You may not be able to visit Italy in person at the moment, but you can visit Italy online, thanks to the virtual offerings of some of the best museums and art galleries in the country. Wherever you are in the world, you can discover the masterpieces of Italian art and culture in just a few clicks. From Renaissance art to Roman archaeology, Titian to Trajan’s Market, here’s where to get started:
The best of Italian art
Vatican Museums (Rome) – One of the greatest – and biggest – museums in the world has an equally impressive online collection. There are 360 degree tours of the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, and many other famous galleries. The Vatican Museums are vast and can feel overwhelming at times, so there’s something to be said for navigating from the comfort of your own home. Browse a gallery for 15 minutes, then come back to see more whenever you want. You might be more likely to stumble across hidden treasures that you would have otherwise missed. Don’t miss the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery), which is overlooked by most visitors to the Vatican. Highlights include paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Caravaggio.
Raphael exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale (Rome) – Unfortunately, the opening of the hotly anticipated Raphael exhibition in Rome coincided with the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis in Italy, and the subsequent lockdown. The curators have compensated by creating this lovely video tour on YouTube, highlighting details of some of Raphael’s greatest works, and providing valuable context.
Uffizi Gallery (Florence) – Visitors flock to the Uffizi for its extraordinary collection of Italian art, and now, in the times of Coronavirus, people are bound to turn to the virtual museum instead. It’s an impressively hi-tech website with 360 degree tours, and a wealth of information in English. And there’s more to the Uffizi than Botticelli’s Venus – check out the hidden gems and the online exhibitions too. On Being Present is a fascinating exhibition on black portraits in Renaissance art.
Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan) – This Italian museum may not be as famous as galleries in Rome and Florence, but it’s definitely worth a virtual visit. It has one of the best collections of Italian art in the country, including works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Tintoretto. Browse by period, object type or artist and view high resolution images of each artwork.
Capodimonte Museum (Naples) – Another excellent virtual museum, this time in partnership with Google. There are 518 paintings to examine up close, including various masterpieces by Titian. Don’t miss the online exhibitions dedicated to Caravaggio.
Italian museums and opera
Capitoline Museums (Rome) – Take a stroll through the galleries of the Capitoline Museums on a virtual tour. Just click “floor plan”, and then choose the room you want to visit. Although there are no explanations for the exhibits, you can combine your virtual exploration with other online resources for a greater understanding of the stories behind statues such as the honorary monument to Marcus Aurelius, or the iconic sculpture of Romulus and Remus being nursed by the she-wolf.
Trajan’s Market (Rome) – A virtual museum which offers a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the ancient Romans. This vast complex of ruins is thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall, with shops and apartments spread out across a multi-storey building. After you’ve explored the exhibits, make sure you check out the panoramic view from the Belvedere terrace!
Ara Pacis (Rome) – If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Italian art online, this could be a good place to start. The museum is dedicated to a single work – a huge, intricately decorated marble altar built to honour Augustus. Make the most of being able to zoom in close, and really study the details on this spectacular monument.
Rome Opera House (Rome) – Sadly, Italian theatres and opera houses will probably be some of the last places to re-open. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with the virtual experience. The Teatro dell’Opera in Rome has created a fantastic “digital theatre”, with high quality videos of past performances. Famous operas such as Madame Butterfly and Tosca are already available to watch, and new videos are uploaded weekly.
La Fenice Opera House (Venice – cover image of this article) – Another famous opera house offering regular full-length opera performances for free. The YouTube playlist is entitled “Io resto a casa” (“I’m staying at home”). If you’re in a part of the world that’s currently under lockdown, settle in for a night at the opera from the comfort of your living room!