Best Museums in Italy – the unmissable ones 

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Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Laura Teso

Italy is a treasure trove of art and history, and we have tons of museums (over 5000). Some of them are surely among the most visited in the world. I thought of listing the most important ones, so that you can browse them, according to your travel plans. I won’t include archeological sites in this article (maybe I’ll write a separate post in the future). 

Best Museums in northern Italy

Venice

The Gallerie dell’Accademia house a collection of Venetian art from the 14th to the 19th centuries. It displays over 2,500 paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Among its masterpieces it includes Renaissance works by Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione, carpaccio, Bellini and Veronese. I wrote a post for you to find out the highlights of the museum: highlights of the Gallerie dell’Accademia.

Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi
Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi

The Peggy Guggenheim collection is a museum of modern and contemporary art located in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice. It houses a collection of over 250 artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings by some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The museum’s collection is particularly strong in works by Surrealist, Cubist, and Abstract Expressionist artists. Photo below: Peggy Guggenheim photo by Joanbanjo via Wikimedia Commons.

Peggy Guggenheim Venice

Ca’ Rezzonico, also known as the Museum of Venice’s 18th Century, is a palazzo on the Grand Canal, once the home of the wealthy Rezzonico family. Today, it houses a huge collection of artworks, including paintings by Canaletto, Tiepolo, and Longhi. The palazzo is a beautiful example of Venetian Baroque architecture. Its interior is full of lavish stucco works, frescoes, and tapestries. 

Ca' Rezzonico
Ca’ Rezzonico

Fortuny Museum houses a collection of works by Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, a Spanish painter, designer, and photographer who lived in this Gothic Palazzo from 1899 to 1949. The museum’s collection includes Fortuny’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and tapestries. It also includes his designs for textiles, costumes, and lamps.

Fortuny Museum in Venice
Fortuny Museum in Venice

Venice has other wonderful museums for you to explore, according to your taste and the time you’ve got during your stay. I suggest you browse on my blog to find out all the other articles about Venice. Of course, there’s also the Doge’s Palace

Verona

Castelvecchio Museum is housed in a medieval castle, built between 1354 and 1356 by Cangrande II della Scala. The museum’s collection spans a period of over 500 years, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Among the most important works of art in the collection are paintings by Pisanello, Rubens, and Veronese.

Bridge of Castelvecchio Museum
Bridge of Castelvecchio Museum

Mantova

Palazzo Ducale is a vast and magnificent Renaissance palace in the center of Mantua. It was the residence of the Gonzaga family, who ruled the city from the 14th century until their fall in the 18th century. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy. The Palazzo is home to a vast collection of art and artifacts. Its most famous artwork is Mantegna’s frescoes cycle in the Camera degli Sposi. Photo below: Palazzo Ducale Mantova by BMK via Wikimedia Commons.

Palazzo Te is a 16th-century villa in the suburbs of Mantua. It is an example of the Mannerist style of architecture. The most famous artworks in the villa are the frescoes by Giulio Romano in the Sala dei Giganti.

Milano

Pinacoteca di Brera Milano is a national art gallery in Milan, housing a collection of over 400 paintings dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries, with a particular focus on Italian art. The gallery’s most famous works include Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew” and Raphael’s “The Marriage of the Virgin.” 

Castello Sforzesco: This historic castle is home to a number of museums. I confess that I went there just to admire the last work (unfinished) by Michelangelo, the so-called Pietà Rondanini. It is located in the area of the ancient Spanish Hospital, in the Cortile delle Armi. To me it was a breathtaking experience. 

Cenacolo Vinciano: This museum is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, located in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Photo below by Dimitris Kamaras via Wikimedia Commons.

Torino

The Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino is a film museum inside the Mole Antonelliana, a 167.5-meter-tall (552 ft) brick structure that was originally designed as a synagogue. The museum’s collection includes over 8,000 objects related to the history of cinema, from early cameras and projectors to props and costumes from famous films. It also has a number of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn about the filmmaking process.

Mole Antonelliana
Mole Antonelliana

Museo Egizio Torino is the oldest and largest museum of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt. It houses a vast collection of artifacts dating from predynastic times to the Roman period, including sarcophagi, papyri, and sculptures. 

Egyptian Museum Turin
Egyptian Museum Turin

Also the The Musei Reali are worth a visit. In the following article you can learn more about what to do in Turin

Surroundings of Turin

The Castello di Rivoli Museum is a contemporary art museum housed in a 17th-century castle in Rivoli. It is one of the largest museums of contemporary art in Italy, and has a permanent collection of over 4,000 works by artists from around the world. 

Venaria Reale was once the hunting lodge and summer residence of the Dukes of Savoy. It is considered one of the most magnificent examples of Baroque architecture in Italy. The complex is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. Photo below by Zairon via Wikimedia Commons.

