Magnanapoli (until 1726). After marriage (1726) to Laura Chigi Albani della Rovere (1707-1792): (J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio) [after 1726; (O) Palazzo Sacchetti in Via Giulia; (P) Palazzo Ruspoli in Aracoeli [until 1745]; (Q) Palazzo Mellini sul Corso [by 1735 until 1756]; (S) Palazzo or Casino Bonelli, later Valentini [until at least 1751]; (T) Palazzo De Carolis (later Simonetti) [1761-1764]; ?(U) Palazzo alla Pilotta [from 1754 to 1781]

Pier (Pietro) Boncompagni Ludovisi (1709-1747) + (m. 1731) Maria Francesca Ottoboni (1715-1758): (N) Palazzo Peretti Ottoboni Fiano

*Antonio (II) Boncompagni Ludovisi (1735-1808) + (m. 1757) Giacinta Orsini (1741-1759): (Q) Palazzo Mellini sul Corso [1757 to shortly after 1759]. After her death, and his remarriage (1761) to Vittoria Sforza Cesarini (1743-1778): (R) Palazzo Niccolini Ferraioli in Piazza Colonna [from 1761]; (V) Palazzo Poli [from 1797 or 1798]

Card. Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1743-1775-1790): (W) Palazzo Panfili  [= Pamphili] [for a few years, ?after 1775]

*Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi (1767-1841): (R) Palazzo Niccolini Ferraioli in Piazza Colonna [from 1767 to 1796]; (C) Palazzo Spada Veralli, later Piombino, in Piazza Colonna [from 1797 or 1798]. After marriage to Maddalena Odescalchi: (V) Palazzo Poli [from 1812]; (C) Palazzo Spada Veralli, later Piombino, in Piazza Colonna [from 1819]; (T) Palazzo De Carolis (later Simonetti) [from 1833]

*Antonio (III) Boncompagni Ludovisi (1808-1883) + (m. 1829) Guglielmina Massimo (1811-1899): [(C) Palazzo Spada Veralli Piombino in Piazza Colonna and (K) Villa Ludovisi in Rome, but Prince Antonio was exiled from Rome by Pius IX in 1861]; (D) Palazzo Boncompagni (Bologna); [also residence in Milan, the city of his death]

*Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi (1832-1911) + (m. 1854) Agnese Borghese (1836-1920): (A) Palazzo Piombino in Via Veneto [inhabited 1889-1891]

Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1845-1913) + (m. 1868) Teresa Marescotti (1848-1928): (T) Palazzo De Carolis (later Simonetti) [until 1908]; [also, after 1885, Villa Venosa in Albano Laziale]

(Mons.) Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi (1856-1935): (A) Villini of Palazzo Piombino in Via Veneto [inhabited 1889-1891]

Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi (1857-1928) + (m. 1881) Isabella Rondinelli Vitelli (1861-1957): (A) Villini of Palazzo Piombino in Via Veneto [inhabited 1889-1891]; (Z) Villino between Via Boncompagni and Via Quintino Sella [after 1891]

Giuseppe Boncompagni Ludovisi (1865-1930) + (m. 1891) Arduina di San Martino di Valperga (1868-1963): (A) Villini of Palazzo Piombino in Via Veneto [inhabited 1889-1891]; (X) House on corner between Via Francesco Crispi and Via Gregoriana [after 1891]; (Y) House at the Largo Goldoni between Via Tomacelli and Fontanella Borghese [after mid 1890s?]

Giuseppe Felici, The Dwellings of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome

Monsignor Ugo Boncompagni used to say that his family seemed destined (unlike other princely Roman families) to have no palace in Rome bearing their name.

(A) Palazzo Piombino in Via Veneto

Finally, three centuries after Gregory XIII, founder of their noble lineage, had risen to the papal throne, a member of the family built a royal residence in the Ludovisi district (A) for himself and for his three sons. However, not only did he live there less than two years, but the palace and its dependencies immediately lost the name of the Princes of Piombino. It adopted the name of Margherita, the widow of Umberto I, king of Italy.

What else? Even the two large marble coats of arms of the Boncompagni Ludovisi above the main entrance were removed and replaced with those of the Savoia. Shortly afterwards, also the others that decorated the frieze under the eaves (alternately dragons and triple bars) were combined. Where the Ludovisi emblems used to be, windows were created to serve the US Embassy in Rome.

This postcard view of the Via Veneto shows at right one of the two Villini of the Palazzo Piombino; the Hotel Exclesior is in the background at left.

