The Capitoline Museums are a group of art and archeological museums located on top of Capitoline Hill in the Piazza del Campidoglio. The architectural plan for the space was conceived by Michelangelo in 1536 and executed over the course of 400 years. The museums contain a number of ancient Roman statues, including the real copy of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (you’ll find the fake version in the center of the piazza), a collection of medieval and Renaissance art, and collections of jewels and coins. After your tour, stop by the Terrazza Caffarelli for a light meal or coffee with amazing views. Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Most of Rome may seem filled with private palaces and villas whose doors remained closed to visitors, but the Galleria Borghese gives access to the city’s finest collection of Baroque art. Built in 1613, the gallery was designed to house Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s outstanding art collection. After closing in 1983 for a fifteen-year restoration, it reopened a decade ago. The rooms, adorned with frescoes and gilt carvings, are the perfect showcase for some of the sculptor Bernini’s most dramatic works. Other artworks include paintings by Raphael, Canova and Caravaggio. In an effort to preserve this historic setting, the number of visitors is strictly limited, so booking is mandatory. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
Galleria Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
While many of Rome’s palaces have been turned into public museums, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj remained private, and Prince Jonathon Doria, who lives here, graciously receives visitors. His private museum, which includes two works by Caravaggio and Velasquez’s famous portrait of Pope Innocent X, is open Friday to Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit the Web site for a schedule of Saturday noontime concerts. The price of admission includes entrance to the museum.
Located in a former slaughterhouse, in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Testaccio, this outpost of Rome’s contemporary art museum houses temporary exhibitions that include everything from installation, video art, photography and sculpture. It’s particularly fun to visit during opening night vernisage when the neighborhood’s nightlife scene meets the art scene and the whole thing turns into a big party.
Zaha Hadid’s contemporary art museum was years in the making and opened in a northern suburb of Rome in 2009. It’s a destination for serious art and architecture aficionados (and/or repeat visitors), as it requires a fifteen-minute taxi ride away historic Rome. Check the museum’s Web site for special exhibitions.
From the New York Times, Thursday, November 12, 2009
“What would Pope Urban VIII have made of Maxxi, the new museum of contemporary art designed by Zaha Hadid on the outskirts of this city’s historic district? My guess is that he would have been ecstatic.
This 17th-century pope, one of the most prominent cultural patrons in Roman history, understood that great cities are not frozen in time. He loved dreaming up lavish new projects over breakfast with his artistic soul mate, the Baroque sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. When Bernini needed bronze for the baldachin in St. Peter’s, the pope…” Read more
Says Indagare insider Alberto Moncada, the owner of boutique hotel Margutta 54: “Palazzo Colonna is a private palace still owned by its princely family. Apart from the prestigious art, don’t miss the Galleria, a hall of mirrors, paintings and dramatic ceilings. It’s only open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. But is worth going to. (Audrey Hepburn gave her farewell speech to Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday in the Sala Grande here.)”
Says Indagare insider Alberto Moncada, the owner of boutique hotel Margutta 54: “This gallery has a vintage collection of 17th- and 18th-century regional Italian paintings, as well as works by Rubens, Poussin, Bruegel and Caravaggio. It’s in a great location surrounded by the Roman Botanical Gardens at the foot of Gianicolo Hill near Trastevere.”
The Vatican Pinacoteca (“Art Gallery”) was founded by Pope Pius VI in 1797 and has been housed in its present space (commissioned by Pope Pius XI) since 1932. With 460 paintings distributed throughout the gallery’s eighteen rooms, the Vatican Pinacoteca has one of the most extensive art collections in Rome. Art works run from the so-called Primitive Era (12th-13th centuries) to the 19th century and include masterpieces from Caravaggio, Crespi, Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, Tiziano and Veronese.
Founded in the 18th century by Pope Clement XIV and later enlarged by Pope Pius VI, the Pio-Clementino Museum was originally built to house Roman antiquities. Today it is made up of 54 galleries (the 54th being the Sistine Chapel) containing famous works of Greek and Roman sculpture. Notable galleries include the Sala a Croce Greca, the Galleria delle Statue, the Galleria dei Busti, and the Sala delle Muse. Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 3:30 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 1:30 pm, March through October; Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 12:30 pm, November through February. Open the last Sunday of each month 9 am to 12:30 pm, free of charge.
This stunning Renaissance villa is located in Trastevere and worth a visit thanks to glorious interiors with frescoes, including ones by Raphael. It was built in the early 16th century for Sienese merchant Agostino Chigi who was known all over Rome for his lavish lifestyle. The building had been near-abandoned until recent renovations saved the magnificent frescoes, located on two floors of drawing rooms, opulent salons and bedrooms. After a visit, have lunch at Popi Popi or Le Mani in Pasta.