Best museums in Italy for art lovers

Italy is full of wonderful museums for art lovers to enjoy, including the home of Renaissance art, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

By Andy Stevens

Published 5 May 2024

You can do a lot worse than stepping foot in the country's incredible art galleries when you next visit Italy.

Florence's famous Uffizi Gallery is as important and inspirational in the history of the home of Renaissance art as it is imposing.

The building has been a majestic presence on Florence's cityscape near the central Piazza della Signoria since 1581, and it remains an enduring symbol of the all-powerful hand of Florence's most famous dynasty, the Medici family.

Quite simply, Uffizi is one of the world's greatest art galleries and is permanent home to a significant number of the timeless works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Giotto and Botticelli to name a few.

Owing to its overwhelming popularity on the tourist trail, it's wise to time your visit correctly to avoid the queues; late afternoon is best, and outside the high summer season is also advised.

With this in mind, your walk among the halls and corridors to admire Uffizi's peerless collections, including glimpses of the famed Ponte Vecchio on the River Arno, nearby gardens and rolling Tuscan hills, will be your unforgettable reward.

Galleria dell'Accademia is where you will get your finest Florentine fix of the genius of Michelangelo's sculptures.

First and unequalled among these is the father of them all, Michelangelo's David, which has called the Galleria home since 1873, shortly after Italy became a unified nation.

There are seven of Michelangelo's masterworks in total, including St Mathew, originally destined for the front of Florence's Duomo cathedral, Pieta di Palestrina and the powerful quartet of unfinished Prigioni (namely, 'Prisoners' or 'Slaves'), which are visceral in their impact on the viewer.

This is as much in the sense of craftsmanship which they still convey of the great Michelangelo at work, as in their subject matter.

You can also enjoy works by Botticelli, Gozzoli, Perugino and others in the Galleria dell'Accademia, which you'll find in Florence’s 16th century Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, to the south of the city's Piazza San Marco.

Lovers of landscapes inspired by the beauty of rural Tuscany will have a field day in the Giovanni Fattori museum, housed in the graceful and ornate 18th-century Villa Mimbelli in the Tuscan port city of Livorno.

Fattori was the chief proponent of the Macchiaioli school of impressionist art in the late 19th century. His finest works are on display in the villa, along with other studies by Tuscan artists from that time and through to the 20th century, with many works showcasing the region's glorious countryside.

Aside from the art collections, the museum is lavishly decorated over two floors with 18th-century-style furnishings, draperies and frescoes.

It's hard to work out where to start and finish if you're an art lover in Rome, especially on a short visit. Like Florence, the Italian capital can often feel like a big living, breathing art gallery all in itself.

Modern Romans in the know, however, would give you a nod (if you're lucky) and point you in the direction of the city's Museo e Galleria Borghese.

Home to the Galleria Borghese is a stunning 17th century villa; small and manageable by Roman tourist standards, although that again means it's essential to choose your visiting time wisely. It still gets busy, and pre-booking with a designated entry time is the order of the day.

But it's worth a little pre-planning to sample this fabulous gallery's immersive artistic experience.

You will find Roman floor mosaics from the 4th century, frescoes, neoclassical decor from the 1600s, Bernini sculptures of pagan myths, and an art collection comprising incomparable works by Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Canova, Correggio and Perugino among others.

Perugia's magnificent Palazzo dei Priori has been the grand and imposing home of the Galleria Nazionale, hosting the finest collection of works from the Umbrian School of painting since 1873.

And the vast collection, spanning some 40 galleries, conveys the development of artistic movements in Umbria from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance and all the way to the 19th century.

You will find masterpieces by Pisano, Gozzoli, Perugino and Pinturicchio to name but a few.

Mediums other than painting from Umbria's rich artistic heritage are also to the fore in the gallery's vast collection, including wood and stone sculptures, ceramic tiles, Perugian tablecloths and priceless artworks by the renowned goldsmiths, synonymous with the city of Siena.

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