Enjoying the Capitoline Museum in Rome

Photo by Sharon Odegaard
Photo by Sharon Odegaard

Enjoying the Capitoline Museum in Rome

by Sharon Odegaard
Stripes Europe

The Capitoline Museum in Rome overlooks the Forum, with the Colosseum beyond, so it is in the heart of the city. It’s easy to miss, though, as you wander up from the Forum and walk along the bustling streets. To find the Capitoline, stop in the square above the Forum by the sculpture of Marcus Aurelius on his horse. The entrance to the museum will be on your left. And this extensive museum is full of amazing works of Roman art.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard

The creation of the museum goes back to 1471. Pope Sixtus IV gave a collection of bronze statues to the people of Rome, and it’s here they were housed. Included were the famous she-wolf with twin babies Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, the story of the brothers explains the founding of Rome. Romulus kills Remus in the stories, and artists have depicted this throughout Roman history. You can marvel at this ancient sculpture even today.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard

From that time on, donations of artworks were gathered here. During the later 16th century, Pope Pius V decided to get rid of “pagan” art in the Vatican, and those treasures were brought to the Capitoline Museum.

The museum remained private until Pope Clement opened it to the public in 1734. More changes came when Italy unified in 1870 with Rome as the capital. Excavations in the city unearthed treasures that ended up in this museum. Donations from private collectors continued to grow the exhibits as well. This was the period when gifts included the Castellani collection of ancient pottery and the Cini collection of porcelain. Coins and medals also were brought to the museum when they were found by construction workers.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard

As the Capitoline Museum grew through the years, it expanded to cover more of the buildings surrounding the square. Today, the museum is on four levels and is made up of these main sections: The Palazzo del Conservatori (where entrance tickets are sold), the Palazzo Nuovo, the Palazzo Clementino Caffarelli, and the Palazzo Senatorio. If you have just an hour or two, I recommend visiting the Palazzo del Conservatori, where the most well-known art is displayed. You can look at the museum’s website before your visit to see if there’s a collection you want to be sure not to miss. In other words, there is a lot to see!

Of course, special exhibitions change, and you may want to include this museum in your Rome itinerary simply to take in one of these. When I visited, the special exhibition was original Michelangelo artworks. A strict no-photo policy was enforced, but I will forever remember being in the presence of these sculptures of the great master.

If you can, time your visit to enjoy lunch in the museum cafeteria. You will dine in a room full of windows on the top level of the museum, giving you a view of the hills and domes of Rome.

Consider using the Musei Capitolini app if you visit Rome. The cost is about 6 euros, and the features include information on the Capitoline Museum. You can discover more about the great works of art here. You also can choose from four itineraries recommended according to how long your visit will be. You can tailor your time to see what you are most interested in. The app also covers other sights in Rome.

Entrance to the Capitoline Museum, including any special exhibitions, is 15 euros. Audioguides are 6 euros. Hours are daily from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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