Top 7 Museums in Rome

Seven of the best museums in Rome.

1. Capitoline Museums
Piazza del Campidoglio 1
000186
Tel: +39-06-671.02.071+39-06-671.02.071

The Capitoline Museums, which is considered one of the oldest public museums in the world, contains works from the Roman era, but also some pieces from Medieval Ages, the Renaissance and the baroc era.

The Museum of the Palazzo dei Conservatori contains a collection of antique art which includes the She-Wolf (Lupa Capitolina).

2. Vatican Musems
Entrance: Viale Vaticano

The Vatican Museums include the:

Museo Pio-Clementino: Greek and Roman antiquities

Sala della Biga

Museo Etrusco: among other pieces, a remarkable gold fibula and the Mars found at Todi.

The four Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Rafaello): a renaissance masterpiece decorated by Raphael and his pupils from 1508 to 1517.

Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina): the vault painted by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512 illustrates the Bible, the Creation, the Flood and above the altar the Last Judgement, added in 1534.

Pinacoteca: the picture gallery also contains some impressive works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.

3. Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia
Piazzale di Villa Giuglia 9
00196 Roma
Tel: +39-06-320.562+39-06-320.562

Julius III’s  elegant villa features an impressive collection of artifacts from the Etruscans, the people who inhabited Italy before the Romans. More about the Etruscan museum at Villa Giulia.

4. Museo Nazionale Romano
Palazzo Altemps
Piazza Sant’Apollinare 44
000186 Roma
Tel: +39-06-399.677.00+39-06-399.677.00
Tue-Sun: 9.00-19.45

Roman and Greek sculptures

5. Museo e Galleria Borghese
Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5
000197 Roma
Tel: +39-06-841.39.79+39-06-841.39.79

The superb 17th century villa hosts a collection of paintings from antiquity to the 19th century.

6. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica

Palazzo Barberini
Via delle quatro fontane 13
District: Quirinal and Via Veneto

Illusionistic ceiling by Pietro da Cortona among other 1700 artistic works.

and

Palazzo Corsini
Via della Lungara, 10

Paintings by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio and Van Dyck.

7. Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano
Vittoriano
Piazza Venezia
00186 Roma
Tel: +39-06-679.35.98+39-06-679.35.98/26

A museum recommended for those who want to know more about the history of Italy.

Rome’s Talking Statues – between reality, poetry and legend

Talking Statue Il Babuino

Talking Statue Il Babuino

 

The Talking Statues of Rome are probably one of the city’s most underrated figures. Iconic of the vox populi, they have a remarkable history, yet are often overlooked by tourists and passersby.

The Talking Statues got their name from the fact that people made them ‘talk’ by attaching caustic and satirical messages to their pedestal as a form of anonymous protest against the religious and civil authorities of the city. The statues were a kind of informal representatives of the people of Rome at a time when ordinary people were not supposed to express protest or criticism in public. The tradition continues to the present day, with suggestions, witticisms and claims being posted to the statues.

 

talking statue pasquino

Pasquino. Photo: rfarmer

 

This unconventional form of communication originated in the 16th century with the statue known as il Pasquino, a Hellenistic-style statue in Piazza di Pasquino, a little square south of Piazza Navona. The anonymous messages – usually written in Roman dialect or Latin – became known as pasquinate, which later gave rise to the English word pasquinade, a satirical protest in poetry posted in a public place.

Rome counts six talking statues. Apart from the Pasquino statue, there is also Babuino, in the eponymous street, Il Facchino in Via Lata, Madama Lucrezia in Piazza San Marco, close to the Palazzetto Venezia, Abbot Luigi in Sant’ Andrea della Valle and Marforio, now in the courtyard of Palazzo Nuovo on the Capitoline Hill.

 

Pasquino talking statue

Pasquino

 

The statue of Pasquino was found in the 15th century in Piazza Navona, but in such a dilapidated state that nobody cared to own it. So, it was placed at the corner of Palazzo Orsini – demolished in 1791 and replaced by Palazzo Braschi – and still stands there today.

