The Guide To Rome’s Museums

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Galleria Borghese

Read on to discover the best of Rome’s Museums and landmarks. Our top picks will leave you wanting to book the next flight to the Italian capital!

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The Galleria Borghese is the home to one of the world’s greatest art collections. The setting is chic and sophisticated. Paul V Borghese and his nephew began to commission architecture. When they confiscated the paintings from Cavalier d’Arpino’s studio, they gained over 100 pieces of artwork. From that moment on the collection grew. Now, it is made up of ancient sculptures and mosaics as well as paintings and sculptures from the 15th to 19th centuries.

The Villa Borghese, where the gallery is based, was constructed during the 17th century on a family property. Pieces of land were purchased bit by bit to create an immense park. In the main Mariano Rossi Hall, you can view the busts of Cesar and Augustus from the 16th century. You will love the 20 frescoed rooms within the gallery that are impressive and will simply take your breath away. Furthermore, you can view 260 paintings in the storerooms of the Galleria Borghese, and it is set up like a picture gallery.

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Musei Capitolini

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Musei Capitolini was the world’s first public museum. The museum is Rome’s largest collection of ancient artefacts ranging from Titian and Caravaggio. The Musei Capitolini is located at the Piazza dei Campidoglio on Capitolini Hill. The museum was created after Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of valuable bronzes to the citizens of Rome in 1471.

In the 16th century, Michelangelo redesigned the whole square. You can see a statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, and the original is inside the museum. The goal of the museum is to preserve the memory of Ancient Rome. Today, it is the oldest public collection of paintings in the world.

Musei Capitolini is made up of two buildings – the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. The Palazzo dei Conservatori was opened to the public in 1734 and is the home to a collection of paintings, sculptures and busts as well as artwork by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Tiziano, Rubens and Tintoretto.

The Palazzo Nuovo is the home to sculptures and statues. One of the gallery’s most impressive pieces is the Capitoline Venus, a marble sculpture designed between 100 and 150 AD. Both of these buildings are connected thanks to the Galleria Lapidaria, a tunnel that takes you underneath the Piazza dei Campidoglio without having to exit the museums.

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Vatican Museums

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The Vatican is located near the Tiber river, and the museums are located in this very area. Why is it one of the best museums in Rome? They contain works collected by the Catholic Church and the papacy. This includes the world’s most renowned Roman sculptures. Also it is the home to some of the most important Renaissance artwork in the world.

There are different types of museums – the Egyptian and Etruscan museums were founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839 and 1837 to give a view on these important civilizations.

Likewise the Chiaramonti Museum is named after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti and was opened in 1806 during the Napoleonic conflict. Many pieces were brought over from France and the pope himself was even imprisoned by Napoleon in 1809.

At the end of Napoleon’s reign, Antonio Canova, the most famous sculptor at that time, was chosen to retrieve all the artwork that was taken away to display in a new hall. 1000 pieces of antiques are shown and there is an impressive collection of Roman busts waiting to be discovered.

If you’re more interested in modern art, you just have to check out the Collection of Contemporary Art! It was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1973, and is the home to over 8000 works of art. The collection is located in the Renaissance apartment of Pope Borgia, juxtaposing old with new. You can view artwork from Van Gogh, Chagall and Morandi.

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Palazzo Barberini

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Palazzo Barberini is the perfect place for art lovers everywhere. It is the home to some of the greatest masterpieces in Europe. Plus, the setting is spectacular! The museum is housed in a luxurious 17th century Baroque palace. You’ll fall for its high frescoed ceilings by Italian painter and architect Pietro de la Cortona.

You will be mesmerized by the incredible paintings that are shown here, which are from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. It is ideal if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists. It is tucked away from Rome’s busiest areas. Ensuring you view these artworks in peace and quiet.

Palazzo Barberini was designed in 1623 when Pope Urban VIII hired renowned architect Carlo Maderno. He passed away, and subsequently, Borromini and Bernini took over the project. As a result, they created one of the most magnificent Baroque buildings in Rome.

The palace is 12,000 square meters and has 187 rooms. You can wander around its halls, studying its magnificent artwork. It is the home to artwork from the likes of Raphael, El Greco and Poussin.

In 2019, they reopened 10 newly renovated rooms in the north wing and another 10 new rooms in the south wing. The south wing includes the private apartments of the Barberini cardinals.

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The Colosseum

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The Colosseum is the most popular attraction in Rome and one of Europe’s biggest landmarks. It attracts over 4 million tourists a year! You can’t visit Rome without stopping by this tourist destination. The amphitheater was the largest ever built, and took over a decade to build during the Flavian dynasty. It was originally 186 meters long, but the south side was destroyed by an earthquake in 1349. 

The Colosseum was built by Emperor Vespian as a gift to the Roman people. Construction began in 72 AD, but wasn’t completed until 80 AD. Back in the day, it could hold over 50,000 spectators, with seating according to social class. You could watch fights between gladiators, wild animals and even mock naval battles. For 400 years, any event in the city would take place here. Though the amphitheater has been in use for over 1900 years, the structure is in amazing condition.

Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has been since 1990. It is partially restored, and is the historic center of Rome. In 2001, the Roman Colosseum was voted one of the Seven Wonders of the world.

It is an extremely popular tourist destination, so expect crowds! During the year, it is open from 8.30am to sundown. You’ll need to plan your trip accordingly. The best period to visit is between October and April, when the temperature is lower. Spring is a busy time due to Lent, so winter time is the perfect time to visit without having to fight the crowds.

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Maxxi Museum

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If you are fascinated by design, then the Maxxi Museum will make your itinerary when wandering the streets of Rome. The building itself is a work of art thanks to its impressive architecture.

The steel and glass structure really makes the building stand out amongst the ancient charm of Rome. The building was designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who was the first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. Unfortunately she passed away a few years after the Maxxi was finished. Her goal? She wanted the museum to be an urban campus for art. The museum is split into two parts – a museum dedicated to contemporary art and the other to architecture.

The exhibitions here have something for everyone. There is an exhibition to suit all tastes. Visitors can view temporary or permanent exhibitions all day long, or take part in the museum’s activities. Discover the large scale installations that will truly mesmerize you. In addition, you can view photography, artwork and installations dating from the 1960s up until today. There are unique pieces that you won’t see anywhere else.

The Piazza Alighiero Boetti is part of the Maxxi Museum. It is also known as the hippest area in the neighborhood. The square divides the main building and the rest of the structure. Families bring their children to play here and you can work and study here or you can grab a coffee. You can even see concerts and performances here, as well as workshops and conferences.

If you love design, the gift shop is an art lover’s paradise. Its booktique (museum gift shop) has an amazing selection of books on architecture and art, as well as mugs, posters and accessories.

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