Actually paying to go into a museum strikes me as a bit funny as the entire city is a living museum. However there are exceptions and some of the really primo art is locked away for safe keeping. I was going to forgo the usual suspects however I think it is important to point you in what may be an obvious direction. Below are the museums that I would recommend visiting when in Rome.
Capitoline Museums – Campodoligio – A very large collection in several buildings but one that gives you a sense of the grandeur of Imperial Rome and how the empire of the Romans morphed into the empire of the Christians. Don’t miss the fasti a detailed chronological list of; religious or official events, roman upper class citizens, and the triumphs of the various generals.
National Museum of Castel Sant’ Angelo – This Fortress built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (AD130-139) has also been a prison and a papal residence. It was used by former Popes who absconded there for protection in times of danger and a covered passageway still connects Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican. As in the last act of Tosca, admire the beautiful view from the terrace but don’t throw yourself off – go for a coffe instead in one of the rampart towers.
Vatican Museums – I highly recommend that you consider paying for a guide which allows you access earlier than normal for the general public. Spending even 30 seconds alone or virtually alone in the Sistine Chapel is worth it. Also I would be reticent if I didn’t encourage you to visit the papal car exhibition – impressive!
- Three Quiet Corners of Art in Rome (NYTimes Travel, September 2013)