 

fachino-b

 

Il Facchino was originally located on Via del Corso, on the main façade of Palazzo de Carolis Simonetti, which houses the Banco di Roma. In 1874 it was moved to its current position in Via Lata, on a side façade of the same building, to protect it from pollution. Created in 1580, it is the youngest of the Talking Statues, as it is ‘only’ 432 years old, while the other talking statues date from Ancient Rome. It represents an acquarolo, a man carrying a barrel who would take water from the Tiber and sell it from door to door at a time when the Roman aqueducts were under repair and the city’s fountains were dry.

 

talking statue fachino

Il Facchino by kuaptic

 

The tradition of posting these pasquinades to the statues started in 1501 when Cardinal Oliviero Carafa organized a sort of Latin literary competition where poems were posted on the Pasquino statue. The latter is actually a fragment of a statue that originally belonged to a group of statues, dating back to the 3 C. BC, representing Menelaus holding the body of Patroclus dying. The statue (and the square) were later nicknamed ‘Pasquino’, after a tailor with a particularly witty sense of humor who was known to be very eloquent with his criticism of the papal government and lived in the neighborhood.

Occasionally poems were also posted outside the competition period, as these pasquinades were a very effective way to criticize the papacy and city governors without risking reprisals at a time when the free press did not exist. Especially during the conclaves, the tradition was very popular, with new gossips being posted every night to influence the election of the new pope. The anonymous authors of the poems were often very close to the pope and had direct knowledge of confidential information.

One of the most famous pasquinades is without doubt the one dedicated to Urban VIII Barberini (1623-1644), the pope who allowed to use the bronze decorations of the Pantheon for the canopy of San Pietro in Vatican.

Quod non fecerunt Barbari
fecerunt Barberini.
What the Barbarians did not do
the Barberini did.

The custom spread to other statues when authorities posted guards by the Pasquino to prevent people from posting notes. As a result the public started leaving notes on other statues, as well. These other statues, especially Marforio and Madame Lucrezia, were sometimes also used to post responses to writings posted on Pasquino, creating a repartee and on-going dialogues between the two statues.

 

talking statue Madama Lucrezia

Madama Lucrezia. Photo by zak mc

One famous dialogue was posted in protest against Napoleon, who notoriously plundered the cities of their artistic and archeological treasures after defeating them.

Marforio: È vero che i francesi sono tutti ladri?
Pasquino: Tutti no, ma BonaParte!

Marforio: Is it true that all Frenchmen are thieves?
Pasquino: No, not all of them, but a Great Deal of them
(a word play on Napoleon’s name and the Roman dialect for buona parte – a great deal).

 

Marforio talking statue

Marforio

 

Another dialogue between Marforio and Pasquino relates to the fact that Marforio was moved from his original spot, next to the Church Santi Luca e Martina, to his current location in the courtyard of Palazzo Nuovo. The cost of moving the statue was so huge that the Pope, who then ruled the city, increased the tax on wine to collect the required funds. Marforio complained to Pasquino that the Romans would have to give up their wine so that he could preside over a fountain.

 

Marforio talking statue

Marforio

 

The statue of Madama Lucrezia, the only female talking statue of Rome, was probably named after Lucrezia d’Alagno, mistress of Alfonso V d’Aragona, King of Naples. After the death of her lover, Lucrezia moved from Naples to Rome and lived in the very neighborhood where the statue is now located, on Piazza San Marco in the angle of Palazzo Venezia and the Palazzetto. Originally, the statue may have been part of the Temple of Isis, which stood on the Campus Martius, before it was donated to the King’s mistress.

 

madama-lucrezia-talking-statue-b

 

Until recently, most of Rome’s Talking Statues were in a terribly deteriorated state, but a residents’ association of the historic center of Rome and an Authority in charge of the conservation and appreciation of the City’s cultural assets undertook to restore the statues. The initiative covers, more specifically, the statues of Madama Lucrezia, Abbot Luigi, Pasquino and the Facchino. Ironically, it is the first time that inhabitants and Institutions will cooperate on a project, and moreover, on one involving important symbols of Roman vox populi against authority.

