Saturday mornings are your only chance to see this splendid six-room gallery, completed in 1703 by Prince Filippo II Colonna, whose descendants still live in the palace. (Among others, the Colonnas produced a pope, a saint, an excommunicated cardinal and Vittoria Colonna, the poetess who befriended Michelangelo.) The entrance leads to the Room of the Column, originally the throne room of Prince Filippo and his successors, who would have sat in state by the ancient column, back-lit by light shining through the window behind, and with a view across to a triumphal arch dedicated to Marcantonio Colonna, the family hero. (Audrey Hepburn behaved regally here too, in Roman Holiday.)
The cannonball embedded in the stairs down to the Great Hall lies where it landed during the French siege of Rome on 24 June 1849. The mirrored hall may be the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, inspired by his visit to Versailles in 1665, while the immense frescoed ceiling pays tribute to Marcantonio, who led the papal fleet to victory against the Turks in the great naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. There are more Turks carved in the legs of the furniture in the next room. The gallery's most famous and much-reproduced picture is Annibale Caracci's earthy peasant Bean Eater. Usually included in the ticket price is a guided tour in English, which starts at noon. Groups of ten or more can arrange tours of the gallery as well as the private apartments at other times during the week.