The Capitoline Museums stand as one of the most complex museum venue in Rome. They are located on top of the most sacred hill of the city, that is, the Capitoline Hill, and their collections are sheltered in three palaces and other adjoining structures which border, on three sides, the so-called Piazza del Campidoglio. The entire square, with all its architectural patrimony, is a tourist sight not to be missed out by any visitor of Rome. It was designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti himself in 1536, and it remains one of the most prestigious squares in the capital, both because of its reference to the name of the great Florentine artist, as well as due to the architectural spectacle it provides: it is centrally pegged out by the equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (the present statue is a mere replica, whereas the original is showcased inside the museum).

The museum itself, as institution, is one of the oldest in Italy (in Europe, even). Its history goes back to the time of Pope Sixtus IV who, in 1471, donated to the city of Rome an extensive collection of bronze statues dating back to the antiquity. Understandably, the original museum patrimony has extended in time, such that at present the 15th century collection of bronzes is complemented by a large range of artifacts and artistic masterpieces from antiquity to Renaissance: statues, paintings, jewels, coins, medals, inscriptions, mosaics and tombs. All in all, the Capitoline Museums gather together one of the largest and finest classical sculpture collections in the world, which is always nice to envisage by holidaymakers of Rome with preferences for cultural sights.

The three main palaces which host the museum collections refer to the 12th century Palazzo Senatorio, to the 16th century Palazzo dei Conservatori (both of them redesigned by Michelangelo) and to the 17th century Palazzo Nuovo, but further exhibits are displayed in Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino (a more recent acquisition of the museum, part of the museum complex since about the beginning of the 20th century). Also part of the museum is the underground gallery which links the three palaces, crossing the underground of the square.

The wealth of collections is roughly displayed as follows. The underground galleries are home to the so-called Galleria Lapidaria and Galleria Congiunzione, which display a collection of epigraphs and ruins of ancient Romans dwellings which date back to the 2nd century, respectively. Above ground, the gallery is overtopped by Palazzo dei Conservatori, which is a genuine repository of ancient sculptures gathered from cultural spaces like ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

One of artistic highlights of Palazzo dei Conservatori refers to the Capitoline Art Gallery, located on the third floor of the palace, which is divided into a picture gallery (Pinacoteca) and an applied art gallery. The picture gallery is home to masterpieces by Rubens (Romulus and Remus), Titian (Baptism of Christ), Caravaggio (Fortune Teller and John the Baptist) and Dossi (the Holy Family). The second floor of the palace is filled by Appartamento dei Conservatori, a space striking by its intricate and artistic interior decorations (the carvings on the ceiling and doors, tapestries, stuccoes, frescoes and the like), which showcases the iconic she-wolf (Lupa Capitolina) suckling the two mythical ancestors of Rome, Romulus and Remus, an Etruscan bronze dating back to the 5th century BC. The Etruscan and Greek vases, which form the Castellani Collection (donated to the city of Rome in the 19th century) can be admired in the rooms adjoining Appartamento dei Conservatori. Another notable highlight of Palazzo dei Conservatori is the relief originally placed on the funerary monument to Marcus Aurelius, which now adorns the main staircase of the palace.

At its turn, Palazzo Nuovo shelters a wealth of ancient artifacts and works of art. The Dying Gaul, or the Capitoline Gaul (the showcased exhibit is a replica of the original 3rd century Greek statue), next to the statues of Psyche and Eros (all in the Hall of the Galatian) and of the Capitoline Venus (it too a copy of the original masterpiece by Praxiteles) are the most prized exhibits inside Palazzo Nuovo, but visitors can also take time to admire the so-called Tabula Iliaca (in the Hall of the Doves) and the monumental Oceanus, a colossal statue located in the courtyard of the palace.

Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino shelters the Capitoline Coin Cabinet, which gathers together a consistent collection of medals, jewels and coins.

The so-called Centrale Montemartini is also part of the Capitoline Museums, though it is not located in the same compact area as the rest of the sections, but in the proximity of the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura. Holders of a Roma Pass can enter the Capitoline Museums with consistent discounts or, as the case may be, for free.

Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini)
1, Piazza del Campidoglio, 00186, Rome, Italy
0039 06 0608
[email protected]
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 9am to 8pm