Pope Gregory XIII started building this spectacular palace, now the official residence of Italy's president, in 1574. He planned to use it as a summer home. But less than 20 years later, Pope Clement VIII decided to make the palace—safely elevated above the malarial miasmas shrouding the low-lying location of the Vatican—the permanent residence of the papacy. It remained the official papal residence until 1870, in the process undergoing a series of enlargements and alterations. When Italian troops under Garibaldi stormed Rome in 1870, making it the capital of the newly united Italy, the popes moved back to the Vatican; the Quirinale became the official residence of the kings of Italy. After the Italian people voted out the monarchy in 1946, the Quirinal Palace passed to the presidency of the Italian Republic. Visitable only on Sundays, with sometimes a noon concert in the chapel included, the state reception rooms are some of Italy's most majestic. You already get a fair idea of
the palace's splendor from the size of the building, especially the interminable flank of the palace on Via del Quirinale. Behind this wall are the palace gardens, which, like the gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli, were laid out by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este when he summered here. Unfortunately, they are open to the public only once a year on Republic Day (June 2).