Rome might be a modern day metropolis now, with amusement parks and multiplexes being on top of your to-do list, but sometimes it pays to step back in time. When you explore a city like Rome through its art, you get to soak in the very essence of it, feel at one with the centuries-old sculptures and paintings, and revel in some of the most well-renowned artworks of the world. Going to this city and not visiting at least some of these museums in Rome is sort of blasphemous, such is the sin! The only thing to keep in mind before landing up at the museums is that thousands of others might have had the same idea as you of museum-hunting, and you would be well advised to book your tickets in advance, maybe online and preferably skip-the-line tickets to avoid the soul-crushing crowds that might slow you down or not even let you enter the museum.
While you admire the beauty all around you, understand the suffering of the artists who churned out these gorgeous pieces of art, you also realise the rich contribution of Rome in the developing the pre and post Renaissance art world. Here is a list of museums that you shouldn’t miss out on visiting when in Rome:
The Borghese Gallery, one of the most famous museums in Rome, is located in the picturesque gardens of the Borghese Villa, and is famed not just in Rome but all over the world. The museum is home to sculptures by artists like Canova and Bernini, paintings by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio, and much more. The artwork is the private collection of Scipione Borghese, an avid collector with a good eye for beauty. The museum focuses more on quality rather than quantity, and its 20 rooms can be easily navigated within 3 to 4 hours. It is a must visit museum for those interested in art, even if staying for a couple of days. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance; the hordes of people that turn up here daily might be a damper to your plans.
When you find yourself in Rome, can you resist visiting the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo? The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, which is home to a massive collection of religious art. An interesting fact about these museums are that visitors can only walk in one direction, thereby ensuring that no piece is missed. Now, the best part about these museums is that it is home not just to paintings, frescoes and sculptures, but even parts of the museums are historical artefacts themselves. How cool is that? The spiral staircase is a must see here, as is the bronze statue of Hercules in the Sala Rotunda and the Raphael Room.
The major claim to fame for the Capitoline Museums is that it is one of the world’s oldest public museums, established in the year 1471. Bang opposite the Roman Forum, on Capital Hill, the museums comprise two buildings that face each other and house some of the most impressive exhibits in the city. Noteworthy sculptures include the pieces of a 12 meters high statue of Constantine that stood in the Basilica di Massenzio. The other sculptures to watch out for include Lupa Capitolina, Spinario and the Medusa. Artworks that cannot be missed include pieces by Pietro da Cortona, Caravaggio, Rubens, Tintoretto and more.
National Museum of Rome
The National Museum of Rome is actually an amalgamation of four separate museums, and the best part is that it is all covered within one ticket. If you get to visit only one of the museums in Rome, for whatever reason, make sure it is this one. You can witness and soak in ample amounts of the city’s history, culture and heritage from centuries before if you visit here. So, the interesting part is that, unlike other museums, this one does not have all of its artefacts under one roof. That’s right! You can roam around the city, and take a look at exhibits at the four museums, which include the Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Baths of Diocletian and Crypta Balbi.
Museum of Roman Civilisation
Ever wished to see what ancient Rome actually looked like, before modernisation took over? You will get your chance at the Museum of Roman Civilisation, where a scale model of the ancient city can be seen. You can also get to see original and reproductions of Roman artefacts, helping you get a deeper look into the workings of the old capital of the world. Forget the pieces inside the museum, the entire building is located in an area where plazas and other buildings from the 1930s and 1940s abound.
National Gallery of Modern Art
If you have had just about enough of the ancient sculptures and artists whose names you cannot pronounce, if you belong to the Warhol era of art, or if you are just looking for something a little different, then the National Gallery of Modern Art is a good option. It is also known as the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. Famed to be one of the best art museums in Rome, this one hosts paintings by great artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne and Canova.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Although this is a private art gallery, it is nevertheless one of the most famous ones in Rome. It is a magnificent example of what money can buy if you have the eye for good art. Owned currently by the Doria Pamphilj family, this is a 15th century palace, which was converted into a museum. It comprises works by many famous artists such as Tiziano, Raphael, Velazquez, Caravaggio and Bernini. And don’t go by the grey grimy exterior of the building, it is one hell of an opulent beauty from the inside.
To take you a little way away from the more famous museums in Rome, the Keats-Shelley House is a remarkable place. This is the erstwhile home of the romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and showcases items from their daily lives as well as stationary that they used for documenting their daily musings. It is a must-visit for those in love with the verses of Keats and Shelley. And who can ever forget the famous words of Keats – “Life’s purposes,—the palate of my mind… Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!” Find out exactly where he sat while he wrote this.
One of the oldest museums in Rome, (well at least some parts are more than 1,900 years old!), the Castel Sant’Angelo was earlier the mausoleum for Hadrian, a Roman Emperor. The castle is now home to the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo, and showcases a wide variety of artefacts such as weapons, sculptres and Renaissance paintings.
In some of these museums, a general sub-text explaining the art or artefact is fastened to the wall or a nearby podium. Now, this might be in your language or not, so try to spend a bit on an audio tour, available in several languages. So go ahead and explore Rome and its ancient history, modern art and contemporary sculptures to your heart’s content!