Rome, Italy is so endowed with historical monuments, public statuary and amazing artwork in churches that many travelers consider the Eternal City to be the world’s quintessential, outdoor museum.
Indeed, many travelers never consider visiting Rome’s numerous, formal museums, although we think these are the “frosting on the cake” that help to make Rome such a desirable vacation destination.
If you have some time in your schedule and are not yet “cultured-out” by your explorations, consider reserving an afternoon or two for touring some of Rome’s extraordinary museums.
We have several suggestion for you that we present below. We think that these locations are among the best places to visit in the Eternal City.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums include significant art collections and interesting cultural museums housed in a variety of settings, including papal palaces and apartments. The art that you can see in the Vatican Museums includes world-famous masterpieces, many in the form of frescos. Highlights of the Vatican Museums include the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and the Pinacoteca (art gallery).
Since there is so much to see at the Vatican Museums, we provide a two-page guide to the Vatican Museums for those of you looking for additional detail. The first section of our guide provides an overview of the Museums, contact information and ordering tickets, while the second section describes the history and highlights of the treasures of the Vatican Museums.
Galleria Borghese (Villa Borghese)
The Borghese’s amazing art collection is well worth a visit. Many believe that its sculptures, which include works by Bernini (including his sculpture David) and Canova, make the Borghese a must for those interested in art and history. Other works by Titian, Correggio, Raphael, Canova, Bassona and Rubens add to the glory of the Borghese.
Reservations are required for the Gallery and can be made online. See this website for more information on reservations
For additional information on the Borghese, follow this link the Gallery’s official website . The Borghese Gallery and Museum is located at Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5 in Borghese Park and is open Tuesdays through Sunday.
While the Villa is a focus for many, the Villa Borghese Park is one of the largest in Rome and a pleasant respite from the activity of the city (sometimes it feels like the word “eternal” in Eternal City refers to its never ending traffic and noise). Offering beautiful monuments, landscaped lakes, dramatic fountains and manicured Old-World style gardens, the Borghese Park is an excellent place for a relaxing walk.
The Villa is remote from the Metro (the Piazza di Spagna stop is the closest). Although the walk is long, the park is a great place for a stroll. (Look at our museums map in Hybrid View to see the park and the Gallery.) Many prefer to walk to the Borghese (from the Piazza Popolo or the Spanish Steps) and take a taxi for the return to their hotel.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj
The Galleria is housed in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, which is an elegant, building with an ornate, luxuriously appointed interior. Its collection is large and you will find art from the floor to ceiling, some so high it is hard to see the detail. The galleries, wings, and rooms seem never ending and display the Gallery’s collection of statues, busts and other ornamental art in a spectacular manner. Many of the display rooms are quite attractive and observing their ornate ceiling decorations is a must. If you visit, do not miss the stunning Gallery of Mirrors
Still privately owned by the Family Dira Pamphlet, the collection at the Galleria benefited from the addition of the collection of Innocent X ,which was originally held in the Palazzo Pamphilj in Piazza Navona. The collection at the Galleria Phamphilj include sculptures by Bernini as well as masterpieces by Velazquez, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and others.
See the museum’s official website for more information on visiting. The museum is closed Thursdays and some holidays. It is located just north of the Piazza Venezia at 305 Via del Corso
The Capitoline Museums
In the 15th century Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of ancient bronze statues from the Roman Empire to the people of Rome. The gift of these statues marked the start of what would become the Capitoline Museums, which have now include a treasure trove of artifacts revealing important insights into the history of Rome. The Museum is spread over three adjacent buildings (the Palazzo Senatorio (12th century), the Palazzo dei Conservatori (redesigned by Michelangelo) and the Palazzo Nuovo (17th century)).
The Museums contain a significant collection that includes the original bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one in the Piazza Campidoglio is a replica), the She-Wolf (nursemaid of Romulus and Remus – the twin founders of Rome) and the head of what once was an monumental bronze Statue of Constantine.
The museum contains many masterpieces, focused on the Roman divinities, emperors and famous citizens of the Empire. In addition there are some remarkable frescos in the Conservator’s Apartments, as well as interesting decorations throughout the buildings. Finally, the Capitoline Museums houses an impressive collection of Roman coins.
See the Museum’s official website for a detailed description of the collections, as well as information on visiting. The museum is located on the Piazza Campidoglio and open Tuesdays through Thursdays. It is closed on Mondays and some holidays.
