The 10 Museums You Must Visit to Devour Art in Italy

Inspiration Corner

Sitting at the top of almost every person’s travel list, ITALY, with its scrumptious food and wine, breathtaking scenery, and astounding architecture, also represents a magical time in art history, that is simply unfathomable to the human mind of today. With works from masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello on display, Italy is one country where even non-art lovers are itching to visit museums and see some of the world’s oldest and most phenomenal works of art.

(Room of the Segnatura, one of the Four Raphael Rooms in the Vatican Museums, Vatican City)

While some might suffer from ‘art fatigue’ if there was an overdose, here is Artisera’s pick of 10 museums and galleries, that just HAVE to feature on your ‘must visit’ list in Italy!

1. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Heralded as one of the best art museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence takes you back to a glorious period in art, that of the Renaissance era. Built in 1581, it features an impressive collection from Italy’s well-known Medici family. Uffizi houses priceless works from Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and other masters. The top floor carries a treasure of Roman sculptures. Some of the celebrated masterpieces here include Botticelli's Primavera and The Birth of Venus, Filippo Lippi's Madonna and Child with Two Angels as well as Titian's Venus of Urbino.

(The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, housed at Uffizi Gallery)

2. The Galleria Borghese, Rome

The Borghese Gallery in Rome is a 17th-century palatial villa that houses an extensive art collection begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. In its grand 20 rooms, visitors get an overview of Italian aesthetics with antiquities, initial baroque art, as well as works belonging to the Renaissance period. The jewel in the crown, though, are the many Bernini sculptures. Some notable paintings displayed here include Bernini's 1623 self-portrait, Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit, St Jerome Writing and Sick Bacchus, Titian's Sacred and Profane Love and Raphael's Entombment of Christ.

(A sculpture at Galleria Borghese, image source:

3. The Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence

Home to the iconic David sculpture by Michelangelo, the Gallery of the Academy of Florence also houses works from renowned artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, and Orcagna. The gallery displays some stunning Florentine Gothic artwork as well as Michelangelo's unfinished pieces, which are of special interest to those inclined towards studying art.

(The famous statue of David, sculpted by Michelangelo)

4. Vatican Museums, Vatican City

A trip to Italy would be incomplete without ambling through the glorious Vatican Museums. Founded by Pope Julius II in early 16th century, they showcase coveted artworks collected by the Popes through the centuries, including classical sculptures and significant Renaissance masterpieces. The Vatican Museums are famed for the Sistine Chapel displaying Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes, the four Raphael Rooms, as well as artworks by Renaissance masters such as Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Lippi and Perugino.

(The Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican Museums)

5. Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua

What can be defined as Padua's Sistine Chapel, the Cappella degli Scrovegni displays iconic Renaissance works with the spellbinding frescoes of Giotto. For the unaware, Giotto is thought of as the genius (by none other than Dante, Leonardo da Vinci and Vasari) who brought an end to the Dark Ages with his 14th century paintings. His humanistic rendition of biblical figures and forward approach helped to alter people's perceptions, who stopped seeing themselves as low-lives, and instead as vessels for the divine, even if imperfect. Considered as a significant masterpiece of Western art, the fresco cycle depicting events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ, was finished sometime around 1305.

(The gorgeous Giotto Frescoes in Padua) 

6. The Galleria dell' Accademia, Venice

The Academy Gallery in Venice beautifully traces the art evolution of the magical city from the 14th – 18th century. On display are artists who have been monumental in shaping the history of European painting. You will witness an interesting melange of ornamental splendours, elegant masterpieces as well as distinct works showcasing Venetian artists' flair for colour and drama. Some of the notable exhibits include Jacobello Alberegno's Polyptych of the Apocalypse, Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child, Giorgione's La Tempesta and Giambattista Piazzetta’s Fortune Teller.

(La Tempesta by Giorgione, housed at The Academy Gallery of Venice)

7. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

The Santa Maria delle Grazie is a must visit church in Milan, as on the robust walls of the refectory adjoining this revered structure, stands The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most distinguished murals of the world. The revered place was established by Guiniforte Solari and was later expanded by Bramante.

(The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci)

8. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Set in Peggy Guggenheim's impressive canal-side home, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni enchants with the former American Heiress' staggering modern art collection. It is considered as a prominent Italian museum for 20th century European and American art and showcases surrealist, futurist and abstract expressionist creations. On display are works of around 200 renowned and lesser known artists, including works from Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.

(The Poet by Pablo Picasso, 1911, housed at Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice)

9. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

To set your sights on some of the world's most profound art masterpieces, saunter off to Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, an internationally acclaimed museum that was established with a motive to provide students of Accademia di Belle Arti an opportunity to study sublime artworks up close. This internationally acclaimed museum houses works from Rembrandt, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and the Bellini brothers. The displays include masterpieces such as Andrea Mantegna's The Dead Christ and Three Mourners, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini's Saint Mark Preaching in a Square of Alexandria in Egypt, Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin, and Francesco Hayez's The Kiss.

(Saint Mark Preaching in a Square of Alexandria in Egypt, by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini)

10. Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Within the stern grey building of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, you will find yourself in an opulent and vibrant world of frescoes and massive paintings. Showcasing Rome’s richest private art collection, the gallery houses works from Tintoretto, Brueghel, Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Bernini, Velázquez and several Flemish Old Masters from the baroque era. Some of the famed works include Velazquez’s Portrait of Innocent X, and Caravaggio's Rest During the Flight into Egypt and Penitent Magdalene.

(Portrait of Innocent X by Velazquez, housed at Galleria Doria Pamphilj)

If there is one country on Earth where anyone can appreciate art and fall in love with it, it is Italy. So plan your trip now, and soak in the awe inspiring art from this historic nation!

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