A look at some of the most important museums, archaeological and historical sites in Italy.
Few countries can claim as extensive a heritage of artistic expression. To experience Italy’s art firsthand is to touch the soul of the country. From archeological sites to architecture, museums and galleries, you will discover the many ways Italy’s craftsmen and artists have articulated their passion over thousands of years.
Galleria dell’Accademia Founded in 1563, the first school in Europe to teach the methods of painting, drawing and sculpture.
Bargello Museum Formerly a town hall and prison, this houses Italy’s finest collection of Renaissance sculpture.
Pitti Palace Built by Brunelleschi for banker Luca Pitti, later purchased by the Medici, contains several museums including The Palatine Gallery, the Royal Apartments, the Silverware Museum, the Modern Art Gallery and the Boboli Gardens.
Uffizi Gallery Italy’s supreme art gallery, created by the architect Vasari, contains an unparalleled collection of paintings from Italy’s best known masters.
San Lorenzo The Medici family parish church contains the Medici Chapels and mausoleum, as well as works by Donatello, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi.
Brancacci Chapel Built inside the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, famous for the frescoes on the Life of St. Peter started by Masolino and his pupil Masaccio, and completed by Filippino Lippi.
Santa Croce A Gothic church containing the tombs of famous Florentines, such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. Alongside is the Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi.
Pinacoteca di Brera Milan’s most esteemed museum, where the Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in the 1700’s, its 38 rooms host a fine art collection covering Renaissance and Baroque art from the 15th to 20th century.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II A glorious glass- and steel-covered arcade connected to Piazza della Scala, known for its high-end stores and restaurants.
Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral) This grandiose Gothic Cathedral in the city’s main square is made of white marble, with a roof of 135 spires and countless statues and gargoyles, and can hold up to 40,000 worshippers.
Teatro alla Scala Perhaps the definitive opera house, opened in 1778, the theatre also houses the Museo Teatrale, featuring a remarkable array of opera costumes, paintings, scripts, statues and other materials.
Santa Maria delle Grazie Built between 1465 and 1482, this Renaissance church is famous for the fresco depicting the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Museo Nazionale One of the world’s leading museums of Classical art housing many antiquities. It has five branches: Palazzo Altemps, the Baths of Diocletian, the Aula Ottagona, the Crypta Balbi and the Palazzo Massimo.
Vatican Museums Residence of the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms, including many of the most important and unique art collections on earth.
Roman Forum The central area around which the commerce of ancient Rome developed in the 2nd century BC. Its vivid remains demonstrate the use of municipal places during the era.
The Pantheon Completed in 27 BC this circular temple, dedicated to “all the gods,” is Rome’s most well-preserved ancient building.
The Colosseum Rome’s greatest amphitheatre, capable of seating 55,000 spectators. It was used for deadly gladiatorial combats and ferocious animal fights staged by the emperors and wealthy citizens.
MACRO The Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, built at the beginning of the 20th century on a large industrial complex, is now a dynamic center of cultural activity.
Palazzo Reale The seat of the royal Savoy family until the 1861 unification of Italy took place, displaying ornately decorated apartments, and splendid ceilings painted by Seyter, Miel and Morello.
Mole Antonelliana This is Turin’s awesome and original symbol. The Mole was designed by architect Alessandro Antonelli and built between 1863 and 1889. Since 2000, the building houses the National Museum of Cinema.
Museo Egizio The Egyptian Museum of Turin (the second in the world after the Cairo Museum) was established in 1824, with antiquities from about 4000 BC to 639 AD.
Museo dell’Automobile One of the largest auto museums in the world and the only one of its kind in Italy, this stylistically modern building houses a collection of 170 cars.
Pinacoteca Agnelli Architect Renzo Piano built this structure atop the Fiat building, featuring the private collection of Giovanni and Marella Agnelli, including works from Canaletto, Canova and Matisse.
Accademia An incomparable collection of paintings spanning five centuries through the Byzantine, Baroque, Renaissance and International Gothic periods.
Ca’ d’Oro Sitting on the Grand Canal, the “House of Gold” is a public gallery boasting an ornate, gold-leaf Gothic façade.
Basilica di San Marco The most famous church in Venice, set in St. Mark’s Square, famous for its elaborate Byzantine exterior, façade mosaics and the four bronze horses that sit atop the entrance.
Museo Correr The heart of this museum comprises the magnificent collection of Theodoro Correr, donated to the city of Venice.
Doge’s Palace A Gothic work of art on the Grand Canal, founded in the 9th century, this is the official residence of each ruler (“doge”) of Venice, with the offices of several political institutions within.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection A small museum in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, home of the art collection of the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim.
REMAINS TO BE SEEN
Pompeii, along with Herculaneum, was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Metapontum is an ancient city on the Gulf of Taranto settled by Greeks around 700 BC, where Pythagoras taught in the sixth century.
Segesta, in northwest Sicily, was first a Trojan colony, then a Carthaginian dependency after 400 BC.
Agrigento & the Valley of the Temples are majestic Greek structures, dating back to the 6th and 5th centuries BC, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
Cerveteri is a vast Etruscan necropolis in Lazio; this spectacular network of mysterious tombs, shadowy crypts and burial mounds dates back to the 7th century BC.
Ostia Antica, with its colorful frescoes and detailed mosaics, show how life once was in this thriving port on the Tiber river.
The Matera Sassi is an intricate labyrinth of ancient rock dwellings in the Gravina of Matera, comprising alleys and stairways, caves, arches, galleries, gardens and terraces.
Nuraghi, these extraordinary Bronze Age towers of stone, spiraling upward into cones, number over 7,000 and span the island of Sardinia. How they were actually built and maneuvered into place remains a mystery. The nuraghi group Su Nuraxi, near Barumini, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its complex network of towers linked to walls and ramparts were probably used as dwellings, fortresses, tombs and meeting places for ancient peoples.
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