Top architects like Maderno, Bernini and Borromini queued up to work on this vast pile, which was completed in just five years, shortly after Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Bernini did the main staircase, a grand rectangular affair now marred by an ill-placed lift. Borromini, whose uncle Carlo Maderno drew up the original palace plans, added the graceful oval staircase.
Some new rooms were opened in 2006 after a long-running restoration, but more work remains to be done and the paintings will, presumably, continue to shift about the palace. Among masterpieces displayed in the newly opened rooms are Raphael's Fornarina (said, probably wrongly, to be a portrait of the baker's daughter he loved and may have been engaged to at the time of his death in 1520), Holbein's pompous Henry VIII and Titian's Venus and Adonis.