(B) Palazzo di Sora in Parione

Google Streetview

Even the palace that the Boncompagni  (then the Boncompagni Ludovisi) owned for a period of time in Rome – the one in the Parione district (B) – does not recall the name of the old owners. Its name comes from the ancient inherited title from the Duchy of Sora. The palace is located at the piazza of the same name. So one who is unfamiliar with princely genealogy would not tie the name of the city to the Princes of Piombino.

(C) Palazzo Spada Veralli, later Piombino, in Piazza Colonna [demolished 1889]

So it’s left to us to recall the sequence of habitations, the greater part rented by the family, during the long period of time from Cardinal Ugo Boncompagni’s move from his native Bologna to the City, to the Prince of Piombino Don Luigi’s purchase of the group of houses which formed the Palazzo Piombino (C) in Piazza Colonna.

(D) Palazzo Boncompagni (Bologna)

Bologna retains however the beautiful Palazzo of the Boncompagni (D) that remained in the family until after the death (1883) of Senator Antonio III Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino.

Ugo Boncompagni [= Pope Gregory XIII], as a cardinal, is not likely to have possessed any home in Rome.

However no documents remain to affirm or deny it. Further, it doesn’t seem that the building in the Parione (B) belonged to him. [Giuseppe] Tomassetti ascribed it to him, based on the discovery of a coat of arms with a dragon in its cellar; insufficient evidence.

(E) Palazzo Boncompagni Corcos in Piazza dell’Orologio

Google Streetview

There’s much more to suggest that this establishment belonged, in whole or in part, to the Corcos, wealthy Jews (baptized according to the custom of the time with the surname of Pope Boncompagni) who owned the palace with the entrance on the Piazza dell’Orologio (E) that bears the dragons of Gregory XIII and his descendants.

(F) Palazzo Campeggi Torlonia in Via della Conciliazione (formerly Piazza Scossacavalli)

Wikimedia Commons

[Gregory XIII Boncompagni’s] son Giacomo, the first Duke of Sora, from the time of his marriage [1576, to Costanza Sforza] went to live in the Palazzo Campeggi (F) (later Giraud, now Torlonia) in Via della Conciliazione (formerly Piazza Scossacavalli).

(G) Palazzo del Priorato [demolished 1667]

View (ca. 1561-1564) of the old Borgo Alessandrino or Nuovo, looking east from S Peter’s, by G. A. Dosio (Uffizi 2580A). The Palazzo del Priorato (of the Knights of Malta, also known as Palazzo S Martinello) is shown at front to the right. Dosio’s view seems to be unique; the Palazzo del Priorato was demolished in 1667 to make way for Bernini’s Colonnade, and the sketch itself was lost in 1939. Credit: P. N. Ferri, in Rassegna d’ Arte 4 (1904) 92.

In 1578, while [Giacomo’s] family (his court) remained in the Palazzo del Priorato (G) next to the above mentioned palazzo…

(H) Palazzo Colonna del Vaso

Google Streetview

…[Giacomo] moved to the section of the Colonna houses named for the column or tower, which Ascanio, son of the celebrated Marcantonio, was later forced to sell by Sixtus V in favor of the Franciscans of the Holy Apostles.

(That tower I think was taken away from the corner tower, still owned by the Colonna, between Via 4 Novembre and Via Tre Cannelle.)

(I) Palazzo Muti, later Balestra


The family then went from the Palazzo del Priorato to the Palazzo Muti (later Balestra) (I) on the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli, where the cousins of Giacomo—Cardinals Filippo Boncompagni and Filippo Guastavillani—lived (I think as owners).

(J) Isola del Liri (in southern Lazio)

Giacomo, whose father, the Pontiff was dead, lost all hope of seeing his situation improve under his successors. He retired to live on his larger estate in southern Italy, where he lived out his life.

Like him, his firstborn sons who succeeded him in the duchy, had until 1700 maintained his residence on the Isola del Liri (J), while retaining ownership of the palazzo in Parione (B), bought by Giacomo I himself in the early years of 1600s, on the occasion of the wedding [1607] of his son Gregorio I and Donna Eleonora Zapata. Though the nuptial agreements provided the young couple everything entailed in owning a proper home in Rome, they settled anew on the Isola upon the death of Giacomo.

