Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Museums & Art Galleries in Rome & the Vatican

Rome is often referred to as one enormous open air museum. It would seem that around every corner there is something of archaeological or historical interest. Whether a Roman ruin or a Baroque church. Some of the elegant Renaissance palazzo’s house magnificent historical collections of objects, from ancient artefacts to modern sculpture. Start at the Capitoline museums, arguably the oldest public museum in Europe. Rome’s first electric power plant now exhibits ancient sculpture, and its 20th century machinery. Don’t miss the contemporary MAXXI, which houses Italy’s first national collection of contemporary art.

Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums have a long history, and are said to be the oldest public collection of archaeological artefacts in the World. They are certainly amongst the finest museums in Rome. The origins of the collections date back to 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV had 6 bronze Roman statues moved to the City Council on the Capitoline Hill. Now, many centuries later, there are over 1300 objects, most of which are from archaeological sites in Rome itself. The Capitoline Museums are in fact three different buildings, called palazzos, that surround the trapezoidal Piazza del Campidoglio

Vatican Museums

Founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II, the pubic museum of the Vatican City holds the vast collection of the Catholic Church. Of the estimated 70,000 only 20,000 are on public display. These include some of the most well known examples of Etruscan art, Roman sculpture and Renaissance masterpieces. One of the most well known sculptures is the Roman Laocoön and His Sons, the acquisition of which in 1506 is said to have been the origins of the Vatican Museums. The route through the museums include Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms of the Apostolic Palace. The museum also has an important collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Temporary Exhibitions in Rome 2024