Built between 1436 and 1439 on the orders of cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi of Corneto , (Corneto being the name of Tarquinia during the Middle Ages) during the pontification of Pope Eugenius IV.
Following the death of Cardinal Vitelleschi, charge of the palace was given to Giovanni Sacchi who incorporated a number of the adjoining structures which included earlier 12th to 14th century buildings. Making the palace is an important example of the slow evolution in architectural style from Gothic to Renaissance.
The design is considered to be an imitation of a Florentine dwelling with its three floors overlooking an internal courtyard. The courtyard contains a marble well in the centre providing access to an underground reservoir. The ground floor being used for service, the first floor was for guest while the second floor provided the owners accommodation, and this also contains the Palatine Chapel and the Cardinalís study. Following Sacchiís work the palace was used by Popes during their stay in Corneto. Later the building passed to the aristocratic Soderini family.
The palace came into the ownership of the city of Tarquinia in 1900 and in 1916 they donated it to the State who converted it to a museum. The museum opened in 1924 incorporating the Municipal Collection and exhibits from the private collection of Bruschi-Falgari. The museum collection was built up with the addition of finds from the ancient city of Tarquinia and the nearby Necropolis of Monterozzi which today makes up the majority of the artefacts on display.
Displayed on three floors, the museum exhibits consist of a collection of sarcophagi and other stone objects on the ground floor, which stem from the 4th century BC. These are displayed in the entrance courtyard and in adjoining rooms in chronological order and include sarcophagi of some of the most important families from Tarquinia and display some which are carved in Greek marble.
On the first floor are some examples of the painted decorations which would have embellished the rooms although these are only scattered fragments in some of the rooms. The first floor contains a number of different pottery exhibits which, like the sarcophagi, are displayed in chronological order. The exhibits start with pottery from the Villanovan culture, which was the earliest Iron Age culture of Central and Northern Italy. It also includes Pottery of the Etruscans called bucchero, which is distinguished by its black fabric or glossy, black surface. It also includes imported pottery from Egypt, Phoenicia and Greece. Pottery from Corinth was imported in particularly large amounts and was imitated by the Etruscans. The Pottery exhibits include a large selection of the red-figure pottery, this developed in Athens around 520 BC and remained in use until the late 3rd century BC.
In addition are coins and jewellery and a collection of votive offerings which are offerings left for religious purposes.
The second floor houses a number of restored paintings from the tombs of the Necropolis of Monterozzi. It also contains the cardinalís study which also contains some fragments of the wall paintings what adorned the room.
The museum is particularly known for its exhibit of the "Cavalli Alati", a relief of a pair of winged horses that once decorated the pediment of the Ara della Regina temple an Etruscan temple in Tarquinia dating to the fourth century BC, and also for The Bocchoris vase, a ceramic container coming from Egypt around 720 BC. Its name is the Greek translation of the Pharaoh whose name appears on the vase. It was found in 1895 in a tomb at Tarquinia.