The must-visit museums and art galleries in Rome
The Eternal City is home to some of the most renowned museums, art galleries and villas in the world. From the world-famous Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums, to Renaissance sculptures and paintings at Galleria Borghese, and striking exhibitions at Complesso del Vittoriano and Chiostro del Bramante, there’s sure a lot of museum visiting to do in Rome. Here are some of the best museums in Rome to keep on your radar.
The Vatican MuseumsViale Vaticano
Founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, the Vatican Museums display some of the most astonishing artworks you will ever see in your lifetime. The museums display works belonging to the Popes’ personal art collections throughout the centuries, including some of the most prominent classical sculptures and masterpieces of the Renaissance. The Sistine Chapel, whose ceilings are filled with Michelangelo’s one-of-a-kind frescoes, is on its own a reason to visit this centuries’ old museums. Not to mention the iconic spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1832, made of two iron stairways that form a double helix – no wonder it’s one of the most photographed staircases in the world! When you make your grand entrance into the Vatican Museums, prepare to be swept away by the four Raphael Rooms, which make up the public area of the papal apartments. Not only being inside the Pope’s apartments will give a chill down your spine, but the jaw-dropping frescoes by Raphael and Michelangelo will without a doubt contribute. And if you are a sculpture-lover, prepare to be amazed at the Gallery of Candelabra, where ancient sculptures await you! While you’re at the Vatican Museums, you cannot miss out on the opportunity to visit the sensational Vatican Gardens, known as the “Green Heart of the Vatican”,
Musei CapitoliniPiazza del Campidoglio, 1
The Musei Capitolini are the most ancient public museums in the world, founded by Pope Sisto IV in 1471. To reach the museums, walk up the beautiful flight of stairs designed in the 15th century by Michelangelo Buonarroti, which will take you to Piazza del Campidoglio. The Musei Capitolini are a must-visit for people into historical artefacts, statues, sculptures, and mosaics. Just strolling in Piazza del Campidoglio will leave you breathless, thanks to the stunning sight of the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on his horse. But the Musei Capitolini aren’t just for historical enthusiasts. Apart from the collection of historical artefacts, there are also seasonal exhibitions which should not be missed. From Italian artists to international artists, expected artworks and exhibitions from all around the world. When you’ve finished visiting the museums, don’t miss out on the stunning Terrazza Caffarelli, a magnificent terrace where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Rome. And why not, also an espresso from the museum bar!
Galleria BorghesePiazzale Scipione Borghese, 5
There’s a reason why you need to book your tickets in advance for the Galleria Borghese. From stunning artworks by Bernini and Raffaello, prepare to be swept away by this incredible art gallery in the Villa Borghese gardens. The Borghese Gallery was built to host the art collection of Scipione Borghese, who’s art collection was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, of his time, and makes up most of the gallery’s collection. As you step inside this 17th century villa, you will be wowed by the sculptures and paintings of Bernini, Raffaello, Tiziano, Caravaggio and many many more. Not to mention the masterpieces by Antonello da Messina, Giovanni Bellini and Canova. The rich Borghese collection ranges from sculptures and ancient mosaics, to paintings and sculptures from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Bernini’s marble sculpture, Apollo and Dafne, along with Canova’s scultpure of Paolina Borghese, are enough of a reason to visit the Galleria Borghese. Not to mention the striking Ratto di Proserpina, where the hands of the God touching Proserpina’s skin actually seem as if they are sinking into her skin.
MAXXIVia Guido Reni, 4/a
MAXXI is a contemporary art museum inaugurated in 2010 in Rome’s Flaminio neighbourhood, just a 5-minute drive from Piazza del Popolo. It was designed by the extraordinary late Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. This magnificent contemporary art museum was designed as a multifunctional space, and represents the importance of communicating and expressing creativity. Art is a means through which humans express emotions, thoughts and history, and it is MAXXI’s aim to become a center for communication, arts and innovation. MAXXI has a permanent contemporary art collection as well as an architecture collection. But it also hosts temporary art exhibitions and events.
