Visit the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) in Rome to see ancient bronze sculptures, marble statues from antiquity, paintings, and fine views of the Forum.
The Capitoline Museums complex (Musei Capitolini) in Rome has one of the finest collections of sculptures, statues, and archaeological finds from antiquity in the world, in addition to paintings and art from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Top highlights are very rare large Roman bronze sculptures such as the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Boy with a Thorn, and the Capitoline She-Wolf (and the much more recent Romulus and Remus). The paintings collection includes works by Caravaggio, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, and many other European masters. Although the museum is rarely overcrowded, buying tickets online saves time.
Capitoline Museums Complex (Musei Capitolini) in Rome
The Capitoline Museums complex (Musei Capitolini) in Rome claims to be the oldest museum in the world. It was formally established in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated several bronze statues to the city and people of Rome. These included the famous She-Wolf, the Spinarius (Boy with a Thorn), and the colossal head of Constantine. Other popes donated more works — sometimes to get the nudes out of the church collection.
The Capitoline Museums expanded in size and scope through the centuries with the main collections now including large bronze sculptures from antiquity, marble statues and busts from antiquity, other artifacts and archeological finds from the Roman Empire, paintings, Baroque art, coins, and many decorative elements from especially the Baroque era.
The Capitoline Museum is sometimes advertised as the “Roman Empire Museum” but that name is not only incorrect but also misleading. The focus of this museum is art, not cultural history or an explanation of life in the Roman Empire.
Top Highlights to See in the Capitoline Museums in Rome
The top highlights to see in the Capitoline Museums in Rome include:
Large Bronze Sculptures from Antiquity
Large bronze sculptures from antiquity are exceptionally rare but the Capitoline Museums have some of the finest on display in Rome. The original Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius (2nd century AD) probably survived as he was confused with Constantine the Great who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire — seeing the original inside the museum suddenly makes the copy in the piazza less impressive. Ditto for the Capitoline She-wolf (5th century BC, Etruscan? maybe only 11th century AD?) — the suckling Romulus and Remus were only added in the 16th century.
The Spinario (Boy With a Thorn, 1st century BC) is a rare Hellenistic bronze that was never lost and frequently copied. Further large bronzes include Hercules in gilded bronze (2nd century BC), a Camillus (1st century AD), the Capitoline Brutus bust (4th century BC), and several parts including the head and left hand of the colossal bronze statue of Constantine (4th century AD).
Best Marble Sculptures from Antiquity
Some of the highlights of the vast collection of marble statues from antiquity — often Roman copies of Greek originals — include:
- Capitoline Venus
- Dying Gaul
- Amore and Psyche
- Lion Attacking a Horse
- Discobolus (restored as a Wounded Warrior)
- Oceano (Marforio)
- Head of the Colossal Marble Statue of Constantine
- Faun in red marble
- Wounded Amazon
- Apollo (several versions)
- Hercules (restored as Killing the Hydra of Lerna)
- Eros Stringing his Bow
- Leda with the Swan
- Colossal Statue of Mars Ultor (The Avenger)
- Young Centaur and Old Centaur
The best marble sculptures are in the Palazzo Nuovo and many have been displayed in the same position for centuries. (Remarkable sculptures from antiquity are also displayed in the Palazzo Altemps near Piazza Navona in Rome.)
→→ Many more photos from the Capitoline Museums on Flickr.
Other Top Works from Antiquity
Further highly praised works from antiquity include:
- Mosaics — especially “Doves”
- Multicolored marbles — Tigress Attacking a Calf
- Relief panels of the achievements of Marcus Aurelius
- Mask of a Satyr
- A big collection of busts including some of the finest imperial and philosopher portraits in existence.
- Several sarcophagi
Baroque Art and Pinacoteca
Although the highlights of the Capitoline Museums are undoubtedly the art from antiquity, it also has a significant collection of art from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and especially the Baroque period.
Notable works include a marble bust of Medusa (1644-48) by Bernini, frescos, ceilings, tapestries, and other decorations — many originals from the palaces that now house the museums.
The paintings in the picture gallery (Pinacoteca) are spread over only around a dozen relatively small halls. Although not the best art in Rome, the collection is worth at least a quick walkthrough.
Paintings on display include works from many famous artists including Caravaggio (The Fortune Teller, Young St John the Baptist), Peter Paul Rubens (Romulus and Remus), Guide Reni, Guercino, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Pietro da Cortona, Titian, Anthony van Dyck, and Velazques.
Capitoline Museums Visitors’ Information
The Capitoline museums collection is currently housed in several palazzos on the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio but a visit requires just one ticket and uses only a single entrance.
Musei Capitolini Opening Hours
The Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini) is open daily from 9:30 to 19:30 (last admissions at 18:30). The museum is open on Mondays and most public holidays. The only definite completely closed days are May 1 and December 25 but some holidays have shorter hours.
Buying Tickets for the Capitoline Museums
Basic admission tickets for the Capitoline Museums are €11.50 (€9.50 for most visitors under 16 and free for under six years old). Add a euro or two for online presale tickets. Special exhibitions usually add around €5 per person — separate tickets are not sold for the temporary and permanent exhibitions. Tickets are usually not for a specific timeslot — enter anytime on the stated day.
In contrast to the crowds at the nearby Colosseum and in the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Museums are usually not overcrowded. It is never the scrum of visiting the Vatican Museums. However, it is worth buying tickets in advance as the ticket queues sometimes move surprisingly slowly even on a quiet day.
Combination tickets with other sites are often available but do note that some such as the Centrale Montemartini may be a considerable distance from the Capitoline Hill.
Most works in the museum are described, or at least labeled, in English. However, a video or audioguide may be rented in various languages. Guided tours are mostly for very small groups or private tours only.
The museum website currently functions better than the free app.
Basic Layout and Map of the Capitoline Museums
It is worth studying the map of the Capitoline Museum before visiting — find “download the pdf brochure“. Note that in the main building — Palazzo dei Conservatori — it is sometimes necessary to use different staircases to reach all parts of the museum, even for galleries on the same level.
An underground tunnel leads from the basement of the main museum building to the Palazzo Nuovo. En route, turn off to the Tabularium — not the most exciting part of the museum but the view of the Forum from the gallery is one of the best in Rome. Don’t miss the Palazzo Nuovo — it has only about a dozen rooms but some of the finest sculptures from antiquity in Rome including The Dying Gaul and the Capitoline Venus. Many of the sculptures here have been displayed in the same position for centuries.
The coffee shop is on the second floor of the main building. Keep tickets to re-enter the museum, as it is possible to visit the panoramic terrace from outside the museum too. The wonderful views of Rome from here do not include seeing the Forum.
The museum has several suggested itineraries. The “Arms and Power” route includes only 30 works and could be done in just less than an hour. Most visitors are likely to spend 90 minutes to two hours in the museum but it is also easy to spend far more than the three hours required for the 99-artworks “The Collections” route.
Transportation to the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini)
The Capitoline Museums complex (Musei Capitolini) is on the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio. The entrance (and ticket office) is on the Palazzo dei Conservatori, which houses the largest part of the collection, to the left of Marcus Aurelius (the original bronze equestrian sculpture is one of the top sights inside the museum). Most visitors arrive by walking from the Forum and Colosseum or up the Michelangelo stairs from the traffic nightmare of Piazza Venezia. It is possible to exit the museum from either the main building or from the Palazzo Nuovo.
The entrance to the coffee shop and panoramic terrace for visitors without a ticket is on the wing to the right of the main building away from the main piazza.