When visiting Rome, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the term ‘The Eternal City’ was coined by an ancient tourist who happened to spend most his/her time eternally waiting to get into one museum or another. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that he/she must have been a fool!
Walk ANYwhere in Rome and you’ll stumble (quite literally) across 2,000 year old columns, landmarks and art…why on earth would you have to go to a museum…
Because as good and arty as the city’s landmarks are, Rome’s museums are where all the really good stuff is kept! Ancient rocks and statues may abound in Rome, but if you want to take in the most prestigious artefacts and artworks you’re going to have to pay, queue and admire them in one of the city’s top museums. This is an absolute must-do no matter what your artistic inclinations are.
The key is to PRE-BOOK for a guided tour online, this we cannot stress strongly enough. Even if you hate tours, guides etc the pre-booked tour ticket ensures you do not queue so it’s an absolute life saver, especially in a heavily visited place like the Vatican Museum. Another nifty hint is to opt for the audio guide instead of a live guide, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, whilst the guides are generally very good, their English accents tend to be a little on the ‘heavy’ side; if you’re not used to that you may find it difficult to understand half of what they’re saying. Secondly, even if you do understand your guide, you’ll probably miss half of what he/she says because groups tend to be rather large, so unless you’re willing to glue yourself to the guide you may miss out on a lot of info.
Next, score yourself an invaluable Roma Pass Card which ensures you discounts on entry fees and gives you access to free public transport all over Rome.
Our guide to the Top 3 Museums in Rome.
As it turns out, the Pope is quite the hoarder of priceless artwork, and it is in these museums that you’ll get the chance to view some of the world’s most astounding works of art. Spread over several museums in an area stretching over nine miles, the Vatican’s most prized jewels are a mind-boggling collection. There are 24 sections to explore, the most popular ones being the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica for Michelangelo’s creations, Raphael’s Rooms, the Pinacoteca for Giotto and Caravaggio’s works, the Modern Religious Art Museum for Van Gogh and Matisse and the Missionary Ethnological Museum which houses an impressive collection of art from every corner of the globe where Christian missionaries carried out their ‘blessed’ work.
No need to mention one would need days, weeks and even months to see it all; do some research before you go, make a note of what interests you most and don’t be deterred by the sometime frustrating crowds. Whilst we understand how a few people can become overwhelmed, and be inclined to leave half way through their visit, we’re also quite sure this is the one thing they’ll regret most in retrospect.
It’s ironic to think that Villa Borghese was built specifically because its initial owner, Pope Paul V’s nephew Cardinal Borghese, needed a ‘place’ to store his growing art collection. The villa is simply splendid and a favourite week-end haunts for locals who want to get away from the chaotic city streets. Between the perfectly manicured gardens you can enjoy a sumptuous picnic, or row your way around a Grecian Temple in the lake and even enjoy summertime entertainment at the heavenly hands of local musicians. The garden’s zoo is somewhat less heavenly, it must be said, but may keep little ones entertained for an hour or so.
The Villa’s museum, however, is the main attraction here. The rooms within the Galleria Borghese are proof that this art-hoarding tendency must be genetic, as this museum is home to some of the most magnificent sculptures Bernini ever made. ‘Apollo and Daphne’ reside here as well as ‘The Rape of Proserpina’, truly amazing in intricately carved details and Bernini’s very own ‘David’, which is more of a combat-mode version of Michelangelo’s in Florence.
The Gallery also shows collections of ancient Roman mosaics as well as more recent bronze statues, and paintings by some of the world’s most renowned artists. Crowds are limited at this gallery so although you need not pre-book your visit due to sweltering queues, you may need to if you don’t want to get there and be disappointed.
The Musei Capitolini are often dubbed ‘the first museums in the world’ because they were in fact the first collections to be made available for public viewing. Opened in 1471 and spread out over two adjoining buildings, the Capitolini showcase some fantastic artefacts and art works related to the creation of Rome itself. Located in Piazza del Campidoglio, north-west of the Colosseum, the two buildings contain rooms-full of ancient Roman coins, jewels and relics as well as a bronze statue of Romulus and Remus’ suckling on a girly-wolf, ‘La Lupa’, considered the epitome symbol of Rome.
Don’t miss the obligatory room of ancient pottery shards if you haven’t had your fill yet, and there are also plenty of famous artworks on display as well as the sea of archaeological finds.
Head here late in the afternoon and, when you’re done admiring, head to the rooftop terrace for sweeping and stunning views of the Roman Forum.
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