Meet the Sacchetti Family

12 Apr
Palazzo Sacchetti, seen from Lungotevere dei Sangallo

Palazzo Sacchetti, seen from Lungotevere dei Sangallo

One of the lovely surprises of indulging in my passion for writing about Rome is that sometimes my work gets noticed and I am able to take part in activities I never would have been invited to had I not started my blog. My tour today of Palazzo Sacchetti on Via Giulia, a historic noble family’s residence even to this day, was one such event. The tour was graciously offered and hosted by Italian Ways, an online Italian lifestyle and arts magazine. About 15 local bloggers and Instagrammers were invited to join in the tour of the palazzo, which isn’t open to the public and within which photos aren’t normally permitted.


This group photo was shot at the end of our tour in the Nymphaeum, the garden that was added in 1660, and stands just inside the facade on Lungotevere dei Sangallo.

Palazzo Sacchetti is featured in the Oscar-winning film La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), as the home where the character Viola lived with her mentally ill son. Designed by famous architect Antonio da Sangallo, construction started in 1542 and the building was completed in 1546. The Sacchetti family, who left their native Florence for Rome in the 16th century to escape persecution by the Medici, bought the palazzo in 1648, and the same family owns the palazzo and lives there to this very day. Private visits are available by special request.

The Sacchetti family was a very important noble family in Rome—so important, in fact, that they became one of only a handful of families to be named marchesi di baldacchinoA baldacchino is called a baldachin in English, and is a ceremonial canopy over an altar or throne. The marquis of the baldachin were an exceptional class of nobility between princes and inferior nobility, and they had to have the following characteristics:

      • Historical and social importance of the family
      • Registered as Roman nobility. Instated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746 in his bolla (official letter) Urbem Romam, the registry commonly came to be known as the Libro d’Oro or “the golden book.” The original copy was burned by the Jacobins in 1799 during the first Roman Republic. A new Libro d’Oro was compiled between 1839 and 1847 and is kept to this day in the City of Rome Historical Archives. A paperback reproduction is available on Amazon. Look how cool, the archive website has the entire book indexed and available for viewing online (I AM AMAZED AND DELIGHTED) and here is the Sacchetti family’s page in the book:
    • SacchettiPossession of feudal property
    • Having had Cardinals in the family
    • Matrimonial alliances with royal families (principality, duchy)
    • Hereditary office holder within the Papal Court, known as the Roman Curia of the Holy See (the administrative branch of the Vatican)

This last qualification was modified in 1968, when Pope Paul VI abolished the Papal Court and modified it into what is now known as the Pontifical Household. The Sacchetti family role was called Foriere Maggiore prior to the reform, and is now Hereditary Quartermaster General of the Sacred Apostolic Palace. In terms of what they actually do, from what I gather I think it more or less involves receiving heads of State for the Pope and leading ceremonial processions. Here’s a picture of Giulio Sacchetti on the cover of the book he wrote called Segreti Romani (Roman Secrets):


And as far as the heads of State/ceremonial thing goes, in one room we saw some “family photos” on top of a table:



The baldachin is still there in the entrance hall of the palazzo. Only the noble families of the baldachin (the ones that fit the criteria above) had them, and there were very few of these families; in my various research I found four of them listed: Patrizzi, Serlupi, Sacchetti and Teodoli. The baldachin was placed in the entrance hall for receiving the pope during a visit, and included kneeling cushions for dignitaries who would come before the pope.


On the baldachin you can see the family crest: silver with three black stripes. The family crest was everywhere within the palazzo, from the ceilings:



to the windows in one hallway:


even down to the plant pots in the garden:


Although the artistic treasures in the palazzo were incredible, and I will share those photos in a future post, I must say the most touching aspect for me, because it lent a very human feel to such a majestic place, was seeing the framed family photos on the side tables in the “living room”:



IMG_0127 (1)

IMG_0128 (1)

IMG_0129 (1)


To learn more about Palazzo Sacchetti and the Sacchetti family:


18 Responses to “Meet the Sacchetti Family”

  1. Monica April 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Fascinating. And I agree, the most interesting and touching part are the family portraits & photographs.

