Hidden from view, this precious garden in the heart of Rome stands on ancient ruins and provides a backdrop to a magnificent palazzo that, with its exceptional art collection, testifies to the greatness of an age-old, noble Roman family.

This garden is still owned by the Colonna family, from which over the years a number of Popes and Cardinals have been drawn. Since the fourteenth century, the Colonna family has owned a large plot between the Quirinal Hill and modern-day Piazza Venezia, including the majestic ruins of a temple that was perhaps rebuilt during the Severan age; that temple was largely demolished around 1625. Created early in the 17th century, the garden is divided into three terraces that take advantage of the site’s sloping disposition. The monumental entrance on Piazza del Quirinale leads to the first area, a quadrangular space with a low poly-lobed fountain at its centre. From here, geometric flowerbeds bordered by boxwood hedges radiate outwards. The second sloping section features a lava stone cascading water feature running down the middle, surrounded by citrus trees in vases and ancient sculptures. Midway down, the water feature is broken up by a flat, elliptical basin that houses a long rectangular tank with a miniature “floating” galleon, also made of lava stone. The boat is a reference to the 1571 battle of Lepanto when, led by Marcantonio Colonna, the papal fleet defeated the Turks. The two levels are connected by twin side-ramps. At the top, the water feature begins with a splendid nymphaeum featuring a rock garden, mosaics and the family coat of arms. Its final flat section consists of simple tree-lined flowerbeds. No traces of the parterres de broderie documented in 18th-century vedutas have survived to the present day. This section is connected to the rear of the building by two pedestrian bridges that cross the public road below.