Popes’ Palace (Palazzo dei Papi)
Overlooking the handsome Piazza San Lorenzo, Palazzo dei Papi is one of Viterbo’s highlights, along with Palazzo dei Priori, the city’s Romanesque cathedral, and the medieval neighborhood of San Pellegrino. Visit from Rome or as part of a longer day trip that includes stops at Lake Bolsena, Civita di Bagnoregio, and Orvieto. Purchase a skip-the-line ticket in advance, and learn about the history and architecture of the palace.
Things to Know Before You Go
Art enthusiasts will especially appreciate the palace’s richly frescoed Sala Gualterio, recently opened to the public.
Tickets include an audio guide to the palace and entrance to the Museo Colle del Duomo, which houses art and antiquities on the opposite side of Piazza San Lorenzo.
The palace isn’t wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
Viterbo is located north of Rome in the Lazio countryside, and can be reached by car or train.
When to Get There
A charmingly quiet town, Viterbo is a refreshing respite from the chaos of Rome in the crowded summer months. Go on a mild, clear day to enjoy strolling the medieval center.
The History of Palazzo dei Papi
The palace was built by Pope Alexander IV in 1257 when he transferred the headquarters of the Papal Curia to Viterbo from Rome. Apparently, in 1271 the College of Cardinals still hadn’t elected a successor to Clement IV, who had died three years earlier. To speed up the deliberations, the residents of Viterbo locked the cardinals in the Aula del Conclave with nothing but bread and water. The cardinals quickly settled on Pope Gregory X.