 

Abbot Luigi

Abbot Luigi

 

(Updated version of an article previously published on and moved from SlowItaly.me)

Photo credits (top to bottom): all photos © Rome Bit by Bite, except: Pasquino by rfarmer; Pasquino by Iostajy; Facchino by kuaptic; Madama Lucrezia by zak mc; Marforio by Martin Yelverton; Marforio wide view by user:colin; Madame Lucrezia by Troels Myrup;

Top 7 Most Famous Cafes of Rome

The oldest, most famous and most elegant cafes of Rome

 

Caffe Greco Rome

Caffè Greco, Rome

 

Want to visit the oldest literary cafe in town, or just go for a drink in one of the iconic bars of Rome where celebrities have their cappuccino or aperitif ? Here is our list of the most famous, oldest and most elegant cafes in Rome.

 

1. Caffè Greco
Via Condotti 86
District: Spanish steps
Tel: +39-06-678.25.54

Caffe Greco Rome

Located in one of the most exclusive shopping streets of Rome, Via Condotti, this literary caffè comes first in our list, not so much for the quality of its coffee, but because it is one of the oldest in Rome. Looking a little dusty and worn out, the place is definitely worth a visit for its history.

 

caffe-greco-b

 

Walk inside, have a look around and have a coffee or cappuccino at the counter. The price charged for a caffè seduto (sitting at a table) is not really worth paying for, unless you are looking for some interesting place in the very center of town, where to sit down and spend some time writing, or reading, while doing some people watching. Then this is the place to be !

 

Caffe Greco Rome

 

2. Caffè della Pace
Piazza delle Pace 4
District: Piazza Navona
Tel: +39-06-686.12.16

Caffe della Pace Rome

 

Located in a beautiful small square just off Piazza Navona, this cafe is known for its clientele of painters, artists, writers and show business people. The terrace overlooks the church Sante Maria della Pace, while the indoor space consists of three charming little rooms in a mixed style of Baroque and Art Nouveau. It was in this cafe that the art movement Transavanguardia started.

 

Caffe della Pace Rome

 

3.  Café de Paris
Via V. Veneto 90
Tel: +39 06 4201 2257

 

Cafe de Paris, Rome

 

A very elegant, luxury cafe with a piano bar and an air of nostalgia. It is located on the famous Via Veneto, one of the most expensive streets in Rome, lined with luxury hotels and imposing mansions. Founded in 1956, Café de Paris was immortalized in 1960 in the movie La Dolce Vita by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, starring Anita Ekberg, Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimée. In the 1960s, the cafe was one of the preferred hangouts of starlets, nobility and rich business people.

 

Cafe de Paris Rome

 

The cafe reopened only in recent years after it had been closed down for two years, when it was discovered that it had been used as a front for money-laundering by the mafia. The iconic institution was confiscated by the state and is now run by the Agenzia nazionale per l’amministrazione e la destinazione dei beni confiscati (National Agency for the Administration and Allocation of Confiscated Properties).

They serve excellent coffee and decaf espresso. There is also an adjoining restaurant. The staff is very friendly; the barista went out of his way to prepare me a one-of-a-kind caffè schiumato.

 

cafe-de-paris-cafe-schiumato-b

 

4. Caffè Farnese
Via dei Baullari
District: Campo de’ Fiori
Tel: +39 06 6880 2125

caffe Farnese Rome

 

Located close to Palazzo Farnese (the French embassy), this elegant coffee house has a lovely terrace ideally situated on the quiet Piazza Farnese, close to Campo de’ Fiori.

 

caffe-farnese-2

 

5. Caffè Canova
Piazza del Popolo, 16-17
District: Piazza del Popolo
Tel: +39 06 361 2231

Caffe Canova Rome

 

6. Caffè Rosati
Piazza del Popolo 5A
District: Piazza del Popolo
Tel: +39-06-322.58.59
open daily from 7:30am to 11:30pm

 

caffe Rosati Rome

 

Located on the famous Piazza del Popolo, this Art Nouveau cafe founded in 1923 attracts an elegant, heterogeneous clientele. The venue tends to become more interesting at night. More renowned for its tramezzini and sandwiches – which are a delight to both the eye and the palate – than for the quality of its cappuccino.

