There’s such a vast number of museums in Rome that it can be tricky to suss out the must-sees from the must-avoid-at-all-costs. Whether you’re into Renaissance masterpieces, ancient archaeological finds or 21st century photography, our guide will help you make the right choice.
MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART
National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
Pass through the majestic entrance of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art and discover a permanent collection which is as grand as the building itself. Works by Van Gogh, Mondrian, Klimt, Degas, Pollock and Rodin can all be found here as well as consistently popular temporary exhibitions.
Adults €10, Concessions €5
Viale delle Belle Arti, 131. Tel 06 32298. lagallerianazionale.com
Designed by controversial architect Zaha Hadid, the MAXXI is an unconventional space both inside and out. This striking building is composed of giant intersecting concrete segments that seem severe from the outside, but inside create flowing pathways that gently transport the visitor through this modern, open-plan space. The MAXXI hosts thought-provoking and colorful exhibitions from the modern art world.
Adults €12, Concessions €8
Via Guido Reni, 4/A, Tel 06 3201954. fondazionemaxxi.it
Macro is considered a focal point for public contemporary art in Rome to which professionals, but also the public at large, turn for its schedule of exhibitions. MACRO as a centre for contemporary art, however, aims to become increasingly multi-functional, maintaining its own local identity and strengthening the involvement of, and its ties with, the community in every possible artistic, cultural and intellectual sphere. From October 2018 the Macro will be hosting an experimental project entitled “MACRO Asilo” under the artistic direction of Giorgio de Finis, a new space for artists and the city to meet and debate.
Via Nizza, 38. museomacro.it
Museo di Roma in Trastevere
The permanent collection here focuses on popular life in Rome from the late eighteenth to early twentieth century. While the paintings and photographs are worth seeing, skip the outdated and more than a little weird diorama with shabby mannequins depicting scenes of Roman life from times gone by. Spend the majority of your visit in the exhibitions spaces which often heavily feature photography.
Adults €6, Concessions €5
Piazza Sant’Egidio, 1/b. Tel 06 5897123. en.museodiromaintrastevere.it
Museo Carlo Bilotti
Located in the orangery of Villa Borghese, Museo Carlo Bilotti homes 23 works gifted to the city of Rome by the eponymous entrepreneur. Among the pieces by Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers and Giacomo Manzù are a group of 18 masterpieces by Italian surrealist Giorgio de Chirico.
Viale Fiorello La Guardia. en.museocarlobilotti.it
Musei di Villa Torlonia
Purchased by the Torlonia noble family in the 18th century, this complex offers visitors the chance to explore hundreds of years of history. The main building, the Casino Nobile, was once used as a residence by Mussolini and now houses the majority of the museum pieces. The Casino dei Principi focuses on the arts while the stained glass windows at the Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls) are unlike anything else you’ll see in Rome.
Adults €9.50, Concessions €7.50
Via Nomentana, 70. en.museivillatorlonia.it
Museo Pietro Canonica
Nestled in Villa Borghese, this museum offers a glimpse into the life and works of Italian sculptor, painter and opera composer, Pietro Canonica. As well as marbles, bronze models and original sketches, visitors can see the artist’s workshop and private apartment.
Viale Pietro Canonica, 2 (Piazza di Siena). museocanonica.it/en
HISTORICAL / ANCIENT ROME
The Capitoline Hill was the centre of political and religious life in ancient Rome so it’s only fitting that now it’s the location of a group of museums that tell the fascinating story of the Eternal City. Most of the exhibits were either excavated in Rome, or painted, sculpted and created by artists who lived in the city. Visit the second floor of the Palazzo dei Conservatori to see the famous bronze she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus and take yourself back to where it all began.
Adults €15, Concessions €13
Piazza del Campidoglio, 1. Tel. 060608. museicapitolini.org
Not your usual museum, Centrale Montemartini is a mash-up between the industrial and the classical. Alongside the now silent turbines, engines and boilers of Rome’s first public power plant stand a selection of marbles from the Capitoline Collection. A great space where the old and new(ish) co-exist perfectly.
Adults €7.50, Concessions €6.50
Via Ostiense, 106. centralemontemartini.org
Built around 123 AD, Castel Sant’Angelo was originally a mausoleum for Roman emperor Hadrian. It was then turned into a military fortress before later being converted to a castle by the Vatican State who used it as a prison and decadent residence. Visit the museum today to explore the different slices of history on display.
