Skip to content

The Best Museums in Italy

Mejores Museos de arte en Italia.

Italy is one of the cradles of art and, of course, has some of the best museums in the world

In this article we are going to present you a selection of the 9 most important and prestigious art museums in Italy, so you can know in advance what you will find in each of them

1- Vatican Museums

Los museos Vaticanos

The Vatican Museums are the public museums of the Vatican City. They exhibit works from the immense collection accumulated by the Catholic Church and the papacy over the centuries, including some of the most renowned Roman sculptures and the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The museums contain some 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display, and currently employ 640 people working in 40 different departments of administration, study and restoration.

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century The Sistine Chapel, with the ceiling and altar wall decorated by Michelangelo, and the Stanze di Raffaello (decorated by Raphael) are on the visitors’ route to the Vatican Museums.

Escaleras en espiral de los museos vaticanos.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican Museums were visited by only 1,300,000 people, a decline of 81 percent from the number of visitors in 2019, but still enough to rank the museums fourth among the most visited art museums in the world.

There are 24 galleries, or rooms, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, especially, being the last room visited inside the museum.

Capilla Sixtina en los museos Vaticanos.

The art gallery was housed in the Borgia Apartment until Pius XI ordered the construction of a building of its own. The new building, designed by Luca Beltrami, was inaugurated on October 27, 1932:

  • Giotto: Triptych by Stefaneschi
  • Olivuccio di Ciccarello: Works of Mercy
  • Filippo Lippi: Coronation of Marsuppini
  • Giovanni Bellini: Pieta
  • Melozzo da Forlì: Sixtus IV appointing Platina prefect of the Vatican Library
  • Pietro Perugino: Decemviri Altarpiece and Resurrection of St. Francis al Prato
  • Leonardo da Vinci: St. Jerome in the desert
  • Raphael: Madonna of Foligno, Altarpiece of Oddi and the Transfiguration
  • Titian: The Virgin of Frari
  • Antonio da Correggio: Christ in Glory
  • Paolo Veronese: The Vision of St. Helena
  • Caravaggio: The Burial of Christ
  • Domenichino, The Last Communion of St. Jerome
  • Nicolas Poussin, The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus
  • Jan Matejko: Sobieski in Vienna

The Collection of Modern Religious Art was added in 1973 and houses paintings and sculptures by artists such as Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso.

2- Uffizi Gallery

Galería de los Uffizi.

The Uffizi Gallery is an outstanding art museum located next to the Piazza della Signoria in the historic center of Florence, in the region of Tuscany, Italy. It is one of the most important and most visited Italian museums, as well as one of the largest and best known in the world, and houses a collection of priceless works, especially from the Italian Renaissance period.

After the demise of the House of Medici, its art collections were ceded to the city of Florence under the famous Patto di famiglia negotiated by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress

The Uffizi is one of the first modern museums. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the 16th century, and in 1765 it was officially opened to the public, formally becoming a museum in 1865.

The Uffizi received more than two million visitors in 2016, making it the most visited art gallery in Italy. However, tickets can be purchased online in advance, which greatly reduces the waiting time

Interior de la Galería Uffizi en Italia.

The museum is being renovated to double the number of rooms dedicated to the exhibition of works of art.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum was closed for 150 days in 2020, and attendance was down 72% to 659,043 people. Nevertheless, the Uffizi ranked 27th on the list of the world’s most visited art museums in 2020. Works from the Uffizi Gallery’s collection can be viewed remotely on Google Arts and Culture.

Among the museum’s featured works are:

  • Cimabue: Santa Trinita Maestà
  • Duccio: Madonna of Rucellai
  • Giotto: Madonna of Ognissanti, Polyptych of Badia
  • Simone Martini: Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansano
  • Ambrogio Lorenzetti: Presentation in the Temple
  • Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Three Wise Men
  • Paolo Uccello: The Battle of San Romano
  • Rogier van der Weyden: Lamentation of Christ
  • Fra Filippo Lippi: Madonna and Child, Coronation of the Virgin Mary
  • Piero della Francesca: Diptych of Duke Federico da Montefeltro and the Duchess Battista Sforza of Urbino
  • Andrea del Verrocchio: The Baptism of Christ
  • Hugo van der Goes: Triptych Portinari
  • Sandro Botticelli: Springtime, The Birth of Venus, The Adoration of the Magi 1475 and others
  • Michelangelo: The Holy Family (Doni Tondo)
  • Leonardo da Vinci: The Annunciation, The Adoration of the Magi
  • Piero di Cosimo: Perseus freeing Andromeda
  • Albrecht Dürer: The Adoration of the Three Wise Men
  • Raphael: Madonna of the Goldfinch, Portrait of Leo X
  • Titian: Flora, Venus of Urbino
  • Parmigianino: The Virgin of the Long Neck
  • Caravaggio: Bacchus, Sacrifice of Isaac, Medusa
  • Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith and Holofernes
  • Rembrandt: Self-Portrait of a Young Man (attribution doubtful), Self-Portrait of an Elderly Man, Portrait of an Elderly Man

The collection also contains some ancient sculptures, such as the Arrotino, the Two Fighters and the Bust of Severo Giovanni.

3- Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence

Galería de la Academia de Florencia.

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or“Florence Academy Gallery“, is an art museum in Florence, Italy. It is known for housing Michelangelo‘s sculpture of David. It also has other sculptures by Michelangelo and a large collection of paintings by Florentine artists, mostly from the 1300-1600 period (Trecento to late Renaissance).

It is smaller and more specialized than the Uffizi, Florence’s main art museum. It adjoins the Accademia di Belle Arti or academy of fine arts in Florence, but despite the name has no other connection to it.

In 2016 it had 1.46 million visitors, making it the second most visited art museum in Italy, after the Uffizi (2.02 million)

El David se encuentra en la galería de la Academia de Florencia.

The Galleria dell’Accademia has housed Michelangelo’s original David since 1873. The sculpture was supposedly brought to the Accademia for conservation reasons, although there were other factors that influenced its move from its previous outdoor location in the Piazza della Signoria

The original intention was to create a“Michelangelo museum“, with original sculptures and drawings, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the artist’s birth

Today, the small collection of Michelangelo’s works includes his four unfinished Prisoners, intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II, and a statue of St. Matthew, also unfinished. In 1939 the Pietà of Palestrina, discovered in the Barberini Chapel in Palestrina, was added to the collection, although experts now consider its attribution to Michelangelo to be doubtful.

Arte ruso en la galería de Florencia.

Other works on display are Florentine paintings from the 13th and 16th centuries, including works by Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Andrea del Sarto; and, from the High Renaissance, Giambologna’s original life-size plaster model for the Rape of the Sabine Women. In addition to a series of Florentine Gothic paintings, the gallery houses the collection of Russian icons assembled by the Grand Dukes of the House of Lorraine, among whom was Leopold.

4- Borghese Gallery

Fachada de la galería Borghese.

The Borghese Gallery is an art gallery in Rome (Italy), located in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. Initially, the gallery building was integrated into its gardens, but today the Villa Borghese gardens are considered a separate tourist attraction

The Borghese Gallery houses an important part of the Borghese Collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities, initiated by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V (reigned 1605-1621)

The building was constructed by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, developing sketches by Scipione Borghese himself, who used it as a suburban villa, a country villa on the outskirts of Rome.

Estatuas en el interior de la Galería Borghese.

Scipione Borghese was an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of works by Caravaggio, who is well represented in the collection by his Child with a Basket of Fruit, St. Jerome Writing, Sick Bacchus and others. Other notable paintings include Sacred and Profane Love by Titian, The Burial of Christ by Raphael and works by Peter Paul Rubens and Federico Barocci.

The Borghese Gallery has twenty rooms spread over two floors.

The main floor is mainly devoted to classical antiquities from the first to third centuries AD(including a famous gladiator mosaic from 320-30 AD found in the Borghese estate in Torrenova, on the Via Casilina outside Rome, in 1834), and to classical and neoclassical sculpture, such as the Venus Victrix.

The large main room on the first floor, called Salone, features a large trompe-l’œil fresco on the ceiling of the first room by Sicilian artist Mariano Rossi, who uses foreshortening so well that it appears almost three-dimensional. The fresco depicts Marcus Furius Camillus relieving the siege of the Capitoline Hill by the Gauls. The grotesque decorations were painted by Pietro Rotari, and the animal decorations by Venceslao Pedro Boemo.

The first room of the Salone is the Camera di Cerere, with a marble vase depicting Oedipus and the Sphinx. The second room has a ceiling frescoed by Francesco Caccianiga with the Fall of Phaethon. The third room houses Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne.

5- Bargello

Museo o Palazzo Bargello en Italia.

The Bargello, also known as Palazzo del Bargello, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, or Palazzo del Popolo (Palace of the People ), was a former barracks and prison, now an art museum, in Florence, Italy.

The Bargello was inaugurated as a national museum (Museo Nazionale del Bargello) in 1865, exhibiting the largest Italian collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures (14th-17th centuries).

The museum houses masterpieces by Michelangelo, such as his Bacchus, Pitti Tondo (or Madonna and Child), Brutus and David-Apollo. The museum is also home to the masterpieces of St. George, the Pescatore (“fisherman”) by Vincenzo Gemito, Jacopo Sansovino’s Bacchus, Giambologna’s Architecture and his Mercury, and many works by the Della Robbia family

Benvenuto Cellini is represented with his bronze bust of Cosimo I. There are some works from the Baroque period, in particular Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Bust of Costanza Bonarelli from 1636-7.

Interior del museo Bargello.

The museum also has a good collection of ceramics (maiolica), textiles, tapestries, ivory, silver, armor and coins. It preserves the right panel of the casket of the Franks, previously lost. Also on display are the competing designs for The Sacrifice of Isaac (Sacrificio di Isacco) by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi to win the competition for the second set of doors of the Florence Baptistery (1401).

Honolulu Hale’s interior courtyard, staircase and open ceiling were modeled after the Bargello.

The Islamic Hall of the Bargello was created in 1982 by Marco Spallanzani and Giovanni Curatola under the direction of Paola Barocchi and Giovanna Gaeta Bertelà, then director.

6- Capitoline Museums

Fachada de los museos capitolinos.

The Capitoline Museums (are a group of art and archaeological museums located in the Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy

The historic sites of the museums are the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, facing each other in the central trapezoidal piazza in a plan conceived by Michelangelo in 1536 and executed over 400 years.

The history of the museum dates back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of important ancient bronzes to the people of Rome and placed them on the Capitoline Hill. Since then, the museums’ collection has grown to include many ancient Roman statues, inscriptions and other artifacts; a collection of medieval and Renaissance art; and collections of jewelry, coins and other items.

Galería de los museos Capitolinos.

The museums are owned and operated by the Municipality of Rome.

The statue of a horseman on horseback in the center of the square is of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is a copy, as the original is in the Capitoline Museum.

Opened to the public in 1734 under Clement XII, the Capitoline Museums are considered the first museum in the world, understood as a place where art could be enjoyed by all and not only by the owners.

7- Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome

Galería Nacional de arte de Roma.

The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (“National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art”), also known as La Galleria Nazionale, is an art gallery in Rome, Italy

It was founded in 1883 on the initiative of the then minister Guido Baccelli and is dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

Galería nacional de Arte en Roma, interior.

The museum exhibits some 1,100 paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries, of which it has the largest collection in Italy. Among the Italian artists represented are Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Alberto Burri, Antonio Canova, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Amedeo Modigliani, Giacomo Manzù, Vittorio Matteo Corcos, and Giorgio Morandi: 169

The museum also has some works by foreign artists, including Braque, Calder, Cézanne, Degas, Duchamp, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Monet, Jackson Pollock, Rodin and Van Gogh.

The Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi per le arti decorative, the Museo Hendrik C. Andersen, the Raccoltà Manzù and the Museo Mario Praz are part of the Galleria Nazionale.

8- Doria Pamphilj Gallery

Fachada de la galería Doria Pamphilj

The Doria Pamphilj Gallery is a large art collection located in the Doria Pamphilj Palace in Rome, Italy, between Via del Corso and Via della Gatta.

The main entrance is on Via del Corso (until recently, the entrance to the gallery was from Piazza del Collegio Romano). The facade of the palace on Via del Corso is next to a church, that of Santa Maria in Via Lata

Like the palace, it is still privately owned by the Roman princely Doria Pamphili family

Visits to the state rooms often culminate in concerts of Baroque and Renaissance music, paying homage to the setting and the masterpieces it contains.