 

7. Caffè S. Eustachio
Piazza S. Eustachio 82
District: Pantheon
Tel: +39-06-686.13.09

sant-eustachio-caffe

For decades this used to be THE coffee institution in Rome, where you could enjoy one of the best coffees in town. The place was renowned for its delicious Gran caffè and marrons glacés, their specialties. Our original review of Caffè Sant’Eustachio on this page in the early 2000s (with different lay-out), was nothing but praise. Due to the many other articles and reviews that followed across the net, the coffee house has become VERY touristy, and, sadly, the quality of their coffee has changed accordingly. Is it to suit the taste of the now mostly foreign clientele? The Gran caffè, which once used to be a double-sized coffee nectar, now boils down to a caffè (very) lungo and even the coffee taste is not as great as it once used to be.

 

Photo credits (top to bottom): all photos © Rome Bit by Bite, except Caffè Greco by A H T; Caffè Greco red velvet by gferez; Caffè della Pace by oemebamo; Caffè della Pace inside by Giovanni Morelli; Caffè Farnese (2nd photo) by p medved; Caffe Rosati by scalleja;

7 reasons to visit Villa Giulia: the masterpieces of Etruscan heritage in Rome

Villa Giulia Etruscan Museum

The National Etruscan Museum, hosted in Villa Giulia in Rome, boasts the world’s largest collection of Etruscan objects and antiquities.

The history of the Etruscans is both intriguing and paradoxical. Almost entirely overshadowed by Ancient Rome, the Etruscans nevertheless gave early Rome its first Kings and engineers, who built the Circus Maximus and one of the world’s earliest sewage systems that helped drain the local marshlands. This paved the way for Rome to grow from an early hill settlement to a city with palaces and temples that would reign over the Western World.

The Etruscan influence ended with the expulsion of the last Etruscan King, Tarquinius Superbus, marking the end of the Roman Kingdom and the beginning of the Roman Republic. Even though the Etruscan civilization was ultimately entirely absorbed by the Romans, it greatly influenced their culture. The Etruscan language gave loanwords such as the Latin persona (person) from phersu and place names such as Parma. See: extinct languages of Italy.

villa-giulia-first-court

The charming, mannerist Villa Giulia itself is also worth a visit. It was commissioned by Pope Julius (Giulio) III and designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati, together with Giorgio Vasari and Vignola in 1551-1553.

 

villa-giulia-ninfeo

The museum was created in 1889 with finds from the archaeological site of Falerii Veteres (now Civita Castellana, Lazio). The collection was later expanded with finds from excavations in Southern Etruria. Etruria covered an area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio, bordered by the Tiber in the South and East and by the Arno in the North. Further donations and acquisitions such as the Barberini collection (in 1908), the Castellani collection (in 1919) and the Pesciotti collection (in 1972) make the Villa Giulia museum the world’s most important representative of the Etruscan heritage.

Etruscan art is particularly renowned for its figurative sculpture in terracotta (especially technically challenging life-size figures), cast bronze and metalworking (including refined jewelry).

 

Etruscan jewelry

 

The masterpieces of the collection include:

 

1. The bilingual Pyrgi tablets (500 BC)

Pyrgi tablets

Pyrgi tablets, ca. 500 BC.

The rare and unusual Pyrgi tablets are a real treasure, both from a linguistic and a historical point of view. What makes the tablets so special is that they are bilingual: two tablets are written in Etruscan and translated into Phoenician on the third one, making it possible for researchers to use the Phoenician version to read and interpret the otherwise undecipherable Etruscan. The tablets date from the beginning of the 5th century BC and are the oldest historical source of pre-Roman Italy among the known inscriptions. They record a dedication of a temple to the Phoenician Goddess Astarte (also known as Ishtar) by Thefarie Velanias, the ruler of Caere (now Cerveteri). From a historical point of view this attests evidence of Phoenician or Punic influence in the Western Mediterranean.

 

2. The reconstructed temple-relief from Pyrgi illustrating the myth of the Seven against Thebes (470-460 BC)

The temple relief from Pyrgi depicts the myth of the Seven against Thebes, the third play in an Oedipus-themed trilogy produced by Aeschylus in 467 BC.

 

Temple relief from Pyrgi

Temple relief from Pyrgi – Detail of Tydeus eating Melanippus brain

 

A particularly gruesome detail of the temple relief shows Tydeus gnawing on the living brain of Melanippos in the course of the battle, when the armies of Polynices and Eteocles are fighting for Thebes.