Adults €10, Concessions €5
Lungotevere Castello, 50. castelsantangelo.com
National Etruscan Museum
The Etruscans were contemporaries of the early Romans and exerted a heavy influence on the founding of Rome. Later, they were conquered by their neighbours and assimilated into Roman culture so much of their history has been lost. Visit the National Etruscan Museum in Villa Giulia to unravel some of the mystery; inside are some of the most important artifacts from that era.
Adults €8, Concessions €4
Piazzale di Villa Giulia, 9. villagiulia.beniculturali.it
As one location of the National Roman Museum, Palazzo Altemps is home to collections of antiquities that once belonged to various noble families of Rome. This 15th-century building displays Greek gods and Egyptian deities as seen through the eyes of Italian sculptors.
Adults €7, Concessions €3.40
Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46. coopculture.it
National Gallery of Ancient Art (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica)
The National Gallery of Ancient Art first opened in 1895 at Palazzo Corsini and as the collection grew the gallery expanded to a second site at Palazzo Barberini. Today, the galleries tell the story of Italian painting from the 13th century onwards; look out for masterpieces by Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini.
Adult €9, Concessions €4.50 (valid for 3 days for both sites)
Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13 and Via della Lungara, 10. barberinicorsini.org
Museo di Roma
The collection at Museo di Roma covers the history of the city in the period from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century. The Neoclassical building itself, Palazzo Braschi, is wonderfully ornate and thankfully hosts a range of exhibitions throughout the year.
Adult €11, Concessions €9 (exhibition entry fees vary)
Piazza Navona, 2. museodiroma.it
Doria Pamphilj Gallery
The grandiose Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, situated on the prime real estate of Via del Corso houses an equally lofty art collection. Between the intricate frescos and ornate gilded décor are pieces by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael and more.
Adult €12, Concessions €8
Via del Corso, 305. doriapamphilj.it/roma
Bernini’s ability to transform a solid chunk of marble into the soft flesh of Persephone, yielding to the grip of Pluto is reason enough to visit Galleria Borghese. In addition to the stunning collection of Bernini marbles, visitors to are spoilt further by a selection of Raffaello, Caravaggio, Tiziano and Canova masterpieces. Pre-booking is essential.
Adult €15, Concessions €8.50
Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5. Tel.06 galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it
Immerse yourself in the Renaissance at Villa Farnesina. Almost every inch of the interior of this 16th-century villa is decorated with elaborate frescoes, the most famous of which are by Raphael on the ground floor.
Adult €6, Concessions €5
Via della Lungara, 230. villafarnesina.it
The collection at the Vatican Museums (the most visited museum in Italy) is even larger than the queue outside so allow a day to wander the corridors and discover masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. The Museums include several monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of Maps, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment.
Adult €16, Concessions €8
Viale Vaticano. Tel 06 69884676. museivaticani.va
National Museum of the Palazzo di Venezia
Originally a residence of cardinals and later popes, Palazzo di Venezia is today home to an eclectic collection of pieces from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Paintings, ceramics, furniture, jewellery, marbles, bronze and wooden sculptures, you’ll find it all here.
Adult €5, Concessions €2.50
Via del Plebiscito, 118. Tel. 06 32810. museopalazzovenezia.beniculturali.it
It might be small in size but this museum’s collection is anything but modest. The Napoleonic Museum displays artworks, family souvenirs, antiques and objects associated with the Bonaparte family, all donated to the city of Rome by Count Giuseppe Primoli, the great-grandson of Joseph Bonaparte.
Piazza di Ponte Umberto I, 1. museonapoleonico.it/en
Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale
Since its opening in 1958, the Museum of Oriental Art has expanded its collection from the Middle and Far East. Today, the Japanese collection alone has over 2200 pieces including many Edo period woodblock prints.
Adult €6, Concessions €3
Via Merulana, 248. museorientale.beniculturali.it
Chiostro del Bramante
Designed by Donato Bramante (a rival of Michelangelo) the chiostro or cloister was once the centre of a Renaissance monastery. After careful restoration, this elegant complex is now used for some of the city’s best and most popular exhibitions. Visitors have queued here for retrospectives of Escher, Chagall and of course the heavily instagrammed LOVE exhibition.
Entry fees vary
Via Arco della Pace, 5. chiostrodelbramante.it
Complesso del Vittoriano
Not only an imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of Italy, Il Vittoriano is also home to a number of exhibition spaces. Here, you’ll find high profile exhibitions that appeal to both tourists and locals, such as the recent Edward Hopper or Barbie displays.
