Capitoline Museums

Capitoline Museums (4)

An absolute must to visit. Marvel at the oldest art collection in Europe. 

The Piazza del Campidoglio, which is the square that houses the museums and the City Hall, is one of the most elegant public spaces in the world, designed by Michelangelo himself in 1536.

The Capitoline Museums are made up of the two identical buildings on the square and they are some of the oldest public museums in the world.

You can start by visiting the Palazzo Nuovo, on the left. This museum is mainly dedicated to sculpture, and the majority of its works are Roman copies of Greek originals. 

Inside the museum you can see the original sculpture of Marc’Aurelio behind a glass screen, the copy being the one outside in the square. 

Among all the works you can see, we recommend four in particular: to start with, the sensual Capitoline Venus Capitolina, in a reserved position, a sculpture much appreciated for its great beauty. 

You will also see the trunk of Discobole, a Greek sculpture made of an old part, from the 1st century AD, a copy of the famous torso of the discus thrower produced by Mirone in 460 BC, and a part restored by the French sculptor Monnot who, in the 18th century, transformed him into a wounded warrior.

In Room 1 on the first floor you will find the sculpture of the Dying Gaul (Galata Morente), which recalls the victory of the Romans over Gaul in 228 BC. It is one of the most famous pieces from Antiquity due to its admirable modelling, his posture and his resigned expression. 

To finish, in the Palace courtyard you can see the fountain of Marforio, one of the famous speaking statues of Rome. It is an enormous marble sculpture from the Roman era, dated between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, which perhaps represents Neptune or maybe the River Tiber. It was found in the Forum of Augustus, in the area known as the Forum of Mars, from which its name probably comes. 

What’s that? A speaking statue? In earlier times, approximately at the end of the 16th century, at the feet of some statues, and more commonly round the neck, sheets of paper were stuck with satirical contents, often in verse, aimed at leading public figures, including the Pope. It is said that their origin lay with Pasquino, a 15th-century barber or tailor famous for his scathing attacks on authority. After his death the custom was taken up of sticking satires and criticisms on a statue that you can see in the Piazza Pasquino, and on which, in fact, criticisms are still hung today. Interlocutors would soon appear, as is the case of Marforio, becoming the second most important speaking statue in Rome.

The Palazzo Nuovo is connected by an underground passage, known as the Galleria Congiunzione, to the Palazzo dei Conservatori, also designed by Michelangelo.

The first floor of the museum is outstanding for its decoration and its classical statues, while on the second floor you will find paintings and porcelains. 

Special mention should be given to the marble statue of Pope Urban VIII and The Spinario, a charming bronze sculpture of a child removing a thorn from their foot. 

Moreover, in the Sala della Lupa is the very famous Capitoline She-wolf, which nurse-fed Romulus and Remus, a symbol of the birth of Rome. The she-wolf is a bronze from the 5th century BC, while the legendary twins were added in the 15th century, by Antonio del Pollaiolo.

If you are a lover of painting, you must not miss the picture gallery, where you will find works by Rubens, Velázquez, Van Dyck and Caravaggio, among others.

By the way, one photo that you simply must take is alongside the enormous foot of Constantine; in the courtyard you will come across several parts of this colossal 12-metre marble sculpture of the seated emperor.

Do not miss the wonderful views that can be seen, in particular from the Tabularium gallery and from the terrace of the Palazzo Caffarelli, where the museum’s open-air cafeteria is located: it will take your breath away. 

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