Built between the late 1200s and the early 1300s, the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano) was part of the medieval walls of Taormina. It is a masterpiece of Sicilian Romaneque and Gotic style, fitted with Arabic-Norman elements.
The building has a beautiful garden in front of its main facades, where there is still a well for the collection of rain-water which was the water supply for the whole palace.
The Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano is made up of three square overlapping sections. The entrance to the ground floor is an ogival arch constructed with squared bricks of black basalt (lavic stone) and white granite (Taormina stone). On the second floor there are four beautiful windows , two facing east and two facing north. The four mullioned windows have an elaborate structure with rosettes and small trilobe arches as well as triple cordons framing the ogival arches. On the top part of the palace a wide frieze runs along the east and north facades formed by a wavy decoration in lavic stone alternated with rhombus-shaped inlays in white Siracusa stone, together forming a magnificent lace of marquetry.
The palace was the residence of the spanish noble family De Spuches, dukes of Santo Stefano and Princes of Galati.
During the second world war it was damaged in large parts, yet it was completly restored in the 1960s after that the Municipality of Taormina bought it from Vincenzo De Spuches, a young descendant of the De Spuches family.
The Palace today houses the Fondazione G. Mazzullo. Many of the sculptures of Giuseppe Mazzullo are on show in the Palace.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.