Entry fees vary
Via di San Pietro in Carcere. ilvittoriano.com
Located on the main shopping street of Via del Corso, Palazzo Cipolla is home to Fondazione Roma Museo which organises exhibitions of international interest. In recent years, works by Banksy, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell have all been showcased here.
Entry fees vary
Via del Corso, 320. fondazioneromamuseo.it
Palazzo delle Esposizioni
With 10,000 square metres of space, Palazzo delle Esposizioni is more than just a space for the latest touring art exhibition. It also contains a cinema, auditorium, function halls, café, restaurant and bookshop. From fine art to film festivals or theatre to photography there’s an abundance of cultural highlights under the same roof.
Entry fees vary
Via Nazionale, 194. palazzoesposizioni.it
Scuderie del Quirinale
Situated atop the Quirinal Hill is the Palazzo del Quirinale, now the official residence of the President and previously home to the Italian monarchy and a Papal residence. The Scuderie del Quirinale (stables of the official residence) are today open plan spaces that have held exhibitions of Botticelli, Rembrandt, Frida Khalo and more.
Entry fees vary
Via Nazionale, 194. scuderiequirinale.it
Museo dell’Ara Pacis
Designed by American architect Richard Meier, the Ara Pacis Museum is a modern anomaly in the otherwise ancient historic centre of Rome. Built of steel, limestone and ample amounts of glass, it houses an ornate 1st-century BC altar of peace and hosts stimulating exhibitions from all corners of the art world.
Entry fees vary
Lungotevere in Augusta. arapacis.it
Situated on the Pincian Hill nearby Villa Borghese is Villa Medici, now home to the French academy in Rome. Follow their social media pages not to miss information about special tours, night openings, concerts and cinema screenings, as well as artistic exhibitions.
Adult €12, Concessions €6 (includes guided tour of the Villa, gardens and the temporary exhibition)
Viale Trinità dei Monti, 1. villamedici.it
Baths of Diocletian
Built between 298 and 306 AD, this thermal complex could accommodate up to 3000 people. Today, the ruins form part of one of the locations of the National Roman Museum. In addition to temporary displays such as 2016’s successful Henry Moore exhibition, visitors can take in various collections from ancient and imperial Rome, including historical inscriptions, artifacts, statues and sculptures.
Adult €7, Concessions €3.50 (additional fee for temporary exhibitions)
Viale Enrico De Nicola, 79. coopculture.it/en
Museo dei Fori Imperiali
Located in the ruins of Trajan’s Market, this museum houses artifacts found in the Imperial Forums. Modern stone fills in the gaps between original decorative fragments and architectural pieces to create an impression of how the site once was.
Adult €11.50, Concessions €9.50
Via IV Novembre, 94. en.mercatiditraiano.it
Museo delle Mura
Built in the 3rd century AD, the Aurelian Walls were Rome’s defense against invasions and attacks. Visitors can walk along one of the best preserved stretches of the wall and then check out the exhibits which explain the methods used for their construction.
Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 18. en.museodellemuraroma.it
Museo della Via Ostiense
Originally one of the ancient gates of the city, Porta San Paolo is now home to a small museum that focuses on Rome’s link to the seaport of Ostia Antica. The few exhibits won’t keep you occupied for long, so spend some time admiring view across the neighbourhood from the castle-like turrets.
Via Raffaele Persichetti, 3. beniculturali.it
Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Among the designer shops of Piazza di Spagna lies a hidden paradise for literary lovers. The Keats-Shelley Memorial House commemorates the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and houses an extensive collection of pieces from the Romantic Age. The small apartment that Keats died in now contains one of the finest libraries of Romantic literature, handwritten letters, a lock of Shelley’s hair and other treasures.
Adult €5, Concessions €4
Piazza di Spagna, 26. keats-shelley-house.org
Casa di Goethe
During the 18th century the German poet, novelist and playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe came to Italy searching for the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome. The Casa di Goethe, where he stayed during his two years in Rome, displays writings, sketches, letters and diary entries, all showing his enthusiasm for the fine arts.
Adult €5, Concessions €3
Via del Corso, 18. casadigoethe.it
National Museum of Musical Instruments
The majority of the 3,000 instruments on display at this museum once belonged to Evangelista Gorga, a successful tenor who sang for Puccini in the first performance of La Bohème in 1896. The collection includes the ornately decorated Barberini Harp made between 1605 and 1620.
Adult €5, Concessions €2.50
Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, 9/A. museostrumentimusicali.beniculturali.it
CLICK ON THE PICTURE BELOW FOR THE GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERIES IN ROME