The Bonaparte Balcony in Rome

The Life of Napoleon’s Mother in Rome

Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Bonaparte was an exceptionally strong, pragmatic and somewhat domineering woman. She saw the world in a very specific way, through the eyes of a true Corsican. However, a life full of hardships and years of poverty in France, following her husband’s death, made her tough, business savvy and a money hoarder.

Despite all the hard times, Letizia was hopelessly devoted to her children and demanded respect of the highest order from them. This tough upbringing had a huge impact on Napoleon, and his mother Letizia was the only person in his life that he always treated with respect. No matter where Napoleon was in the world, or what his income from the military was, he would always send money and support to his mother.

In 1815, after Napoleon was forced into exile, Letizia managed to convince Pope Pius VII to grant her asylum in Rome. It was during this time that Letizia moved into Palazzo Bonaparte, a building created by Giovanni Antonio De Rossi for Marquis Giuseppe Benedetto in 1660. Letizia’s home was located in the very heart of Rome, where Piazza Venezia meets the famous Via del Corso.

Ancient Roman Carnivals and Riderless Horses

Letizia Bonaparte lived out her remaining years quietly in Palazzo Bonaparte, always wearing black in mourning of the death of her beloved son Napoleon. As she rarely left the house, unless to attend mass, Letizia loved to spend her days sitting on her balcony, gazing out at the busy square below. Her balcony was covered and hidden from any onlookers below, so Letizia could watch the world go by in peace.

Every year, in spring, there would be a carnival in Rome and the closing show was a riderless horse race. This race took place along the Corso, the long street that met with the Piazza Venezia right outside of Letizia’s balcony. Most of the horses were wild and came from the Barbary Coast of North Africa. Letizia would sit and watch the magnificent beasts fly along the cobbled pavement below with great excitement.

Letizia’s Last Years in Rome

In 1830 Letizia had a horrible accident which shattered her thigh, leaving her unable to walk. Shortly after she also lost her sight. However, this didn’t stop Napoleon’s mother from sitting out on her balcony every day. She would listen to all the sounds below and have her lady in waiting to describe all the events happening.

Letizia lived this way, in the famous Piazza Venezia, until her death in 1836. Since then, the building has been bought by the Italian insurance company Assitalia. But, out of respect for the grand history of the Palazzo Bonapart, they kept the name Bonaparte on the roof.

Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia
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