See some of the Eternal City’s more overlooked art treasures on your holidays to Rome

Posted on July 3, 2015 by Guest Writer
Face of the Emperor Constantine

The Eternal City is not exactly short on great art galleries and museums. There’s the Vatican for a start, home to the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Judgement as well as work by Raphael, not to mention its collection of Ancient Greek, Etruscan and Roman art.

If you are an art lover, you may also make a beeline for the Galleria Borghese, home to one of the greatest art collections that includes work by Raphael, Rubens and Caravaggio and sculpture by Bernini. Here’s some of the more overlooked art masterpieces worth seeing during your city break in Rome.

Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

Explore the work of the other Michelangelo

The work of Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, is well-represented in Rome where you can see 19 paintings in all, a large slice of his oeuvre. Two of the most popular can be found in a church many tourists walk past, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.

Located on the north side of Piazza del Popolo, one of Rome’s most well-known squares, this art treasure house is home to The Conversion of St Paul, which depicts Paul in his Damascene moment after he has fallen from his horse and seen the light, and the Crucifixion of St Peter.

Both very large paintings exemplify the artist’s use and mastery of chiaroscuro, or extremes of light and deep shadow, stark naturalism and frequent, unflinching depiction of violence.

As well as the works by Caravaggio you can also see mosaics by Raphael. At the Chigi Chapel, you can see The Creation of the World, as well as two sculptures by Bernini.


Roman statue

Step back in time at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

If you have an interest Greek and Roman art then you may want to include in your a city break to Rome half a day at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

This 19th century palace, built in the Neo-Renaissance style, boasts one of the world’s greatest collections of classical art. Located close to Termini train station, it contains several splendid Ancient Greek sculptures discovered in Rome, such as the bronze Boxer at Rest.

It also traces the development of Roman art from the late Republican age of late antiquity to the 5th century AD through sculptures, frescoes, mosaics and more.

But perhaps the most splendid exhibits can be found on the second floor, which has reconstructions of the rooms of luxurious Roman houses, complete with vividly coloured wall-paintings. The interior of the dining room from Livia’s villa with its paintings of trees, plants and birds is stunning.

Etruscan Horse Figurine

The other ancient Italian civilisation

In Rome especially, it is easy to overlook the art of the other great civilisation of ancient Italy, the Etruscans. The society, which developed in around 800 BC, emerged in an area roughly corresponding to Tuscany, the western part of Umbria and northern Lazio.

There are some wonderful items in the Vatican Museums but it may be worth making a trip to the National Etruscan Museum in the Villa Giulia just to see the Sarcophagus of the Spouses.

This is a near life-size terracotta funerary monument that depicts a couple as though they were reclining on a couch at a feast. The collection, which is housed in a papal villa dating from the 1500s, also includes a near life-size painted terracotta statue, the Apollo of Veii.

Engraving Based on one of Raphael's Frescos

Velásquez, Caravaggio, Titian – and a live early music orchestra

The Doria Pamphilj Gallery hosts a superlative collection of art amassed through a series of dynastic marriages that includes work by artists such as Velásquez, Titian, Raphael and Breughel the Elder.

But an aspect that may pass you by on your holiday to Rome is the tour of the palazzo on Saturday at 11am, not only will you have an art historian, you will also literally be accompanied by an early music orchestra.

Film Marker

A must-see for Fellini lovers and other film buffs

Another destination that could easily get overlooked on your holiday in Rome, but which is a must if you are interested in the silver screen, is the CineCittá Studios.

The complex, built by Mussolini, is located on the road from Central Rome to Ciampino Airport. It was bombed during the Second World War and renovated in the 1950s when used for a series of big budget spectaculars, including Ben-Hur and Cleopatra.

Federico Fellini shot most of his films here. The glory days of this giant film and TV production facility are now long gone, although Martin Scorcese filmed Gangs of New York here.