The Best Underrated Museums to See in Rome

With so many artistic hubs on offer, it’s tough competition trying to get into Rome’s most notable attractions. But do you sometimes find the most hyped things are the most disappointing? Well, trust us and take a look at these totally underrated museums!

Many travellers visit Rome for an exceptional display of art, culture and history. With famous museums showcasing iconic pieces which are renowned worldwide. But due to the surplus of pieces, a lot of the city’s museums fall under the radar. However, it is easy enough to escape the crowds for a day and unearth the secret pleasures hidden around the city‘s corners. Here are our top picks of the most underrated museums in Rome that are worth a visit.

  • Ara Pacis Augustae

    Be spared from the heavy foot traffic for a morning and visit the Ara Pacis Augustae, also known as Altar of the Augustan Peace. It is an altar dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace, and was built in 13 BCE to celebrate the return of Augustus from his crusades in Spain and Gaul. It was lost for over 1,000 years only to be rediscovered and set on display for visitors to enjoy. A marvellous monument consisting of a traditional open-air alter surrounded by marble walls carved with many intricate images. The northern and southern walls for example depict the emperor and his family whilst the western and eastern walls depict allegorical or mythological scenes evocative of peace, piety and tradition. You could spend hours looking over this one monument, marvelling and studying each wall in all its artistic detail.

  • Centrale Montemartini

    Centrale Montemartini Museum is set in Rome’s first public electrical power plant. It is home to numerous marble statues, creating the famous contrasting museum space. The high glass windows create a stunning light effect for the museum. The large machinery forms a fascinating framework to the ancient sculptures and findings from the 19th century. Converted into a museum in 1997, the museum’s first exhibition was entitled “The machines and the gods”, putting side by side, two dramatically opposed worlds – those of classical art and industrial archaeology. The contrasting displays reconstructs some of the great monumental complexes and illustrates the development of the ancient city from the Republican era to the late Imperial age. Bringing together works from the same area of provenance also allows the links between the museum and the fabric of the ancient city to be continually renewed.

  • Palazzo Altemps

    Step inside this exceptional museum to see an array of both Greek and Roman sculptures. Equipped with a stunning courtyard of frescoes and sculptures scattered within, this museum lets you enjoy the morning sun as you stroll past these masterpieces. Located in a 15th century palace, the interior of this place is just as beautiful as the works it displays. Close to the Piazza Navona this place still seems to allude the crowds as hoards of tourists hurry along to the more well-known attractions letting this one slip by them. Palazzo Altemps is a hidden gem! With only a few tourists you can take your time admiring the many antique sculptures and stunning frescoes. If you’re an art or history nerd, or even if you require a quick zen moment, this museum is a paradise in busy Rome, and for us that’s enough to put it on this list.

  • Villa Giulia

    Villa Giulia is only a short walk from the famous Galleria Borghese but without the mass of crowds. With an array of Etruscan antiques from the ancient civilisation of Rome, picked up from both Lazio and Umbria, the villa promises a captivating glimpse into the past. Built by Pope Julius III between 1551 – 1553, on what was then the edge of the city, the villa is one of Rome’s best examples of Mannerist architecture. The museums works are spread over two floors and are arranged according to period and place of origin. Among the museum’s most valuable objects are a sarcophagus (a box-like coffin commonly associated with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans) from the year 520 BC as well as a great collection of precious objects from antiquity to the 19th century. A visit to Villa Giulia is very interesting, not just for the variety of works on display, but for the villa and its gardens as well.

  • Villa Medici

    Built for Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano in 1540, this extravagant Renaissance palace was purchased by Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1576 and remained in Medici’s hands until 1801, when Napoleon acquired it for the French Academy. The villa has beautiful sights inside and outdoors, with perfectly manicured gardens and exceptional roman sculptures dispersed around the grounds. The interior’s decoration is breathtaking and filled with a rich history. Before visiting, look at the museum’s calendar, as there are live music performances and art exhibitions held throughout the year. A bonus at this museum is the spectacular view of Rome from afar, making it the perfect place for your next Instagram post.

  • Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

    See how art can blend beautifully with architecture at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. If you are interested in seeing big-name artists in quiet scenery, this museum is for you. With masters such as Raphael, Velázquez, Titian, and Tintoretto all making an appearance. This underrated gallery is quickly becoming a hot spot as its impressive collection of works and stunning setting just can’t be ignored. The large collection of paintings, furniture and statuary have been assembled since the 16th century by the Doria, Pamphili, Landi and Aldobrandini families, united through marriage and simplified under the name Doria Pamphilji.

To satisfy your appetite for art and history further check out our different Rome tours over on our site, such as the Historical Rome Walking Tour!

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