Purple 10: The Best Museums and Galleries Rome

If you’re off on a city break to Rome, don’t spend the time ‘fiddling while Rome burns’, instead discover the art beat of the capital. In this of the ten best museums and galleries in Rome, you’ll journey from a Renaissance palace to Mussolini’s cinema studio…. Enjoy the best museums and galleries Rome from Purple Travel.

The Borghese Gallery

The original sculptures and paintings in the Borghese Gallery date back to Cardinal Scipione’s collection, the son of Ortensia Borghese , Paolo V’s sister. Cardinal Scipion was drawn to any works of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary art which might re-evoke a ‘golden age’. In the Borghese, you will find a whole array of antique sculpture and painting, housed a grand villa, whose architectural features are to be attributed above all to Flaminio Ponzio, an extraordinary architect in whom the Pope and the cardinal placed absolute trust.

Macro: Museo d’Arte Contemporanea

Nestled among 19th-century apartment blocks, the Macro is the newer and bigger of two spaces that combine to make up Rome’s municipal contemporary art museum (the other is in Testaccio). The main part of the museum was created by the French architect, Odile Decq from a disused Peroni beer plant. Providing a home for the postmodern painter and collagist Mario Schifano, Macro aims to be a more daring and controversial version of Maxxi (the National Museum of Art from the 21st Century). Take the toilets for example, which have mirrored walls and translucent plastic sinks that flash different neon colours as you use them.

Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps is a Renaissance palace opened as a museum in 1997. It remains one of the capital’s best-kept secrets, with a beguiling collection of classical sculptures. They include the Ludovisi Ares, a Roman copy of a 4th-century BCE Greek original, and the Ludovisi Gaul, part of the same group. But for sheer technical genius,  visitors should see the 3rd-century sarcophagus, carved from a single block of stone, showing the Romans fighting the Ostrogoths – it is known as the Grande Ludovisi.

CineCittà Studios

Cinecittà Studios was founded by Mussolini and due to this, the studio and set complex was bombed by the Allies in the Second World War. However in the ‘50s, the Studios became highly famous when they were used to make a series of costly classical epics, including Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. The 40-hectare site, which is claimed to be continental Europe’s largest film and TV production facility, was also where Federico Fellini shot most of his films.

Sant’Ignazio

The church of illusions was built between 1626 and 1650 and dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola. The trompe l’oeil ceiling mural by Andrea Pozzo  uses foreshortening to create a realistic vision of the founder of the Society of Jesus soaring towards paradise to be welcomed by Christ. A disk in the floor marks the ideal spot from which to experience the illusion.

Auditorium Parco della Musica

The Auditorium was designed by architect, Renzo Piano, who called his building a “factory of culture”. Its three concert halls, which stage all manner of productions, hold between 700 and 2,800 people. There is also the Cavea, an open-air theatre reminiscent of a classical amphitheatre, an art gallery and an archaeological museum within the building.

Santa Maria in Trastevere

The Basilica of Our Lady is one of Rome’s oldest churches, dating back to around 340 AD. It is thought to been the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary. In the nave are two rows of columns – 22 in all – that were taken from ancient Roman sites. Embellished with six mosaic panels of scenes from the life of Mary and a gilded octagonal ceiling painting by the Baroque master Domenichino,  the basilica is extraordinarily decadent.

Museo Nazionale dell’Alto Medioevo

This less visited museum displays finely decorated weapons, intricate tapestries and stunning earrings and necklaces. Other exhibits include an ancient metal dog chain and an entire hall, taken from an aristocratic villa in Ostia, adorned with designs created using a technique known as opus sectile in which coloured marble is cut and inlaid.

Ostia Antica

Visitors to Rome who try packing in a trip to Pompeii often leave disappointed by the neglect and disorganisation they find there. Ostia Antica, less than 30km from Rome and reachable by train, offers an altogether more civilised (and arguably more instructive) experience. This, after all, was the port city of the capital of Europe’s greatest empire. Scattered among the umbrella pines that now dot the site are a splendid amphitheatre which is still used for concerts, and the remains of schools, baths, temples and latrines, as well as Europe’s oldest synagogue. Ostia Antica also boasts some unusually well-preserved mosaics and frescoes.

Lorcan O'Neill Gallery

Galleria Lorcan O’Neill

Set in a Trastevere backstreet, Galleria Lorcan adds a touch of hip to an otherwise classical scene. O’Neill, has used his Britart connections to put on exhibitions by Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor-Wood and Rachel Whiteread. He has also shown venerable non-Brits including Anselm Kiefer and provided a space for talented young Italians like Luigi Ontani and Pietro Ruffo.

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