Top 10 Museums and Art Galleries in Rome

By Go City Expert

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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Tour of Rome's Street Art and Graffiti

Although Rome’s Street Art scene is less renowned than say that of LA, London or Berlin, the alternative graffiti culture is growing year on year. In an emerging scene with new artists spreading their wings – or spraying their cans – across the city, Rome’s the one-to-watch. Walking through the streets of the city, from the historical centre to the student hub, there are colloquial murals everywhere from in-your-face takeovers to blink-and-you-miss-it icons. With a wealth of undiscovered and underappreciated artists, huge inroads have been made to legalise walls for people to practice their craft. Although some disapprove; you can’t deny that it’s a step in the right direction when it comes to embracing regulated new forms of expression. Although you won’t find much real street art in the tourist hubs in Rome (bored adolescent graffiti doesn’t count) you’ll be more successful widening your search out to the more local areas around railways lines and under bridges, in and around Trastevere, Pigneto and San Lorenzo districts. To get a flavour of what Rome has to offer, the MondoPop Gallery, near the Spanish Steps, exhibits some of the best street artists on the scene, both from Rome and internationally. You'll get a flavour of what the city has to offer and even spot some names you’ll recognise dotted around the streets afterwards. San Lorenzo, the student hub, is rife with impressive colourful murals and messages from the city’s creative undergraduates. It’s often the place artists start out before moving up to other districts. Walk under the Scalo di San Lorenzo and via dei Volsci for a look at Rome’s budding artists. Also, on Via dei Sabelli you’ll see Alice Pasquini’s work, too. Head to Volturno, near Termini station, if you want to get really involved and see how it’s done. Pigneto is the chosen area for many of Rome’s top artists. Walk through these cobbled streets and uncover the new world; Rome’s modern, urban undercurrent amidst the historical district. Look out for the signatures Hogre, Alt97, Uno, Hopnn and #cancelletto# as they take Pigneto as their turf, claiming walls and surfaces as their canvasses. Take it all in, the next time you visit they might not be there – not every Roman is as pro the urbanisation of their city as others. Check out the former cinemas Preneste for other spellbinding designs, too. Ostienese is now host to the Outdoor Festival and 999 Contemporary art shows which invite like-minded artists from around the world to show in their city. These shows encourage artists to share and paint legal walls to inspire the industry to grow. Blu is considered one of the most famous Italian artists in the world; and he can’t pass through the area without adorning it with one of his signature pieces. Look out for his Porto Fluviale, his most recent addition. Trastevere although both a local and tourist mecca, has recently become the host to new works by Omino71 and Mr. Klevra – so look out the next time you’re across the river. Whether you’re for or against Street Art, you should be able to appreciate Rome’s changing urban landscape. Street art and graffiti highlight the juxtaposition between the old and new so it's only fair that Rome is allowed to keep up with its capital counterparts in terms of artistic expression.
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Caesar: the first leader of Rome