Scuderie del QuirinaleVia Ventiquattro Maggio, 16
Right off the stunning Piazza del Quirinale you will find the Scuderie del Quirinale, a 20th century exhibition space hosting numerous art exhibitions. Built from 1722 to 1732, the Scuderie del Quirinale initially hosted the Stables of the Quirinale Palace. In occasion of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, the Scuderie del Quirinale reopened, transformed by the famous Italian architect, Gae Aulenti, into an exhibition area that hosts some of the best art collections from the most famous artists in the world, both Italian and international. Some of the most prominent exhibitions hosted by Scuderie del Quirinale have been Botticelli, Matisse, Picasso and Frida Khalo. Once you are finished with the exhibition, don’t forget to stop by the amazing window designed by Gae Aulenti and admire a 180°-degree view of Rome from the capital’s highest of the seven hills!
Chiostro del BramanteArco della Pace, 5
Chiostro del Bramante, named after the esteemed architect who designed it – Donato Bramante – is an icon of Renaissance architecture in Rome. After the fall of Ludovico il Moro, Bramante moved to Rome and became the first architect of Pope Julius II. Later in his life, Donato Bramante was Michelangelo’s greatest artistic rival. The architecture that characterizes the Chiostro del Bramante is on its own a reason to come visit this exhibition space. The cloister is the most important feature of the building, originally a monastery that also included the neighbouring church of Santa Maria della Pace. And if you come to Chiostro del Bramante, you can’t miss out on the Basilica of Santa Maria della Pace, where you can admire the famed Sibyls fresco by Raphael, made around 1515. While a visit to the Chiostro del Bramante is a must for the architecture lovers, it is not the only reason to pay a visit to this beautiful exhibition space. The Chiostro del Bramante has great artistic programs that display some of the most famed international artworks of different time periods. From international contemporary art to modern art and retrospectives, Chiostro del Bramante shows them all!
Villa FarnesinaVia della Lungara, 230
Built in the early 16th century and designed by Bramante’s pupil, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Villa Farnesina represents a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance. In 1511 Villa Farnesina was designed for Agostino Chigi, a wealthy Sienese banker, who had decided to build it for his lover. The magnificent Villa Farnesina is situated in Trastevere and consists of a central structure with a five archway loggia that unfolds into two sections laid out on six different floors. Raphael’s breathtaking frescos are painted on the walls of the loggia, depicting a beautiful mythological fresco of Cupid and Psyche. Note to mention all the frescos by Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, Giovanni Bazzi, Giovan Francesco Penni and Baldassarre Peruzzi. After your visit, the beautiful Italian gardens are a must-visit.
Palazzo ValentiniForo Traiano, 85
Footsteps from Piazza Venezia you’ll find Palazzo Valentini. But it’s not just Palazzo Valentini itself that’s a true gem, it’s what’s underneath it that is truly worth the visit! Beneath the 1585 palazzo lie the captivating remains of Imperial Rome’s Patrician homes, known as Domus Romane. The “Domus” belonged to influential Roman families, and display the remains of mosaics, polychrome floors, blocks, sculptures, wall paintings, decorations and so much more. Apart from the fascinating ruins, you will also watch a video that shows the virtual reconstruction of these Roman Domus. In the video, you will get a glimpse of Roman everyday life, allowing you to perfectly picture how these Roman houses used to look like, admiring how each space in the Domus was important. The graphics used to portray this video will make history come back to life.
Ara Pacis MuseumLungotevere in Augusta
The Ara Pacis Museum is for Roman artefacts and history enthusiasts. Situated in the heart of the historic center, footsteps from Via del Corso and Piazza del Popolo, the Ara Pacis Museum hosts beautiful exhibitions as well as permanent collection of Roman artefacts. The museum reopened to the public in 2006 after a long period of reconstruction to ensure the preservation of the Ara Pacis – an altar dedicated from Augustus in 9 a.c. to Pax in the Augustan era – a goddess of Rome. It was redesigned by the American architect, Richard Meier, on the basis of contrasts between lights and shadows and gives access to the monument of the Ara Pacis, ensuring complete silence through the 500 mq veranda of crystals. The museum hosts beautiful exhibitions as well as displaying artefacts of the origins of Rome all the way up to the glorious Augustus era.