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ROMAN PALACE TOURS OFFER LOOK OF FORMER HOME OF POPES, KINGS

The Quirinale Palace in Rome, the official home of the president of Italy, will be open to the public starting Oct. 2 every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Groups of visitors will be led through the palace, the former summer retreat of the popes and official residence of the Italian kings.The tour, which includes much of the piano nobile, or first floor, starts from the vast courtyard by Domenico Fontana and moves through the rooms frescoed in the early 17th century for Pope Paul V Borghese, then the gallery decorated for Pope Alexander VII under the direction of the great Baroque master Pietro da Cortona.

The tour of the piano nobile also visits the Sala del Diluvio with its decorations by the Carracci family, the Scalone d'Onore with its imposing fresco of "Christ in Glory Among the Angels," by Melozzo da Forli, the Cappella Paolina, a chapel the same size as the Sistine chapel, and the chapel of the Annunciation, which has frescoes by Guido Reni. Furniture from four centuries, Roman mosaics, ceramic vases, bronzes and paintings are scattered throughout.

The Quirinale palace, built on the highest of the seven hills of ancient Rome, was begun in 1573 by Gregory XIII to serve as the summer residence for the popes. Over the years the palace grew both in size and in the wealth of its collection. It was finished under Clement XII (1730-40), but as early as 1587, Sixtus V began living there during the hot Roman summer months.