  2. Elizabeth Engle April 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Fantastic!! Takes me back to my Roman days –1952 thru 1954. Thanks Shelley from Elizabeth Goodfellow Engle

  3. Janet M April 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    Great, great, great; touching and informative. I had never known before this that Romans also had a Libro d’Oro. (And fun to recognize a couple of people in the tour group photo!) Thanks, Shelley.

  4. Catherine April 13, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this. What a different world, hard to imagine that these things exist! Must be such a mind-blowing place xcat

  5. lizbert1 April 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Great post, really gives an insight into an otherwise hidden life. Thanks!

  6. Shelley Ruelle April 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I didn’t expect to see those! So it was really something, even if they put them out there knowing that the few visitors they have on private tours will see them, still, it felt sort of intimate.

  7. Shelley Ruelle April 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    You’re so welcome. I would love to see photos from your time in Rome. It must have been so different back then. I lived in Trastevere for six years and my florist, who is in her mid-50s now, told me that when her mom went into labor with her, they took her across the bridge to Fatebenefratelli hospital on the back of an oxcart.

  8. Shelley Ruelle April 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Yes, I am really intrigued now and inspired to learn more about Rome’s “founding families.” Gillian of Gillian’s Lists recommended “The Families Who Made Rome” and now I want to order it right away.

  9. Shelley Ruelle April 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Absolutely. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be born into a noble family in modern times… not having any other world to compare it to, you grow up with all these responsibilities and such an important historical role.

  10. Shelley Ruelle April 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    Thank you for reading! That’s what keeps me going is knowing that others are sharing in what I write. 🙂

  11. Lilian Zirpolo April 13, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Thank you kindly for using my publications on the Sacchetti as your references for this post. I enjoyed reading it.

  12. Engred April 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    Love this post, as it brings back memories of our tour of the palazzo last year! We have a friend who actually lived there for a couple of years when he was growing up. Fantastic garden!

  13. Elizabeth Engle April 29, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    Shelley, I live in Edmonds, across the Sound by ferry from Kingston. In my 20s I joined the Foreign Service & worked at the American Embassy in Rome, 1952-1954 — a magical time. I have re-visited Rome several times over the years and, good or bad, she is still my favorite city. I knew Luciano Sacchetti in the ’50s, whose wife, Mercedes del Mundo worked at the Embassy. Makes me wonder if he was a part of that noble family?

  14. Shelley Ruelle May 1, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    No clue! But, hello small world… I grew up in Kingston!!!!

  15. lizbert1 May 20, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    It’s always great to find out about the hidden secrets of a town or city, especially the history side! Keep up the good work!

  16. Dominic Sacchetti May 25, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    Great and interesting. As a Sacchetti I was fascinated by my reads of the family and my namesake. My wife and I travel frequently and we usually drive in what ever country we find ourselves in. Never any incidents except in Rome while looking for the Plazzo Sacchetti. When we found it while opening my rented car door a taxi driver who was in a hurry took the door off and with him for a few yards. No body hurt but had to drive back to the auto rental with the door tied to the car… The look on their faces at the rental was worth the price of the trip. But we found the Plazzo Sacchetti. Dom Sacchetti

  17. Shelley Ruelle May 29, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Oh my gosh what a story!!! Very interesting history, this family… lovely visit. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Sandra Sacchetti January 14, 2016 at 3:33 am #

    I am in the “Sacchetti” family although I’m researching if I am part of THIS Sacchetti family. Great article! I’m wondering if you have any insight into the “Sacchetti Archives” that are located within the Palazzo Sacchetti. My uncle was in contact with the owner (Marchese Giulio Sacchetti) at one point but he passed (Marchese, not my uncle) in 2010. Any clue which “Sacchetti” owns it currently? Contact info? Any info would be greatly appreciated!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: