The Best Italian Museums — The Italic Guide

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According to data collected by Istat in 2019, there are more than 4,800 museums in Italy. This number includes galleries, archaeological areas, eco-museums and monuments. This is perhaps not so surprising, given Italy’s rich artistic heritage. This is distributed throughout Italy: one municipality in three has at least one museum.

the Ministry of Culture published a list of top 30 most visited Italian museums in 2019. Here’s a look at the top ten on their list:

  1. Colosseum Archaeological Park
  2. Uffizi Gallery
  3. Pompeii Archaeological Park
  4. Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze
  5. Castel Sant’Angelo
  6. Egizio Museum
  7. La Venaria Reale
  8. Reggia of Caserta
  9. Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este
  10. Naples National Archaeological Museum

Have you visited any of these well-known museums and historic sites? Not sure where to go next? Let me help you by narrowing down the list to five must-see places. I will mention galleries included in the top 30, but I will also suggest places not mentioned in the list that are well worth visiting.

1. Archaeological Park of Pompeii

To say that there is probably no other place on earth quite like Pompeii is no exaggeration. It’s an open treasure that hasn’t even been fully unearthed. The tragedy of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD has, in effect, stopped time and allows us to go back in time and walk through life as it was lived by the ancient Romans.

With stunning plazas, theatres, thermal baths, villas, gardens, brothels – the list of wonders goes on – you’ll want to take your time exploring the site. The area is indeed quite large, and I would say half a day is the minimum time one should consider spending there. Book a tour or take a good guide with you, it will help you experience total immersion and feel like you are truly a Pompeian walking around your city.

Ercolano (Herculaneum), which is not far from Pompeii, is a sister site you might want to add to your list. If you visit his website, you will also have the chance to see three-dimensional scans of the city before going there.

2. Uffizi Gallery

Florence is full of galleries, churches and museums to visit – and you should visit as many as you can – but the Uffizi Galleries are not to be missed. With the single ticket for the Uffizi you will also have free entry to the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. The Uffizi Gallery houses a collection of absolute masterpieces by artists such as Raffaello Sanzio, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Giotto, Lorenzo Lotto, Tiziano, Leonardo and many more.

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli at the Uffizi Gallery. Photo: Low 7 to Unsplash.

The Offices have also launched #Uffizikidsthey have therefore designed activities and initiatives adapted to the little ones.

This gallery is also worth a digital visit. The site is well done and it contains a very rich digital archive which you can access to browse the catalog of works of art and the photographic archive. You will also find a collection of videos telling about the Uffizi Galleries and their art collections.

3. Musei Capitolini

Founded in 1471, when Pope Sixtus VI donated a group of bronze statues of great symbolic value to the people of Rome, the Musei Capitolini house a valuable and particularly significant collection. They are located on the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, and are home to the Lupa Capitolinaone of the symbols of the city of Rome — and the Equestrian statue of Marco Aurelio.

If you are unsure whether you should visit this museum or not, you can open its website and start a virtual tour. I suggest you try it, it’s like walking inside real buildings.

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Ancient sculptures at the Musei Capitolini. Photo: Alessio Damato, CC BY-SA 3.0via Wikimedia Commons.

Another reason you should consider going to the Musei Capitolini is the view of the Roman Forum that you will enjoy from the upper gallery of the Tabularium. Not to be missed, it’s magnificent.

4. Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria

After visiting Pompeii, Florence and Rome, it’s time to head to the very heart of Italy: Perugia. Here you will find the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, located right in the center of the city inside the splendid Palace of the Prioriwhich is one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture in Italy.

The museum is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen to the public in the spring of 2022. Along with other more recent works of art, the permanent exhibition features medieval and Renaissance works by important artists such as Nicola and Giovanni Pisano , Gentile da Fabriano, Beato Angelico, Piero della Francesca and Umbrian artists such as Perugino and Pinturicchio.

While waiting for the reopening of the museum, go to the page of the site entitled ‘Listen‘ where you can view some of the artwork in the galleries combined with musical accompaniment.

5. Galleria Nazionale delle Marche

The last gem I would like to include in the list is the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. Its collections are exhibited in a special building, the Palazzo Ducale a majestic building in the city of Urbino built for Federico da Montefeltro, whose famous portrait by Piero della Francesca which depicts him with his wife Battista Sforza is in the Uffizi Gallery. Did you know that Raphael Sanzio was born in this city? One of his most famous and enigmatic paintings, Ritratto di gentildonna (La Muta), is kept here.

Inside the palace you will also find an intimate and unique room. The Studiolo del Duca (Small Study of the Duke), a true masterpiece of marquetry.

The exquisite Studiolo del Duca. Photo: Fabrice GarrisiCC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

I hope my remarks have aroused your interest in these museums and historical sites. If you visit all of these places, you will have traveled through five Italian regions: Campania, Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria and Marche. What galleries, museums and archaeological sites would you like to see in the future? Are my proposals already on your list?

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