The Colonna family is one of the oldest noble families in Rome, and many palaces and castles bear their name.
The descendants still live in the large palace next to Piazza Venezia, which was started 600 years ago.
The history of the Colonna begins around the year 1000 when their castle is mentioned in the town of Colonna, on via Labicana (now Casilina).
In 1250 they were already very powerful and wars were waged against other families, especially against the Orsini, located in the Viterbo area.
They owned the Mausoleum of Augustus and Monte Citorio in the city, around Rome they were feudal lords of Colonna, Palestrina, Zagarolo and Capranica.
In 1297 they turned against Pope Boniface VIII Caetani who defeated them, confiscated all their assets and had the city of Palestrina, their centre, razed to the ground.
The Colonna had to take refuge from Philip the Fair king of France. From 1309 to 1377 the Papacy had its seat in France in Avignon.
When the Papal See returned to Rome, the Colonna family managed to have one of their popes elected with the name of Pope Martin V of Genazzano, in office from 1417 to 31) and their fortune grew enormously.
[caption id="attachment_44926" align="center-block" width="750"] Genazzano - Castello Colonna, by Benedicta Mary Lee[/caption]
They almost created a state within the state, Paliano, Genazzano, Marino, Cave, Ardea, Lunghezza, Rocca di Cave, Amalfi, Salerno added to their possessions.
But often they turned against the popes.
In 1484 Lorenzo Colonna was executed in Castel Sant'Angelo.
In 1502 Pope Alexander VI commissioned his son Cesare Borgia to reconquer the territories that the Colonna and other families had taken over.
In 1527 there was the darkest page in their history, when some of them favoured the Sack of Rome by the Lanzichenecchi.
After that they had to flee to Naples.
They redeemed themselves in 1571, when Marcantonio Colonna led the victorious fleet against the Turks in Lepanto, then becoming Viceroy in Naples in 1577.
From 1600 the fortune of the family began a slow descent and in the 1800s they sold various estates to the new rich, the Torlonia.
Palazzo Colonna is linked by a series of arches to the family garden, which reaches up to the Quirinale square.
Inside the Palace there is the beautiful Galleria Colonna, which can be visited on Saturday morning.