As Rome celebrates 2000 years from the death of its first Emperor, Augustus, let's look back at who reigned before and how the Rome looked that he inherited. So who ran Rome before Augustus? Well, none other than his great-greatuncle, Julius Caesar. To what do we owe Julius Caesar? - The introduction of the Julian calendar - William Shakespeare’s play which depicted the Roman dictator’s tragic death and the events that followed - The King of Diamonds in a traditional playing pack of cards is meant to represent Julius Caesar - If you study Latin or classics, it is highly likely you will be tought some of Caesar’s prose - The month of July is named after him: Julius Julius Caesar is a name synonymous with Rome. He is remembered as being the leader and dictator of Rome during its most prosperous reign and Empire. Born in 100 BC, Caesar inherited his name from a prestigious family with ancient pedigree. However, the surname stems from various meanings: some believe it comes from the Latin ‘to cut’; others believe it was due to his predecessor’s thick head of hair, or that he had bright grey eyes; alternatively some say Caesar killed an elephant in battle. Considering Caesar issued coins printed with elephants could mean that he had a soft spot for this large mammal and preferred this definition of his name. Who knows... In his later life Julius was a Roman general, statesman and Consul – not to mention prolific author of Latin prose (bet you didn’t know that!) After losing his inheritance due to a marriage that went wrong - and a battle of alliances that ‘hit the fan’ - he joined the army and became known for his public speeches, animated gesticulations and high-pitched voice. By the age of 31 Caesar had fought in numerous wars and his presence was deep rooted in politics and he was soon to revolutionise the Roman Empire and expand its reach. Taking sides with Pompey, he went onto serve in various military roles across the government, including governor of the Roman province of Spain. A shrewd man, Caesar aligned himself with those he thought could be of benefit; including Crassus – a man who was to bolster Caesar’s financial and political status. Acting as a go-between for Crassus and Pompey, who were bitter rivals, he turned them from enemies into allies and the three of them became known as the powerful First Triumvirate. It was from then Caesar used this alliance as a springboard to take over the world; so to speak. Caesar’s tactics were pretty simple: take all and leave nothing behind. He charged his troops across the Rhine after building a bridge and proceeded to invade Britain, once he had seized Gaul. The Triumvirate in later years lost their alliance and after Crassus’ death Caesar went after Pompey and his territory. Since Pompey was supported by nobility, they saw Caesar as a national threat which meant Civil War was inevitable. Despite nobility being against him, his enemies were no match and Caesar swiftly pushed them out of Italy and into Egypt – where he met Cleopatra and fathered a son by her. Caesar was crowned the ultimate dictator upon his return to Rome and was even hailed Father of his Country. Albeit he used rather forceful tactics, you can’t deny that he didn’t reform his country – he alleviated debt, reformed the Senate and he even monetised coins to bear his face! However he was only to be in rule in Rome for a year before he was assassinated. Although Caesar brought great reform, he was more popular in the middle and lower classes than the Senate itself who thought he was vying for a place to be king – and since Roman’s didn’t desire a monarchic rule, they were suspicious of his behaviour, not to mention put off by his power as dictator to veto the Senate. As absolute dictator he had his fair share of enemies within the Senate – of whom he was meant to be a part. It was two of his former enemies who conspired against him to plot his death on the Ides of March. Cassius and Brutus were the two convicted – and guilty – of his death and they were mobbed by angry supporters of lower and middle class Romans. After his death, the Roman Republic fell and Caesar became a martyr – later on, the Senate even named him The Divine Julius. Because of his great-granduncles popularity and esteem, Gaius Octavian later reclaimed victory over his relative’s death and took power in 27BC, under the name Augustus, and later became the first Roman Emperor. Visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, as well as the Coliseum, for free with the Roma Pass.
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10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Rome at Least Once in Your Life

