Perched on the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline Museums – Musei Capitolini in Italian – are the oldest museums in the world.
With their incredible collections of art and archaeology housed in sublime historic palaces, the Capitoline Museums are a must-see for all visitors exploring the Eternal City! Follow the guide!
💡The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city (in English). It’s up to you to choose how much you want to tip the guide!
Brief history of the Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Hill
The Capitoline Hill is one of the seven Roman hills. With its temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva (the Roman equivalents of the Greek gods Zeus, Hera and Athena), the Capitoline Hill represented the religious centre of ancient Rome.
In ancient times, each Roman city had its own capitol – its religious centre – modelled on Rome’s.
The origins of the Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums came into being in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated four antique bronze statues to the city: the Capitoline She-wolf, the Thorn Shooter, the Camillus and fragments of a statue of Domitian.
In the following centuries, the successors of Pope Sixtus IV continued the work of their predecessor by donating ancient works to the Capitoline Museums.
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the Piazza del Campidoglio was completely redesigned by Michelangelo with :
- the renovation of the Palazzo Senatorio, which today houses the headquarters of the City Council of Rome
- the renovation of the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the construction of the Palazzo Nuovo, which house the museum collections
In 1734, under the pontificate of Pope Clement XII, the Capitoline Museums finally opened their doors to the general public.
A few years later, Pope Benedict XIV bought the collections of the Pio and Sacchetti families to found the Pinacoteca Capitolina.
In 1997, the Capitoline Museums opened the Montemartini annex in a former thermoelectric plant on the edge of Rome.
🧐 Fun fact 🧐
The Treaty of Rome ratifying the creation of the European Economic Community was signed in March 1957 in the Capitoline Museums’ Palazzo dei Conservatori.
⚓ Attention, sailors! ⚓
Want to find out more about Rome’s top landmarks, activities & museums? Why don’t you check outthe Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do in Rome?
Visiting the Capitoline Museums
The Palazzo dei Conservatori
The Palazzo dei Conservatori is the oldest of the two main palaces housing the collections of the Capitoline Museums.
This wonderfully well-preserved palace is worth a visit both for its sumptuous decoration – ancient frescoes, some dating back to the 16th century, stucco work, decorated ceilings, etc. – and for its sumptuous collections.
The Palazzo dei Conservatori houses some of the most emblematic sculptures of the Capitoline Museums (including the Capitoline She-wolf and the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius), as well as the Capitoline Picture Gallery. Art lovers will be able to admire paintings by the greatest masters of the 16th and 17th centuries: Caravaggio, Bellini, Gerchin, Cortona, Rubens, Tintoretto, Titian, Van Dyck, Velásquez and Veronese.
Adjacent to the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the Palazzo Clementino-Caffarelli displays collections of medals, coins and precious objects.
The must-sees of the Palazzo dei Conservatori:
- The Capitoline She-Wolf
- The Thorn Shooter
- The Camillus (or Zingara)
- The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius
- The fragments of a colossal statue of Constantine
- The head of Medusa and the statue of Pope Urban VII by Bernini
- The Fortune Teller and St John the Baptist by Caravaggio
- Romulus and Remus by Rubens
- The Flagellation by Tintoretto
- The Baptism of Christ by Titian
- Self-portrait by Velásquez
The Palazzo Nuovo
Built in the first half of the 17th century based on designs of Michelangelo, the Palazzo Nuovo now houses a fine collection of ancient sculptures.
Don’t miss the Hall of Philosophers, where you can see busts of many of the greatest thinkers of ancient Greece (Plato, Pythagoras, Sophocles…).
The Palazzo Nuovo also exhibits some very beautiful antique mosaics.
The must-sees of the Palazzo Nuovo:
- The Dying Gaul
- The Capitoline Venus
- The Capitoline Antinous
- The Red Faun
- The Mosaic of the Doves
- The Mosaic of Theatrical Masks
- The Hall of the Philosophers
The Lapidary Gallery and the Tabularium
Excavated in the 1930s, the Lapidary Gallery is an underground gallery linking the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo.
The gallery also gives access to the Tabularium: the ancient archive room dating from ancient Rome.
The Centrale Montemartini
Located in the district of Ostiense (south of Rome), the Montemartini Central is an annex of the Capitoline Museums inaugurated in 1997.
In a resolutely industrial setting visitors can discover collections of mainly Greek and Roman sculptures.
Why not have a look if you’re staying in Rome long enough? If you only have a few days in the capital, however, you should stick to the collections located on the museums’ main site.
Getting to the Capitoline Museums
The vast majority of the Capitoline Museums’ collections are housed in the two palaces in Piazza del Campidoglio, in the centre of Rome, a few steps from the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.
The easiest way to get there is to take one of the many busses that stop at Piazza Venezia, just a short walk away from the Museums.
Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1 – 00186 Roma
Please note that unlimited access to public transport is included in the Omnia Card and Roma Pass. Find out more here.
Opening hours of the Capitol Museums
The Capitoline Museums are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 7.30pm.
- Combined ticket (permanent collections + temporary exhibition): €15 full price, €13 reduced price
- Single ticket (permanent collections): €11.50 full price, €9.50 reduced price
Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month.
If you are visiting Rome during high season or school holidays, Captain Ulysses recommends that you buya skip-the-line ticket online.
If you don’t want to miss anything of the museums’ treasures, you can also opt for a guided tour of the Capitoline Museums.
If you prefer to visit the museum on your own, Captain Ulysses recommends the audioguide (available on site).
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com:
– the best youth hostels
– the best hotels for tight budgets
– the best hotels for midscale budgets
– the best high-end hotels
🎟️ Activities: As for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide, Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card. As well as entries to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
As for trains, the Captain highly recommends Trainline to book your tickets.