Top 10 Museums and Art Galleries in Rome

A visit to Rome is more than just seeing the sights, visiting the Coliseum and having a slice of pizza. With a culture and heritage that far exceeds that of most countries, some argue, there is a wealth of knowledge and history to be learned in Rome from the countless museums and art galleries showcasing the hundreds of priceless marble statues, frescoes and mosaics that Rome is so famous for. We decided to put our heads together and come up with a top 10. As Rome has over five times that to pick, it was quite a feat whittling them down. Below is a good mix of the classical, the contemporary, the arty and the ancient. And what’s more, they’re either free or discounted with your Roma Pass – so now there really is no excuse.

  1. Castel Sant’Angelo
One of the most imposing landmarks along the iconic River Tiber is Castel Sant’Angelo which has been a mausoleum and fortress in Rome for over 2000 years. Although its now a fascinating museum, visitors can learn about Emperor Hadrian, for whom it was built, as well as the various roles it has played over time, including a Papal refuge. There’s even a secret tunnel that leads into St Peter’s Basilica!
  1. Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums sit up on the Capitoline Hill behind the wedding cake, the Roman’s colloquial name for the Vittorio Emmanuele landmark. These museums are some of the most important in Rome and also in the world, founded by Pope Sixtus IV in the 1470s, who donated some of his own bronze statues. By making private collections open to the public, he inadvertently created the first museum! Here you’ll find some of the famous statues from Ancient Rome such as the She Wolf.
  1. Vatican Museums
It’s said that the estimated worth of the Vatican Museums are an eye-watering sum of €15 billion – not a number to be sniffed at! Among the miles and miles of art, sculptures, tapestries, busts and mosaics is the impressive Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century. The Last Judgement is regarded as one of the most influential and iconic frescoes in all of art history, and considering its in the Holy See of the Vatican City, how could it not be up there in a top 10?
  1. Villa Borghese
This grand villa in the stunning grounds of the Borghese Park was once the villa of the rich and influential Scipione Borghese. The collection within Villa Borghese started off as a private body of works and now contains both classic and contemporary art, with some pieces dating back 2000 years. To name drop some of the bigger artists on show, you can admire pieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Boticelli and Rapahel. Villa Borghese is divided up into old and new and each room, or sala, offers something to be learnt from both past and present.
  1. Museum of Rome
The Museum of Rome actually has two addresses, so you get two museums for the price of one in this case! One is located near Palazzo Braschi and its aim is to celebrate and champion the ‘forgotten art’ of the middle ages. Inside this museum you will see the lesser known pieces, which make it all the more impressive. From costumes and fabrics, to ceramics and sculptures, you’ll discover a side of Rome you never knew.
  1. MACRO
From old into new, the MACRO celebrates everything modern and contemporary. An acronym for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, the MACRO is housed in two buildings, aptly post-industrial; a former brewery of Peroni and a former slaughterhouse. These two big, open spaces make for a fitting and striking canvas in which to display the gallery’s impressive, and notable, collections of Italian art dating from the 1960s. A celebration of national modern art, a visit to this gallery will teach you about the Rome and the Italy of today and the modern influences of society.
  1. MAXXI
The MAXXI is the Museum of the National Arts from the 21st Century and is one of Rome’s newer spaces. Opened in 2010, here everything is championed from art to architecture, and the bolder the better. The building itself , designed by Zaha Hadid, won the Sterling Prize for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects so it’s worth a visit to see the premise alone. Within the gallery’s impressive walls lie all matter of exhibits in the art and architecture realm. There’s also a library, café and theatre for the performing arts, as well as an outdoor space, too.
  1. Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
Off kilter from the art and history, we delve even further back into the history of space and science. One of the lesser-appreciated museums in Rome is the Planetarium and Astronomy Museum which – for any adult or child interested in the subject – is well worth a visit with a spare few hours! Learn about our universe, how planets were formed and peer through the telescope at Technotown. It might not be art, but it’s a fun alternative!
  1. National Etruscan Museum
The Etruscan period, is a period named after a group of ancient Italians in the Lazio - Tuscan area, dating roughly from 700BC to 4BC. The National Etruscan Museum within Villa Giulia in Rome is dedicated solely to preserving and upholding the Etruscan heritage and history that is rife throughout Rome’s past and culture. In the museum, Etruscan artefacts such as the famous almost-life size terracotta ‘his and hers’ sarcophagus of a man and wife at dinner, which dates to the 6th century BC. Other artefacts include the Apollo of Veii and the Cista Ficoroni. If you want ancient, ancient Rome – this is where you’ll find it.
  1. Museum of Roman Civilization
Like it says on the tin, the Museum of Roman Civilization represents the history of Rome from an evolving civilization perspective. This museum focuses and reproduces the origins of the Eternal City to the 4th century through a model of archaic Rome, a full reconstruction of Trajan’s Column, and much more. Some of the thought provoking themes that are touched on and brought into light range from Caesar, to Christianity; schools and libraries; as well as commerce and agriculture. To gain a full understanding of Rome as a civilization there’s no museum like it. With the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass you can enjoy free entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, as well as free entry into a further two of your choosing, from the Capitoline Museums to the MACRO. Find out more, here.
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