Interior de la Galería Doria.

The large collection of paintings, furniture and statues has been assembled since the 16th century by the Doria, Pamphilj, Landi and Aldobrandini families, now united by marriage and descent under the simplified surname Doria Pamphilj. The collection includes paintings and furniture from the Pamphilj Palace of Innocent X (in Piazza Navona), who bequeathed them to his nephew Camillo Pamphilj.

The palace has grown over the centuries; it is probably the largest palace in Rome that is still privately owned. The main collection is displayed in the state rooms, including the chapel, with the mummified corpse of the family saint. However, most of it is displayed in a series of four gilded and painted galleries surrounding a courtyard. An extensive set of additional rooms has now been converted into well-lit permanent galleries, containing the most medieval and Byzantine art in the collection.

9- Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Colección Peggy Guggenheim Venecia.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a modern art museum located on the Grand Canal, in the sestiere Dorsoduro in Venice (Italy)

It is one of the most visited attractions in Venice. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century palazzo that was the home of American heiress Peggy Guggenheim for three decades

In 1951 she began exhibiting her private collection of modern art works to the public on a seasonal basis. After her death in 1979, it passed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which opened the collection year-round beginning in 1980.

The collection includes works by leading Italian Futurists and American Modernists working in such genres as Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. It also includes sculptural works. In 2017, Karole Vail, granddaughter of Peggy Guggenheim, was appointed director of the collection, succeeding Philip Rylands, who led the museum for 37 years.

Interior de la colección Peggy Guggenheim en Venecia.

The collection is based primarily on the personal art collection of Peggy Guggenheim, former wife of artist Max Ernst and niece of mining magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim

The woman collected the works primarily between 1938 and 1946, buying works in Europe “in dizzying succession” at the outbreak of World War II, and later in the United States, where she discovered the talents of Jackson Pollock, among others.

The museum“houses an impressive selection of modern art. Its picturesque setting and respected collection attract some 400,000 visitors a year,” making it“the most visited place in Venice after the Doge’s Palace.”

Among the works on display are those of prominent Italian Futurists and American Modernists. Pieces in the collection span Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism

During Peggy Guggenheim’s 30-year residency in Venice, her collection was on view at her home in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and in special exhibitions in Amsterdam (1950), Zurich (1951), London (1964), Stockholm (1966), Copenhagen (1966), New York (1969) and Paris (1974).

Among the artists represented in the collection are, from Italy, De Chirico (The Red Tower, The Nostalgia of the Poet) and Severini (Dancer of the Sea); from France, Braque (The Clarinet), Metzinger (Au Vélodrome), Gleizes (Woman with Animals), Duchamp (Sad Young Woman on a Train), Léger (Study of a Nude and Men in the City) Picabia (Very Rare Picture on Earth); from Spain, Dalí (The Birth of Liquid Desires), Miró (Seated Woman II) and Picasso (The Poet, On the Beach); from other European countries, Brâncuși (including a sculpture from the series Bird in Space), Max Ernst (The Kiss, Wedding Dress), Giacometti (Slaughtered Woman, Woman Walking), Gorky (Untitled), Kandinsky (Landscape with Red Spots, No. 2, White Cross), Klee (Magic Garden), Magritte (The Empire of Light) and Mondrian (Composition No. 1 with Gray and Red 1938, Composition with Red 1939); and from the United States, Calder (Petal Arch) and Pollock (Moon Woman, Alchemy)

In one room, the museum also exhibits some paintings by Peggy’s daughter, Pegeen Vail Guggenhein.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum houses 26 works on long-term loan from the Gianni Mattioli Collection, including images of Italian Futurism by artists such as Boccioni (Materia, Dynamism of a Cyclist), Carrà (Interventionist Demonstration), Russolo (The Solidity of Fog) and Severini (Blue Dancer), as well as works by Balla, Depero, Rosai, Sironi and Soffici

In 2012, the museum received 83 works from the Rudolph and Hannelore Schulhof Collection, which has its own gallery within the building.

If you have visited a museum in Italy and want to tell us about your experience, leave us a comment. Tell us what you thought of the museum, which works made the biggest impression on you, if you recommend a visit or not and any other information you consider important

Here are some other articles about the best museums in each country:

Antoni A

Antoni A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *