Italy’s Top 5 Museums — Out of 3000! {Our Picks}

You probably already know that Italy is a land of museums. But did you know there are over 3000? And that the best time to visit them is in Autumn? Autumn here is usually warm, balmy, and without hordes of tourists! So come on over! 

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Great a boring list of museums!” But never fear! We’ve included interesting finds about them too, because we find mere lists pretty boring too!  So read on, and learn what makes these museums special! Learn, for instance, why the man who made one of Italy’s museums famous never even wanted the job?

The Vatican Museums

The most visited of the museums, they are a veritable treasure trove of art work. especially Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

[Image by Antoine TaveneauxOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia.]

Many think his painting of the Last Judgement on the chapel’s ceiling is both the museum’s best, and Michelangelo’s greatest achievement.

But did you know that Michelangelo never wanted the job of painting the frescoes? He considered himself a sculptor not a painter!

Wow, not bad from a non-painter! Wouldn’t you agree?

And another interesting fact: Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling frescos lying down, but standing on special scaffolding. But it must have still given him a stiff neck! In fact, describing the work, he said it caused him to grow a goiter, squashed his stomach up under his chin, and knotted his spine all up. He did not seem to enjoy the job!

But the Chapel has another important item too: a special chimney!

It lets the world know when a new pope has been elected. Ever since 1492, the Catholic church elects new popes in the chapel, during closed elections. While the outside world eagerly watches the moment when the chimney starts emitting white smoke instead of black, signaling that a new pope has been chosen. Imagine finding yourself at the Vatican in one of those historic moments!

[Source: The History Channel]


The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence

It’s one of the world’s oldest and most famous museums.

Uffizi Gallery

[Image by Chris Wee – originally posted to Flickr as Galleria degli Uffizi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia.]

The name Uffizi means Offices. The Medici family built it as offices for Florentine judges. Over time, it became a display place for the family’s many paintings and sculptures. An artwork collection that became so huge they had to move many pieces to other museums!

But one of the special characteristics of the building is its huge internal courtyard. Architectural historians call this huge courtyard the first regularized ¹streetscapes of Europe. Particularly because its far end is open, with the Arno River visible through a Doric screen.

Note: Streetscape refers to a method of designing urban streets and roads so that they will improve conditions of both the street users and the nearby residents. And this courtyard-street does indeed present a pretty view!

[Sources: Trip Italy, Uffizi.org]


The Accademia in Venice

This art museum has a rich collection of famous paintings, both Venetian and non. But what makes this museum interesting is that it’s actually housed in what was once an art school. And making it even more unusual, the church of Santa Maria and the monastery of the Canonici Lateranensi, are both integral parts of the Accademia.

[Source: Venice Museum Guide]


The National Archeological Museum in Naples

With its large collection of Roman artifacts, it’s one of the most important archeological museums in the world.

[Image by AlMareOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.]

It holds many unique treasures, such as rare artifacts from Pompeii, and a cork model of the city destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Although kids, in particular, may enjoy the Egyptian Collection with its mummies, like the one pictured here. This museum holds the 2nd largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy. (Only the Egyptian Museum in Turin has more.)

[Source: Weekend in Naples]


Santa Maria della Scala in Siena

We think this is the most interesting of the Italian museums, because of its original history. It now holds many famous frescoes and art pieces, but was one of Europe’s first hospitals!

[By Domenico di BartoloWeb Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

In fact, locals often refer to it as The Hospital. A charity hospital, it cared for abandoned children, the poor, the sick, and pilgrims.

It is one of the oldest surviving hospitals in the world.

But perhaps more than just the building survived. Because invalids and children under 11 can still enter free of charge! We like to think the caring spirit of the hospital, run on donations, lives on! And isn’t that really what museums are all about? Making history live?

[Sources: Discover Tuscany, Borghi di Toscana]


History has much to teach us, and museums are a great way to learn more! What have they taught you?

[Image of us in Rome: via our friend Maurizio in Rome; all rights reserved.]

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6 thoughts on “Italy’s Top 5 Museums — Out of 3000! {Our Picks}”

    1. That’s funny, because we have not been to many museums here! We’re not really museum people! Especially Italy’s kind – mostly full of old paintings. We did go through museums in Vienna on our 25th anniversary. But those were full of how the emperor lived. Those are more our style, I guess. But what we love about traveling Italy is that it’s like going through one giant museum, even if you never step inside a building!! I’m sure you would love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My wife and I don’t get to go to museums often but we love them. And I love looking at paintings. I can do that all day. We did have a chance to see the Llouvre museum in Paris once.

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