An Art Gallery Guide to Italy

While the artistic merits of Italy go back to the Roman Empire, the most noted came from a need for a new age through mastery of art, literature and culture. Beginning in the Tuscan countryside in the 14th century, Renaissance, changed the face of Italy and art with a philosophy that put man at the centre of his own universe.

As artists explored the nature of Renaissance and mastered their own interpretations, the foundations of the new wave of art were created, with leniency towards realism and the anatomy. Renaissance in Italy gave rise to the greats, that would continue to put Italy on the map as the world progressed into the modern-day.

Galleries across Italy today strike a balance of contemporary, classic and Renaissance in all of its forms. You have to dip into all three to appreciate the grand scheme of Italy’s artistic potential. To get a full grasp of artistic ideas and developments over the centuries and make sure you tick off the artist bucket list as you see works from Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael while seeing more contemporary and international innovators like Picasso and Pollock.

While it is possible to dedicate your entire trip to Italy to art galleries, you will have a more balanced and enjoyable trip by scattering them evenly throughout your Italy private tour.

Rome

Borghese Gallery

Exhibiting a collection of art assembled by Cardinal Scipione Borghese from the 17th century, the Borghese Gallery is set in the Cardinals villa. Ranging from Ancient Roman sculpture to High Renaissance masterpieces, the collection is regarded as one of the finest private collections in the world.

The Borghese Gallery is a great addition to a tour of Italy as there is a strict number of people allowed into the villa at one time, minimising crowds.

The Vatican Museums

With the greatest collection of art in the world, the Vatican Museums was started by Pope Julius and extends to the Sistine Chapel with its great ceiling and The Last Judgement commissioned to Michaelangelo. Among the works are ancient busts, with recent additions that go into modernity.

Among the most famous are the frescos in the Raphael Rooms, the Apollo Belvedere, which was the first piece in the collection, and the Rotunda Room, based off of the Pantheon.

Adding the Vatican Museums cannot be an afterthought, to have an enjoyable tour of the galleries it is worth booking a few weeks in advance to avoid queues.

Gallery Loran O’Neill Roma

Featuring some of the most well-known names on the contemporary roadmap, the Gallery Loran O’Neill Roma represents some of the biggest artists in the world and is at the centre of attention during exposes such as Art Basel and the Venice’s Biennale.

Among the top artists who have exhibited are well-known names such as Martin Creed, Richard Long, Kiki Smith and Rachel Whiteread. A jaw-dropping name-drop for art buffs around the world and a clear sign that the Gallery Loran O’Neill Roma keeps its finger firmly on the pulse. Popping your head into Gallery Loran O’Neill Roma is a privilege, as you are sure to see the next big thing in the art world.

Venice

Gallerie dell’Accademia Venezia

Coined by Napoleon ‘as the most beautiful hall in Europe’, visiting the Gallerie dell-Accademia Venezia is like walking into a painting. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is set on the banks of the Grand Canal, it used to house the art academy of the city which remained in the same building until 2004.

The gallery holds masterpieces that are specifically from Venice, collected up until the end of the 18th century. The pieces are generally exhibited in a chronological fashion unless thematic displays are suggested. Among the artists on display are da Vinci, Bellini, Preti, Vasari and Carpaccio.

Peggy Guggenheim

This spectacular gallery hosts one of the most important art collections from the early 20th century, put together by Peggy Guggenheim, the niece of Solomon Guggenheim of the respective gallery in Manhattan.

As an art collector, Peggy Guggenheim supported the careers of artists that are now considered household names within the art world, with artists such as Henri Moore, Kurt Schwitters, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray and Max Ernest in her collection. The latter of which, she would later marry.

Peggy Guggenheim not only had the greatest collection of the mid-20th century but was amidst the social occasions that came with it. It was as though she was collecting her friend’s pieces at the end of art college, but they so happened to be the people that changed the face of art.

Since her passing in 1979, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection has continued to be one of the pioneering institutions of modern art.

Florence

Uffizi Gallery

Occupying the two floors of a 16th-century building designed by Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi Gallery hosts another spectacular collection from the great Renaissance artists of Italy. In addition to the pieces from the likes of Botticelli and Raffaelo, the hallways are lined with a collection of ancient busts and statues from the Medici family that are copies of ancient Greek sculptures.

Set in the region where Renaissance was first conceptualised, everything about this building and its contents is a masterpiece.

Gallerie dell’Accademia Firenze

Sister of the respective gallery in Venice, the Gallerie dell’Accademia of Florence is the cradle of Florentine art and, most importantly, home of Michaelangelo’s, David. Similar to the Uffizi, the gallery was founded by the Medici family.

Interestingly, the gallery was originally intended to be an exhibition of Michaelangelo’s works, and still holds many of his most interesting, and often unfinished, works. However, the collection was extended to include Florentine, High Renaissance and Gothic works.

The most recent addition to the gallery is a collection of musical instruments from the artisans who created the highest quality of violins and invented the piano.

The artworks on display across Italy’s top city’s will excite and enamour visitors who didn’t even think they could appreciate art. The country oozes creative flair. Make sure you don’t miss a beat on your tour of Italy, by incorporating these art galleries with sightseeing tours.

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