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Arts & Culture

5 Highly Recommended Italian Museums

Italy’s longstanding history is rich and colourful in equal measure, and institutions across the nation have dutifully preserved its historic artefacts for the public to view and gain a deeper understanding of the cultures that preceded today’s. Flourishing in the realm of fine arts once upon a time, a number of Italy’s most notable museums are art galleries, its celebrated works recording the history of master painters and sculptors. History and art enthusiasts aside, any visitor to this nation can appreciate a lesson in its comprehensive past by visiting one of these highly recommended museums in Italy.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Situated in the heart of Florence, the Uffizi Gallery is a treasure trove of Renaissance gems, each a carefully created masterpiece revealing a tale from this compelling era. Originally built as judiciary offices between 1560 and 1580, the Uffizi Gallery now hosts some of the world’s greatest artworks, the vast majority of its collection donated by the Medici on the condition that these pieces never leave Florence. Though the Uffizi features, in chronological order, an extensive compilation of artwork dating from ancient Greek sculptures to 18th century paintings, the highlight of this Florence museum and reason for many travelers’ visits is the work of the Renaissance era’s most prominent artists including Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Don’t miss the Uffizi’s most visited room by far, the Botticelli room, numbered 10-14, which features his best known paintings of The Birth of Venus and Primavera for his elegance and depiction of spring. Meander down the corridors of priceless works and feel inspired by the ingenuity of these pieces. To catch a break from uncovering the treasures of the Renaissance, head for the rooftop cafe for some fresh air and views over the city. The long queues to enter the Uffizi Gallery prove this to be the most visited museum in Florence, and one of the most popular museums in Italy.

Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

Carved from a single block of white marble, Michelangelo’s Statue of David created between 1501 and 1504 is the focal point of Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia. The city’s second most visited museum after the Uffizi Gallery, the Galleria dell’Accademia attracts art aficionados from the world over to witness the sculptures and paintings by the most influential artists of the Renaissance. Witness the grandeur of the biblical hero of David, a gleaming masterpiece depicting his strength and courage before his battle with Goliath, as described in 1 Samuel. Armed solely with a sling over his left shoulder and rock gripped tightly in his right hand, David’s expression conveys concentration and displays his faith in God in guiding him to win this battle. Allow time to wander down the hall leading from the Tribune that proudly displays David and admire Michelangelo’s series of four unfinished sculptures, The Slaves, which accompany his nude warrior. Appreciate the bold and powerful stances of the Slaves, who appear to be struggling to free themselves from being trapped in the marble. Be sure to budget time to peruse the walls of the main hall adorned with artwork by Allori and Orcagna, other notable painters of the Renaissance era featured in this Florence museum.

Galleria Borghese, Rome

A fine collection of paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael, and selection of exquisite sculptures by Bernini were handpicked and carefully curated by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a knowledgeable and dedicated art collector in his day. Originally housed in his residence just outside St. Peter’s, Borghese’s collection is now set inside the lavish Villa Borghese, its floors vibrantly decorated in Roman mosaics and its walls and ceilings adorned by elaborate frescoes. With two floors of 15th to 18th century art, spend an afternoon discovering the internationally acclaimed collection of sculptures on the ground level, and then head upstairs to the picture gallery for works of art by Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens and Botticelli. Among the extensive highlights of this art museum, keep an eye out for Bernini’s Rape of Proserpina and Canova’s Venus Victrix. For a breath of fresh air, take a stroll through the villa’s immaculately landscaped gardens, also known to be one of three largest green spaces in Rome. Travelers who can only afford the time for one Rome museum should make it the Galleria Borghese. Be sure to pre-book entry online, as number of visitors to the museum are limited and are only admitted at two hour intervals.

Vatican Museums, Vatican City

The Vatican Museums, adjacent to St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, were founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Comprised of a succession of rooms that house an extensive collection of art personally gathered by the Popes, the collection expanded over the centuries. The one place not to be missed here is the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s monumental masterpiece of The Last Judgement, as well as frescoes that adorn the chapel’s high vaulted ceiling. Witness the mesmeric nine panels of paintings that cover an area of 800 square meters and vividly depict the stories of the Book of Genesis. Perhaps the most famous panel of all is the Creation of Adam, in which God brings him to life by pointing his finger at Adam. See the image that has become an icon of Western art, and roam the sacred grounds of the Sistine Chapel, as it is still used today by the cardinals of the Catholic Church to elect a new pope.

Doge’s Palace, Venice

Step inside Doge’s Palace, an exquisite example of Venetian style Gothic architecture, and discover how this structure became the representation of Venice’s culture. In its day, Doge’s Palace served three primary purposes. It was the seat of the Doge, the Venetian Republic’s ruling authority, as well as the Doge’s residence and palace of justice. It was the site where the fate of the Republic was determined. Tour the lavish living spaces of the Doge, admire its walls hung with noteworthy pieces of art by Titian and Veronese, and walk through decorated halls of elegant sculptures to the Golden Staircase, the set of steps below an ornate gilded stucco ceiling leading to the Doge’s Apartment. Traipse through spacious courtyards and come to the grim of the palace dungeons. Don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs, a gleaming white marble bridge that connects the palace to its prisons. As the city’s most important historical site, Doge’s Palace is not to be missed for those traveling to Venice.

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