Still undecided on the Italian capital? Here's why you should visit Rome If your extensive travel guides and the promise of affordable flight tickets haven't swayed you yet, there's a number of reasons why you should visit Rome on your next big holiday. From the culture to the food, here's some things that may just tip you over the edge. #foodporn #food #foodblogger #foodpics #instafood #pecorino #guanciale #italyfood #rome #romefood #foodlover #eat #fettucine A post shared by MANUEL ⚽️ (@manuelcarchedi) on Aug 7, 2017 at 4:43am PDT The pasta Take a leaf out of Joey Tribbiani's book and bring your stretchy eating pants - you're going to need them. Rome is renowned for its hearty pasta dishes and as the birthplace of carbonara, a piping hot plate of the stuff is exactly what the doctor ordered. If you're feeling really adventurous, try quinto quarto - you'll have to check our Roman food guide to find out exactly what you'll be getting yourself into. La Louve Capitoline #lupacapitolina #romulus #remus #rome #italy A post shared by Emmanuel (@manuols) on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:57pm PDT The culture The Vatican aside, every inch of Rome brims with culture. From the outstanding Capitoline Museums, to the Museum of Rome, to the Borghese Gallery, the hardest part will be narrowing which cultural hotspots to make a priority. 🏟🇮🇹 #colloseum #rome #roma #italy #italia #tourist #vacation #summervibes #summer #summervacation #travel #favoritecity A post shared by C💋SIMA (@cosimarrrr) on Aug 9, 2017 at 1:41am PDT The history As one of the oldest cities in the world, Rome has seen empires rise and fall and endures and still stands to tell its tales. From the bloody gladiator battles in the Colosseum to the crumbling remains of the Roman Forum, it's sometimes hard to believe that the skyscrapers of the 21st century coexist in the same city. In honour of #NationalIceCreamDay yesterday 🍦 A post shared by V A N E S S A (@vslawson) on Jul 17, 2017 at 2:38am PDT The gelato There's nothing better than a rich cup of gelato after a hot summer's day spent pounding the pavement, and luckily you won't have to go far in Rome. With a gelateria on every block selling everything from ultra chocolatey flavours to more unusual black cherry goods, this sweet treat is impossible to resist. Visitando la basílica de San Pedro #basilica #sanpedro #sanpietro #vaticano A post shared by marcegrajeda (@marcegrajeda) on Aug 8, 2017 at 8:46am PDT The spirituality As the heart of the Catholic church, Rome brims with hundreds of churches spanning from the landmarks like St Peter's Basilica to quiet little chapels tucked down side streets. Naturally, the Vatican City is a must for anybody interested in the religious traditions, art and history. On top of St Peter's Basilica, but felt like the world. Shortly before an address from Papa Francesco, which was special; even for a non-catholic. A post shared by Aaron Clark (@aaronjclark) on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:04am PDT The Pope Even if you're not a practicing Catholic, there's something deeply emotional about watching hopeful people fill St. Peter's Square waiting for the Pope making a public blessing. While you're unlikely to see him flitting around in his Popemobile, he does occasionally conduct public masses though you'll have to book your free tickets way in advance. When you snap a sneaky pic inside the Sistine Chapel & manage to get the top of some guy's head in 📷⛪️👨🏻‍🎨 A post shared by V A N E S S A (@vslawson) on Jul 18, 2017 at 2:06am PDT The art Rome is absolutely lazy with creative talent - both of the new masters and the old. However it's the old world works that most people flock to see, whether you're taking in the remnants of ancient Rome's sculptures at the Capitoline Museums or seeing Botticelli's works in the Vatican City. One thing remains though - Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes at the Sistine Chapel have to be seen to be believed. A post shared by celine (@celine_de_a_) on Aug 9, 2017 at 1:12am PDT The piazzas At night, the trattorias and bars dotting some of Rome's biggest squares come alive with people spilling out onto the street and music filling the air. The laidback atmosphere is infectious and it's worth making time for a night out, especially with a glass of wine in hand. 💙🌤💚🌤💙🌤💚🌤💙 📍Riomaggiore 📷@adridemarteau · · · · · #Italy #Italia #Italian #ItalianGirl #ItalianFood #visititalia #roma #rome #florence #firenze #naples #napoli #positano #milano #milan #heaven #travel #travels #travelgram #traveling #tourism #picoftheday #awesome #beautiful #vacation #vacations #gorgeous #escape #beauty #beach A post shared by Italy • Benvenuti a tutti! (@italy) on Aug 8, 2017 at 8:26pm PDT The location If you're not the kind of traveller to settle in one spot, Rome is a great jumping off point to get to the rest of the country. As one of the best connected cities in Italy, there's more cultural excursions to be had over in Florence and Pompeii while a number of beaches are easily accessible for a sunny day trip. Un sabato diverso in città? Fondaco apre le sue porte per una preview nel calendario di Altaroma. Passate a trovarci. Dalle 18.30 alle 21. Duecento passi di bellezza e shopping. ___________________________________ #fondacoroma #fondaco #fondacodesign #fondacoboutique #fondacooutdoor #viadellafrezza #200steps #200passi #artstyle #artdesign #artgallery #designgallery #interiordesign #madeinitaly #romeart #artlife #italianstyle #romestyle #romeart #romestyle A post shared by Fondaco Roma (@fondacoroma) on Jul 8, 2017 at 1:46am PDT The fashion You'll see some of the best dressed people in the world in Rome, from men dressed in slick tailored suits to women gliding by in sleek dresses. It's undeniable that Italy has great style and has served as the birthplace for great designers like Donatella Versace, Emilio Pucci and Giorgia Armani - though it's worth keeping an eye on the independent boutiques for lush leatherwork and classy outfits.
Megan Hills

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