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Italy Museums

Ara Pacis Museum

The Ara Pacis Museum is an aggressive modern structure housing the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) consecrated by the Roman Senate on January 30 in 9 BC. The 2006 museum, designed by American architect Richard Meier, was not well received in Italy or abroad, and Meier eventually agreed to modify it. His hallmark columns and expanses of glass are untouched, however, as is the richly-detailed altar they exult. 

Lungotevere in Augusta, 011-39-06-060608, www.arapacis.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | art

Carnevale and Mardi Gras

Venice is famous for its masked celebrations, but the seaside town of Viareggio is equally worth a visit at carnival time. Started in 1873, the Viareggio revelries now feature huge papier-mâché satirical floats that parade along the seafront promenade for five Sundays between late January and early March (dates vary). At other times of the year, projects and miniature models of the most memorable floats can be seen in a dedicated museum.

22 Piazza Mazzini, Tuscany, 011-39-0584-962-233, www.viareggio.ilcarnevale.com (Italian only)
Tags: family | museum

Castel Sant' Angelo

This round tower-like building began as the emperor Hadrian’s tomb, then became a castle under papal rule, then a fortress and later a prison. The name comes from the story that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the structure in 590 BC, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague. Climb to the top to appreciate superb views of Rome.

Lungotevere Castello 50, 011-39-06-681-9111, www.castelsantangelo.com (Italian only)
Tags: architecture | culture | museum | things to do | views | history

CCCS

The Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS) is part of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and was created as a showcase for different approaches, practices and trends in contemporary art and culture both locally and internationally. The 11-room exhibition space is located in the former cellars under the magnificent courtyard of the Palazzo.

Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Tuscany, 011-39-055-277-6461, www.strozzina.org
Tags: culture | museum | trendy | things to do | art

Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

No visit to Italy is complete without a trip to the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa, whose construction began in 1173 but was soon interrupted because the ground was giving way, causing the tower's famous tilt. Advance ticket reservations are highly recommended, especially for visits during peak tourist seasons. The Tower is situated behind a Romanesque cathedral, also worth a visit.

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Tuscany, www.opapisa.it
Tags: architecture | culture | museum | things to do | history | art | editor pick

Doria Pamphilj Gallery

Less well-known and an insider favorite is the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, a museum housed in a 16th-century palazzo still owned by the same noble family who built it and filled the ornate rooms with their treasures. The painting collection includes seminal works by Velázquez and Titian.

Via del Corso 305, 011-39-06-679-7323, www.doriapamphilj.it
Tags: gallery | museum | things to do | art

Egyptian Museum

Turin's Museo Egizio is one of the earliest and most important collections of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt. The Rock Temple of Ellessiya was presented to the museum by the Egyptian government as a token of gratitude for Italian efforts to save monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam.

6 Via Accademia delle Scienze, Turin, Piedmont, 011-39-011-561-7776, www.museoegizio.it
Tags: museum | history | art

Galleria dell'Accademia

This a must-stop for Michelangelo's iconic David and his powerful unfinished slaves meant for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Yet most visitors fail to appreciate the museum's Gothic and Renaissance paintings and its remarkable collection of musical instruments. Late openings are usually scheduled on one or two nights weekly throughout the summer months.

58-60 Via Ricasoli, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8612, www.firenzemusei.it/accademia
Tags: museum | things to do | history | art | editor pick

Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola

Each of Genoa’s 20-plus museums bears witness to the city’s merchant and trade history and the fantastic Galleria Nazionale, which houses masterpieces by Giordano, da Messina, and Reni, is no exception.

Piazza Pellicceria 1, 011-39-0102-705-300, www.palazzospinola.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | art

Gallerie Dell'Accademia

This world-renowned museum (Venice’s largest) houses an excellent collection of pre-18th-century art, including several must-see pieces like Titian’s Pieta, Giorgione’s Tempest, and Da Vinci’s Dorsoduro.

Campo della Carità, 011-39-041-522-2247, www.gallerieaccademia.org
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art

Ipogeo dei Volumni

One of the finest Etruscan tombs in Italy. Visit the underground chamber filled with cinerary urns – an entire family clan is buried here. The tomb is decorated with carved reliefs, including Medusa heads.

3 miles south of Perugia, Umbria,
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | art

Jewish Museum

Rome’s Jewish Museum first opened in 1960 next to the city’s Great and Spanish Synagogues. It showcases the traditions, religion, and history of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world through displays, objets d’art, films, and special exhibitions. After extensive refurbishing, it reopened in 2005 with active programs for research and education.

Lungotevere Cenci, 011-39-06-68400661, www.museoebraico.roma.it
Tags: architecture | museum | things to do | history | arts and culture

MACRO

Testaccio, the former meatpacking district on the southern end of the city, is one of the edgiest of Rome's reinvented areas, home to new arrivals like the MACRO, a comprehensive collection of Italian art from the 1960s on, which opened in 2003. Its newer wing, MACRO Testaccio, opened in 2007 in an adjacent former slaughterhouse.

Via Reggio Emilia 54, 011-39-06-671-070-400, en.macro.roma.museum
Tags: museum | things to do

Maxxi Museum

Located on the northern outskirts of the historic city center behind an old factory complex, Maxxi has given Rome a showstopping national venue for contemporary art. The building opened in the spring of 2010, but had become a major critical success before its official debut. Architectural critics praised Zaha Hadid’s project, a decade in the making, for its sweeping modern lines, a cantilevered, glass-fronted box at the entrance, and a series of glass-topped tunnels letting natural light into the exhibition spaces. 