 

3. The Sarcophagus of the Spouses (Sarcofago delgi Sposi) (530 BC)

 

The Sarcophagus is adorned with two figures representing a husband and wife on a couch as if they were at a banquet. Actually, while the object is generally referred to as the ‘sarcophagus’, its true function remains unclear. It may actually have been a large urn designed to contain the ashes of the deceased. We know that it is a funerary object because of the hand gesture of the woman, which reveals a ritual of offering perfume, which along with the sharing of wine, was a typical part of the funeral ceremony.

 

Etruscan sarcophagus of the spouses, Rome

Unlike in Greek culture, where banquets were reserved to men, Etruscan women, who held important positions in society, were represented by their husbands’ sides, in the same proportions and in a similar pose, showing their equal status. The expression of the faces, the soft areas of their bodies, the almond-shaped eyes and long braided hair indicate Greek Ionian influence. However, the marked contrast between the high relief busts and the very flattened legs, and the preference for stylistic effects over anatomical accuracy is typically Etruscan. Instead, the hands and feet are particularly well rendered.

 

Sarcophagus of the Spouses, Villa Giulia Etruscan Museum Rome

Sarcophagus of the Spouses

 

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses was made in the late 6th century, most probably by the same artist who made the Sarcophagus of Cerveteri, exhibited in the Louvre, Paris, which looks very similar.

 

4. The polychrome terracotta statues of Heracles and Apollo (c. 510 – 500 BC)

Apollo and Heracles Statues Villa Giulia

The over-life-size painted terracotta statues represent Heracles fighting the god Apollo for the Sacred Hind in the presence of Artemis and Hermes (however only the head of Hermes remains). Originally the statues were part of a four-figure scene representing one of the twelve labors (or dodekathlon) of the hero before his apotheosis among the divinities of Olympus. Discovered in 1916, the statues were commissioned by Tarquinius Superbus in about 510 – 500 BC to decorate the Temple of Veio in Portonaccio. It is attributed to Vulca, a famous Etruscan sculptor who was born in Veio.

 

apollo-statue-b

 

5. The Chigi Vase

 

The Chigi vase is one of the most important examples of proto-Corinthian art. The vase or olpe is an ancient wine decanter made in Corinth in about (640-625 BC) and brought to Veio, where it was discovered in 1882. It is a unique exemplar of grecian polychromatic painting found in Italy.

The technique used and the black figures are typical of that time, yet the brown, yellow and white colors are not. Among the scenes depicted is the Judgment of Paris and a battle. Scenes depicted on objects of that period showing this type of complexity are usually considered high ceramic art.The artist, active between 640 – 630 BC, is known as the Chigi Painter (Pittore dell’olpe Chigi). However, some authors favor the appellation “Macmillan Painter” after the perfume bottle (aryballos) with lion-head mouth from the Macmillan collection exhibited in the British Museum in London, attributed to the same artist.

 

6. The Castellani jewellery collection

The Castellani collection features one of the finest collections of antique jewellery in existence.

 

7. The Cista Ficoroni

Cista Ficoroni Villa Giulia

Heracles (right), Eros (center) and Iolaus (left). Foot of the “Cista Ficoroni”, an Etruscan bronze toilet box, 4th c. BC.

 

The Cista Ficoroni is a rare toilet and jewelry box used to store objects used for the care of the body. The cistae were usually cylindrical, with engraved decoration. The Ficoroni Cista, named after Francesco Ficoroni, an antiquarian who found it in Labico (now Lugnano) in 1738. It is the largest and most refined surviving example of a cista. Both the names of the artist and the person who ordered the cista, most probably as a wedding gift, appear in an archaic Latin inscription.

 

Cista Ficoroni

Cista Ficoroni

 

Photo credits (top to bottom): All photos © Rome Bit by Bite, except Villa Giulia first court by dalbera; Villa Giulia ninfeo by mmarftregjo; feet of the sarcophagus and Apollo statue by Klio; Sarcophagus by Fraaxe; Cista Ficoroni by Haiduc; Cista Ficoroni by Sailko;

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