With its fountain and clusters of palm trees, the grand courtyard of the Palazzo Venezia is a veritable oasis of peace and tranquillity in the heart of Rome.
The fountain (1730) of Venezia Sposa il Mare (Venice Marries the Sea) is the work of Carlo Monaldi. Venice takes the form of a young woman, who holds, betwixt thumb and forefinger, the ring with which she will wed the sea. The winged lion of St Mark, the symbol of La Serenissima, crouches obediently at her feet.
The Palazzo Venezia was built in 1455, when the Venetian cardinal, Pietro Barbo, was named titular cardinal of the neighbouring Basilica di San Marco. Nine years later Barbo became Pope Paul II (r. 1464-71) and the palace was substantially enlarged.
The courtyard was intended to have a double-storey stone colonnade, but the finances dried up shortly after it was begun and only ten arches were ever built!
The Palazzo di San Marco, as it was first called, was used as a papal summer residence until 1564, when Pope Pius IV (r. 1559-1565) gave it to the Republic of Venice, which established its embassy here. Since then it has been known as the Palazzo Venezia.
From 1929 to 1943 the Palazzo Venezia was the headquarters of the Fascist party. Mussolini had his office in the grand Sala del Mappamondo and used the balcony overlooking Piazza Venezia to deliver many of his most notable speeches.
The Palazzo Venezia is now a museum.