Via Guido Reni 4A, 011-39-06-3996-7350, www.maxxi.darc.beniculturali.it
Tags: museum | things to do

Museo di Palazzo Reale

The Palazzo Reale museum is worth a visit for its lavish Roccoco rooms stuffed with classical paintings, tapestries, and ceramics.

Via Balbi 10, 011-39-271-0236, www.palazzorealegenova.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | art

Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Originally the headquarters of the town's top magistrate and prison, the Bargello became a museum in 1865 and now houses the most comprehensive collection of Donatello’s sculptural works, plus pieces by other Renaissance greats like Cellini, Verrocchio, Giambologna, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Michelangelo. The ticket is a bargain and queues are not a problem. Closed 2nd and 4th Mondays. It’s a good idea to send an email (firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com) in advance to book tickets and find out any changes in opening hours. 

Via del Proconsolo 4, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8606, www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/bargello
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art | great value | editor pick

Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli opened his house to the public for the Milan National Exhibition in 1881. His eclectic collection includes paintings (and a tapestry!) by Botticelli, tapestries, jewelry, and weapons. Frequent temporary shows ensure the museum’s leading role in Milan’s art scene.

Via Manzoni 12, 011-39-02-796-334, www.museopoldipezzoli.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | art

Pinacoteca Brera

The Brera Art Gallery, originally set up by Napoleon, is home to an important collection of works including Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin and Piero della Francesca’s Madonna with Angels.

Via Brera 28, 011-39-02-722-631
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art

Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

Built by Luca Pitti and later bought by the Medici, the palace contains five museums: the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Museo degli Argenti, and the Porcelain Museum. The 79-acre Boboli Gardens rank among the world's finest landscaped gardens. Buy the three-day combined ticket if you plan on visiting the whole complex.

Piazza Pitti 1, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8786, www.polomuseale.firenze.it
Tags: museum | things to do | history | art | editor pick

Puccini's birthplace

Visit the home of Giacomo Puccini, the great composer of operas Madam Butterfly, La Boheme, and Turandot. Situated in Lucca, his home is now a museum containing an assortment of personal items including original librettos of his early operas and his piano. In nearby Torre del Lago, catch the Puccini Festival (www.puccinifestival.it), an annual line-up of performances and events.

Corte San Lorenzo,9, Via di Poggio, Toscana, 011-39-0583-584-028
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history

Santa Croce

Famed as the Pantheon of Italian Greats, Florence’s Franciscan basilica houses the tombs of the likes of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. Every nave, sacristy, and cloister contains masterpieces – notably Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel and Giotto's groundbreaking frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels. The unremarkable façade is a 19th-century addition.

Piazza Santa Croce 16, Tuscany, 011-39-055-246-6105, www.santacroceopera.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art | religious

The Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery in the Villa Borghese is an absolute must-see, with one of the world's most beautiful statuary collections, including the Bernini masterpieces Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of Proserpina. It's hard to find better examples of a true genius creating a sense of movement in unwieldy marble. You must reserve your ticket ahead of time as visitors plan tours months in advance.

Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 011-39-06-841-3979, www.galleriaborghese.it
Tags: museum | things to do | editor pick

The Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore was built to Arnolfo di Cambio's design starting September 8, 1296. Added in 1436, Brunelleschi's iconic dome is well worth both the almost $12 ticket and the 463-step climb. The remains of the former Santa Reparata cathedral can be seen at a lower level, while the façade dates from the 19th century.

Piazza del Duomo, Tuscany, 011-39-055-230-2885, www.operaduomo.firenze.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | religious | editor pick

The Last Supper

The 15th-century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is famed for housing Da Vinci's mural The Last Supper and is a World Heritage site. The celebrated painting survived both a bomb attack in 1943 and the hoards of tourists who appeared in the wake of Dan Brown’s book. Make reservations at least four weeks in advance.

Corso Magenta, Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie 2, 011-39-02-8942-1146 or 011-39-02-9280-0360, www.cenacolovinciano.net
Tags: architecture | culture | museum | things to do | history | art | jim's pick

Uffizi Gallery

Built by Vasari in 1560 as the Medici administrative offices (hence their name), the Uffizi are home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's Tondo Doni, Da Vinci’s Annunciation, and Caravaggio's Medusa to name but a few.  If you are an art lover, allow a full day, but even a dilettante can easily spend a few hours here. 

Piazzale degli Uffizi, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8651, www.uffizi.firenze.it
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art

Villa Petraia

This famous villa is worth visiting for its medieval tower, 19th-century rooms, and art, including an excellent bronze statue by Ammanati, and outside frescoes depicting Medici family exploits.

19 miles north of Florence, Via della Petraia 40, Tuscany,
Tags: culture | museum | history | day trip

Volterra

One of the twelve cities of the Etruscan confederation, Volterra stands in a commanding position over the Cecina and Era valleys, surrounded by cyclopic walls incorporating the imposing Porta dell'Arco gateway. Don't miss the Vallebuona archaeological site with the Roman Theatre (still in use) and the famous “Evening Shadow” votive bronze statue in the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum.

20 Piazza dei Priori (Tourist Information Office), Volterra, Tuscany, 011-39-058-887-257, www.volterratur.it
Tags: museum | sculpture

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