The first member of the House who returned to Rome permanently from forced exile in the southern Italian estate was Don Gregorio II, about the year 1700, when the inflexible Odescalchi pope, who was not benevolent towards him, passed on to a better life (i.e., Innocent XI, who reigned 1676-1689). He and his wife, Donna Ippolita Ludovisi, Princess of Piombino, went to live in Palazzo Sora in Parione (B)

(K) Villa Ludovisi in Rome (Palazzo Grande, Casino Aurora)

1885 view (detail) of Palazzo Grande in Villa Ludovisi, now incorporated into the US Embassy in Rome. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

…and [Gregorio II Boncompagni and Ippolita Ludovisi] spent part of the year in the Villa Ludovisi. Its Villa “Aurora” has been extensively discussed in the printed monograph Villa Ludovisi in Roma [1952] by Dr. Giuseppe Felici.

Casino Aurora in 2013

(L) Palazzo Boncompagni Cerasi in Via Babuino

Google Streetview

Their older daughter Eleonora, married to her Uncle Antonio I, younger brother to her father Gregory II, continued to live with her husband on the Isola (J) until she was widowed (1731), and moved to Rome where she died (1745) in the palace she bought and restored on the Babuino (L), still recognizable by the dragons that adorn the façade.

(The great burial tomb of D. Eleonora Boncompagni Ludovisi, Princess of Piombino, lies leaning against the inner wall of the facade wall, to the left of one who enters the Church of S. Maria del Popolo.)

That house (L) she bequeathed to her daughter Maria Francesca in Carafa, Princess of Belvedere.

(M) Casino Florenzi a Magnanapoli

Google Streetview

Eleonora’s eldest son, Don Gaetano, Prince of Piombino, originally resided in Rome at the time of his marriage to Donna Laura Chigi (1726) in the Casino Florenzi a Magnanapoli (M). “He met the nuns of St. Catherine of Siena”, as Valesio wrote, before going back to the State of Sora in 1726, when his first daughter was born.

(N) Palazzo Peretti Ottoboni Fiano

Google Streetview

Eleonora’s second-born, Pietro, married Maria Francesca Ottoboni (niece of the pope of the same name, Alexander VIII, and daughter of his aunt Giulia Boncompagni Ludovisi). He adopted the name of the Ottoboni, renouncing his own house and also his surname, and went to dwell in the so-called Palazzo Fiano, the Roman estate of the Ottoboni, Dukes of Fiano (N).

(O) Palazzo Sacchetti

Wikimedia Commons

I cannot say when Don Gaetano did get a house for rent at the Palazzo Ricci (later Sacchetti) (O) in Via Giulia…

(P) Palazzo Ruspoli in Aracoeli

… and at Palazzo Ruspoli in Aracoeli (P) [later Fani, now Pecci-Blunt], where it is reported that he had lived previously until 1745. That year, his mother Donna Eleonora passed from this life, which freed him from service, first at the Bourbon courts of Naples, and then of Spain. He returned permanently, until his death, to Rome.

In fact, he had come to live in this city a second time since his marriage, in 1734, as an heir, shortly after his grandmother Ippolita Ludovisi, princess of Piombino, passed away.

The Boncompagni Ludovisi rented numerous houses in Rome, sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously – apart from the Palazzo Sora (B) that they owned—which can be recalled during the interval of time until precisely 1787.

They are:

(Q) Palazzo Mellini sul Corso

Google Streetview

Palazzo Mellini sul Corso (Q), adjacent to the Church of S. Marcello, where Don Gaetano housed his family, prior to June 1735, when his eldest son Antonio II was born. His mother Eleonora lived there as well before she settled into her palazzo on the Babuino (L).

In the year 1743, the seventh child of Don Gaetano, Ignazio, who was later Cardinal, was born there.

This house became in 1757 the abode of the young couple, Antonio II Boncompagni Ludovisi, eldest son of Don Gaetano, and Donna Giacinta Orsini, soon lost to her husband’s affection [she died] after only two years of marriage, in 1759. The Palazzo Mellini in S. Marcello (Q), which his father had vacated to leave it free to the couple in 1756, was later abandoned by the young widower.

(R) Palazzo Niccolini Ferraioli

Google Streetview

Later on, in 1761, he entered into a second marriage with Vittoria Sforza Cesarini, and started a new family in the Palazzo Niccolini (later Ferraioli) (R) in Piazza Colonna.

(S) Palazzo or Casino Bonelli

Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo or Casino Bonelli (S) [now Palazzo Valentini]–at the Three Cannelle or in the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli, as it is also called (today the Prefettura)—welcomed, I don’t know for how long, the family of Don Gaetano. Certainly his last daughter Ippolita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Princess Rezzonico, was born there in January 1751.

(T) Palazzo De Carolis (later Simonetti)

Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo De Carolis (later Simonetti) (T) on the Corso, facing S. Marcello was rented between 1761 and 1764 by Don Gaetano, I do not know for what purpose. Later (1833) it became property of Don Luigi Principe di Piombino and following that, of Don Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi, prince of Venosa, who lived there a few years before selling it to the Banco di Roma (1908).