Known formally as the National Gallery of Ancient Art of Barberini Palace, this is a compact museum that contains several important works. Featured artists include Raphael ( and works by many of his followers), Garafalo ( a noted Italian painter from the Renaissance), and collections by well-known renaissance painters from Florence and Siena. In addition, the collection includes a large number of excellent portraits by various artists.
For more information see the official website. The Galleria Barberini is closed on Mondays and some major holidays. It is located at Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13 at Via Barberini, near the Piazza Barberini and the Barberini Metro stop.
See this website for more information on the holdings of the Galleria and to reserve tickets.
The Corsini Gallery (National Gallery of Ancient Art of Corsini Palace (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Corsini)) is focused on art from the 16th and 17th centuries and includes works by Caravaggio, Van Dyke, Rubens and others. The collection was gathered by the Corsini family to grace their impressive palazzo.
Located on the Via della Lungara (#10), the gallery is just across the Tiber (Ponte Sisto) from the Palazzo Farnese (known for its stunning frescos by Annibale Carracci) and the Spada Gallery (Dughet, Reni, Brueghel and more). If you have the time, you should visit this amazing trio, as the art and the buildings are very special.
By the way, the Farnese has a tight schedule. It is closed Mondays and some holidays and open in the mornings (0900 to 1300) on Tuesday through Sunday and the afternoons (1500 to 1800) Friday through Sunday. Its website is in Italian, but is not too hard to follow.
Finally, you might be interested in seeing the Villa Farnesina on the Trastevere side of the Tiber (named after the Farnese family, but built for the banker Chigi, as in the Chigi Chapel in the church Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo), which has some gorgeous frescos by Raphael.
The Palazzo Venezia was once the residence of Pope and five hundred years later became Mussolini’s Palace. Since then it has been restored to its previous grandeur as a beautiful building in an impressive setting with a moderately interesting collection of art and other medieval and Renaissance works. The official website for the Palazzo is relatively uninformative, so visit this webite for more information on the holdings of the Palazzo and to reserve tickets.
Museum of Roman Civilization
The Museo dell Civilta Romana presents one of the most interesting and detailed examinations of Roman civilization that can be found in Rome’s museums. You will find displays of original works, reconstructions, models, casts and a variety of presentations designed to help you explore and appreciate the history of Rome. Due to reconstruction, not all of the museum is available and the exhibits changes from time to time.The museum is closed Mondays and open Tuesdays through Saturday from 0900 to 1400 and to 1330 on Sundays. The Museum is located at Piazza G. Angelli 10. See the museum’s official website for more details.
The National Museum of Rome (Three Locations)
The National Museum is comprised of three separate buildings, the Baths of Diocletian , the Palazzo Massimo (jewels, gems, money, classical sculpture) and the Palazzo Altemps (sculptures of various origins), which together house an important collection of Rome’s archeological treasures. The best website for describing these treasures is that of the Superintendent of Archeology for Rome. (Although the site is in Italian, Google translator does a good job here – Choose the location you are interested in viewing, click the link and then translate.)
Although each of these locations has something unique to examine, the Baths of Diocletian sound the most promising, but the actual site is the least satisfying of these three attractions. Diocletian’s Baths were the largest and most opulent in ancient Rome. Built to hold thousands and thought to have been twice as large as the baths of Caracalla, the complex was a wonder of the world in its day. Unfortunately, the Baths fell into decay and were used as a quarry for many other sites, leaving little of the original complex to observe. A large section of the former Baths was converted into the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which honors the Blessed Virgin and the thousands of Christian slaves who died constructing the Baths of Diocletian.
We think you will find a visit to the Palazzo Altemps the most satisfying of these three museums. The palace is gorgeous inside and the art is excellent.
The Baths of Diocletian are located at Via Enrico de Nicola 79.
The Palazzo Massimo is located at Largo di Villa Peretti 1
The Palazzo Altemps is located at Via Sant’Apollinare 46.
The Imperial Forums Museum
In 2007 the Museo dei Fori Imperiali (Imperial Forum Museum) opened in one of the original buildings in Trajan’s Market (Mercati di Traiano), which dates from the 2nd century. The museum is dedicated to the architecture of the Imperial Forums and contains a number of outstanding pieces (mostly marble) that were found while excavating the Imperial Forums.
The setting of the museum is gorgeous. The “finds” are displayed in chambers used to describe each of the Imperial Forums and along the aisles on the sides the Grande Aule (Great Hall).
The Imperial Forums Museum is located at Quattro Novembre, 94 in Rome