Trentino

The MUSE is a science museum located in Trento. It houses a collection of over 500,000 objects related to the natural world, from dinosaurs and fossils to rocks and minerals. The museum also has a number of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn about the science behind the exhibits. 

MART stands for Museum of Modern and Contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto, Trentino, Italy. It is one of the largest and most important museums of modern and contemporary art in Italy, with a collection of over 20,000 works by artists from around the world. The museum’s collection spans from the late 1800s to the present day. The building itself is remarkable, by architest Mario Botta.

Best Museums in central Italy 

Firenze 

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is one of the most famous and popular art museums in the world. It houses a collection of over 2,000 paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, spanning from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century. The museum’s collection is particularly strong in Italian Renaissance art, with works by artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. 

While in Florence, you’ll have the opportunity to visit several amazing and unmissable museums. For example Gallerie dell’Accademia (housing the original David by Michelangelo), Palazzo Pitti, and Palazzo Vecchio. I particularly love Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (cover photo), Museo del Bargello and also the Cappelle Medicee by Michelangelo

Giuliano de' Medici, Night and Day
Giuliano de’ Medici, Night and Day

Roma

The Galleria Borghese is a museum with a collection of Baroque and Renaissance art, including works by Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian. It is located in a beautiful villa inside the Borghese Gardens. It also houses one of my personal favorite paintings of all times: Amor Sacro e Amor Profano di Tiziano, Sacred and Profane Love by Titian. Photo below by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons.

Musei Vaticani Roma are a vast complex of galleries housing a collection amassed by the Catholic Church over the centuries. It includes works by some of the most famous artists in history, such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. The highlight are without doubt the Sistine Chapel and the Rooms frescoed by Raffaello (photo below by Photo by Sonse via Wikimedia Commons.

MAXXI is the National Museum of the Arts of the 21st Century, housed in a building designed by archistar Zaha Hadid. The museum’s collection spans from the late 1960s to the present day. It includes paintings, sculptures, installations, and new media works.

Tivoli

Villa Adriana and Villa D’Este are two ancient Roman villas located in Tivoli, near Rome. Villa Adriana was built by the Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, and is a vast complex of buildings, gardens, and pools. It is considered one of the most important examples of Imperial Roman architecture and design. Villa D’Este was built by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este in the 16th century. It is a popular tourist destination and is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance gardens in Italy. Photos by Palickap via Wikimedia Commons.

Best Museums in southern Italy

Napoli

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN) is one of the world’s largest and most important museums of ancient art. It houses a vast collection of artifacts dating from the 8th century BC to the 1st century AD, including Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sculptures, mosaics, and pottery. The museum is located in the former Bourbon Royal Palace. I’m not that into archeology but this was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.  

Another true gem in Naples is the Museo Cappella Sansevero Cristo Velato, i.e. the veiled Christ, a life-sized marble sculpture of Christ, with a translucent veil covering his face and body. The veil is so lifelike that it seems true. I was flabbergasted (I learnt this word watching Downton Abbey).

Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte is a vast museum complex located on a hilltop in Naples. It houses a vast collection of art, from medieval to contemporary, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and furniture. You can admire works by artists such as Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Luca Giordano. The museum is also home to a beautiful park which offers stunning views of the city and the bay. Pic by Mentnafunangann via Wikimedia Commons.

Caserta

The Reggia di Caserta dates back to the 18th century. A masterpiece of Baroque architecture, it once was the Royal Palace of the Bourbons of Naples. It still is the largest royal residence in the world (over 47,000 square meters). The Reggia is a complex of buildings (throne room, royal chapel, royal apartments, and galleries). The palace park is a vast Italian-style garden that extends over 120 hectares. But to me the best part was the English garden. Amazing. Pic below by Carlo Pelagalli via Wikimedia Commons.

Reggio Calabria

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria houses artifacts from the ancient Greek colonies of Magna Graecia. The museum’s collection is one of the most important in the world. It includes sculptures, vases, jewelry, and other objects. The highlight are the Riace Bronzes, a pair of life-size bronze statues of Greek warriors found off the coast of Calabria in 1972.

Palermo

The Galleria Regionale della Sicilia “Palazzo Abatellis” is a museum located in the heart of Palermo, Sicily. It houses a vast collection of artworks dating from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The museum’s most famous exhibit is the Trionfo della Morte, a large fresco that depicts the dance of death. The museum is also home to a number of other notable artworks. Such as the Annunciation by Antonello da Messina and the Adoration of the Magi by Caravaggio.


I know, there are tons of museums in Italy. So I couldn’t list them all. I had a hard time to select those I think are the best museums in Italy, the highlights, the must-see ones. But there are many other absolutely stunning galleries to visit in each Italian city, including mine, Padua.

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