(U) Palazzo alla Pilotta

Google Streetview

Palazzo alla Pilotta (U)—in the vast agglomeration of Colonna houses not in the area along the Piazza dei SS. Apostoli ceded to the Franciscans, but in “a house of three apartments … adjacent to the palazzo of Signore Contestabile (Colonna)”, that is to the same wall—”Casino Barberini” alla Pilotta provided room for the Boncompagni Ludovisi from at least the year 1754 to 1781.

Palazzo Niccolini (R), on the Corso and Piazza Colonna—named after a Tuscan Marquis—became a home, as already mentioned, to the family of the widower Don Antonio II and his second wife, Vittoria Sforza Cesarini, going back to 1766. His first-born son, Don Luigi, was born and lived here until about the time of his marriage to Donna Maddalena Odescalchi.

Palazzo Spada Veralli (later Piombino) (C) at Piazza Colonna. It was rented by Prince Don Antonio II “for people to be named” starting from 1794. But it was not until December 1819, after the marriage of Don Luigi, the eldest son of Don Antonio II, with Donna Maddalena Odescalchi—in view of the fact that they had the lease—that the new couple lived together in the Spada Veralli palace. Don Luigi had lived there as a bachelor since 1797 or ’98. It was then that the building went up for sale and became the property of the Boncompagni Ludovisi. They lived there until it was expropriated and demolished by the comune of Rome, and they moved to the new Palazzo Piombino in Via Vittorio Veneto (A).

(V) Palazzo Poli

Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo Poli (V)— Don Antonio II remained alone in the Niccolini building (R) when his son Don Luigi went to the Palazzo Spada Veralli (C). While still a bachelor, he moved to Palazzo Poli, behind the Trevi fountain, (named after the noble family Conti of the Duchy of Poli whose last heir was Duke Francesco Sforza Cesarini.) In 1812 it was bought by Don Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino.

(W) Palazzo Panfili  [= Pamphili]

Google Streetview

Palazzo Panfili (W) at Piazza Venezia. Cardinal Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi, Secretary of State of S.S. Pius VI Braschi, who notoriously had a proclivity for the gentle sex, rented an apartment here for a few years.

It is also worth mentioning three other houses here that were dwellings of the members of the house of the Boncompagni Ludovisi…

(X) House on corner between Via Francesco Crispi and Via Gregoriana

Google Streetview

…the one at the corner between Via Francesco Crispi and Via Gregoriana (X), that still carries the family’s coat of arms, and was purchased by Don Giuseppe, the third son of Don Rodolfo, prince of Piombino. He lived there with his family when he was forced to abandon the villino (see A) his parents had built for him between via Boncompagni and via Lucullo.

(Y) House at the Largo Goldoni between Via Tomacelli and Fontanella Borghese

Google Streetview

Another house at the Largo Goldoni between Via Tomacelli and Fontanella Borghese (Y) [today Palazzo Fendi] purchased and restored by the same Don Giuseppe for himself and his family, in place of the one with the entrance at Via Gregoriana which he ceded.

(Z) Villino between Via Boncompagni and Via Quintino Sella

Google Streetview

Villino between Via Boncompagni and Via Quintino Sella (Y), that Don Luigi, the second son of Don Rodolfo, prince of Piombino, had built for his own use, when he also had to leave the great Piombino Palace (A) in the Villa Ludovisi between via Veneto and via Boncompagni.

About the author: Carol Cofone, a 2017 graduate of Rutgers University, recently earned a second degree in Italian, and a certificate in Historic Preservation. She has been associated with the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi since 2014. She is a recipient of a 2013, 2014 and 2015 Rutgers Academic Excellence Award, and for her senior thesis work, a 2017 Henry Rutgers Scholar Award.  She is also a Research Fellow for Float ( a mobile app that geolocates the New York pedestrian, maps the art, architecture and historical sites in the vicinity and tells their stories.  She has written Float stories specific to the work of the Municipal Arts Society and is now developing ones for the Tribeca Trust. The author warmly thanks HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi for their generosity in sharing the document that is the basis of this essay.


  1. Karen Manchester says:

    Bravo/a on yet another great post!

    On Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 12:31 AM, Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi wrote:

    > villaludovisi posted: “An illustrated essay by Carol Cofone (Rutgers’17) > The extraordinary documents of the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi have many > stories to tell. Previous posts have drawn on a large set of unpublished > monographs written in the 1940s and early 1950s by f” >

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