Rome Travel Guide

Rome Sights

Musei Capitolini

  • Piazza del Campidoglio Map It
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 06/20/2007

Fodor's Review

Surpassed in size and richness only by the Musei Vaticani, this immense collection was the world's first public museum. A greatest-hits collection of Roman art through the ages, from the ancients to the Baroque, it's housed in the twin Museo Capitolino and Palazzo dei Conservatori that bookend Michelangelo's famous piazza. Although some pieces in the collection—which was first assembled by Sixtus IV (1414–84), one of the earliest of the Renaissance popes—may excite only archaeologists and art historians, others are unforgettable, including the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius whose copy sits in the piazza.

Buy your ticket and enter the Palazzo dei Conservatori where, in the first courtyard, you'll see the giant head, foot, elbow, and imperially raised finger of the fabled seated statue of Constantine, which once filled the Basilica of Maxentius, his defeated rival. Upstairs is the resplendent Salone dei Orazi e Curiazi (Salon of Horatii and Curatii), decorated

with a magnificent gilt ceiling, carved wooden doors, and 16th-century frescoes depicting the history of ancient Rome. At both ends of the hall are statues of the Baroque era's most important popes, Urban VIII and Innocent X.

The heart of the museum is the Exedra of Marcus Aurelius (Sala Marco Aurelio), which showcases the spectacular original bronze statue of the Roman emperor whose copy sits in the piazza below. To the right, the room segues into the area of the Temple of Jupiter, with its original ruins rising organically into the museum space. A reconstruction of the temple and Capitoline Hill from the Bronze Age to the present day makes for a fascinating glimpse through the ages.

On the top floor, the museum's pinacoteca, or painting gallery, has some noted Baroque masterpieces, including Caravaggio's The Fortune Teller and St. John the Baptist. Also on the top floor (but on the other side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori), the Caffè Capitolino (daily 9–7) has spectacular views over Rome in the direction of St. Peter's.

To get to the Palazzo Nuovo, take the stairs or elevator to the basement of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, where the corridor uniting the two contains the Epigraphic Collection, a poignant collection of ancient gravestones. Halfway along the corridor, and before going up into the Palazzo Nuovo, be sure to take the detour to the right to the Tabularium Gallery and its unparalleled view over the Forum.

On the stairs inside the Palazzo Nuovo, you'll be immediately dwarfed by Mars in full military rig and lion-topped sandals. Upstairs is the noted Sala degli Imperatori, lined with busts of Roman emperors, and the Sala dei Filosofi, where busts of philosophers sit in judgment—a fascinating who's who of the ancient world. Within these serried ranks are 48 Roman emperors, ranging from Augustus to Theodosius. Nearby are rooms filled with masterpieces, including the legendary Dying Gaul, the Red Faun from Hadrian's Villa, and a Cupid and Psyche.

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  • Artifacts, Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy

    Chanclos/Shutterstock

Sight Information

Address:

Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome, Latium, 00186, Italy

Map It

Phone:

06-0608

Sight Details:

  • €13 (€15 with exhibitions); €16 with access to Centrale Montemartini; audio guide €6

Published 06/20/2007

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