The capital of a universal empire and then seat of the Papacy, Rome has been a point of reference for over two thousand years.  Having generated artistic commissions of the highest quality through the centuries, it has inspired some of the greatest artists of all time. Geniuses like Raphael and Bernini designed and decorated palaces for papal families, or for the relatives of cardinals who held princely rank. The collections in these residences, which are still private, rival those of the finest courts in Europe.