A stone's throw from the Piazza Navona sits the Museo Barracco, one of the most charming, yet least visited, museums in Rome.
The Museo Barracco, a choice and eclectic collection of ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek sculpture, is housed in the Renaissance Palazzo Farnesina ai Baullari, also known as the Piccola Farnesina. The collection was amassed, over the course of half a century, by the scholar and antiquarian Baron Giovanni Barracco (1829-1914), who, in 1904, bequeathed it, and the palazzo, to the city of Rome.
The Piccola Farnesina (1522-23) was built for Thomas Le Roy, a French prelate and an official at the papal court. For his services to the court, he was ennobled. He was also given the right to augment his coat of arms with the fleur-de-lys of the kings of France. This heraldic privilege is recorded in architectural details throughout the palazzo.
The palazzo came to be known as the Piccola Farnesina, as it lies near the much larger, and grander, Palazzo Farnese, which once belonged to the Farnese family, whose coat of arms is made up of three lilies.
The palazzo, which was probably designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1484-1546)), was built to face Vicolo dell' Aquila, to the south. Following the construction of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in 1876 a fine new facade was built (1898-1901) by Enrico Guj.