The Palazzo Farnese (or Villa Farnese) is located in Caprarola in the province of Viterbo in Lazio. It is one of the best examples of Mannerism era dwellings. It was built for the Farnese family. Owned by the Italian Republic, since 2014 it is managed by the Lazio Museum Complex.
The palace was one of the many stately mansions built by the Farnese in their domains. Initially it had to have defensive characteristics as it was common in the noble residences of the Latium territory between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The construction of a fortified residence in Caprarola was initially entrusted by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese il Vecchio to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger who designed a pentagonal fortress with angular bastions. The works began in 1530, but were suspended in 1546 due to the death of Sangallo. Cardinal Alessandro the Younger, who set up in his turn in Caprarola, wanted to resume his grandfather’s project, so, in 1547, he entrusted the construction to Vignola, but the works resumed only in 1559. Vignola, whose defensive purpose failed, radically changed the original project: the building, while maintaining the pentagonal plan of the original fortification, was transformed into an imposing Renaissance palace, which later became the summer residence of the cardinal and his court. In place of the corner ramparts, the architect inserted large open terraces onto the surrounding countryside, while at the center of the residence was a circular two-storey courtyard, with the upper slightly set back. Vignola cut the hill with stairways in order to isolate the building and, at the same time, integrate it harmoniously with the surrounding territory; furthermore, a straight road was opened in the center of the village below, so as to visually connect the building to the town and enhance its dominant position over the entire town. Vignola personally directed the work at least until 1564 and in any case in his death, in 1573, the building was practically completed.