5 Fabulous Italian Museums With Free Virtual Tours

Whether your summer travel plans have been postponed by the Coronavirus, your kids are home all day and need new entertainment, or maybe you just want to relive a trip from the past, you can get yourself a little taste of Italy by exploring the museums that offer virtual tours.

Italy has sensational museums, many of which get missed while tourists wait in long lines to visit the main attractions. Here is your chance to explore ancient Rome and Renaissance Florence from your laptop with a virtual tour. Four of these museums are written about in detail in my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, giving you specific things to look for and fascinating stories behind the people and pieces involved.

1. The Capitoline Museums

Capitoline Museum Rome, virtual tour

Perched on the hill overlooking the Roman Forum with a view along the Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world. With so many treasures from Ancient Rome to be discovered you can lose yourself here for hours, whether in the real world or the virtual one. There is a well laid out floor plan and it is easy to find your way around the virtual tour. Check it out here

2.Trajan’s Market

Across the street from the Capitoline Museum and the Roman Forum you can see another massive forum complex, Trajan’s Forum and Market. This one was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, (the same guy who designed the Pantheon) and inaugurated in 112 A.D.

Trajan was the Emperor of Rome from 98 A.D until 117 A.D. The Empire’s most expansive growth happened during his rule.

At the end of his Forum stands the semi circular building of Trajan’s Market. This 170 room structure standing 35 meters above the level of the forum was actually used as offices and shops, nearly 2000 years ago! Part of the building is now the museum of Trajan’s Market and again, it is fantastic. You can take a virtual tour both of the museum and of the forum itself here.

Trajan’s Forum and Market are directly in front of one of my favorite places to visit in Rome, the Ancient Roman houses at Palazzo Valentini. This is an absolute must see when you are in Rome. You can read about it here.

3. The Ara Pacis

This is one of those fabulous secrets hiding in plain sight in the heart of Rome. Very few tourists seem to know about it, but once again it is one of my absolute favorites. Interestingly this is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to a single object, in this case a more than 2000 year old altar to peace.

The Ara Pacis in Rome. Augustus's altar to peace
The Ara Pacis in Rome

Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome. After centuries of war with other countries and decades of civil war at home he eventually brought peace to Rome. To celebrate this peace in 13 B.C. he built this huge marble altar. I wrote about it here and at length in Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome. The altar originally stood in the Campus Martius, but when the Tiber River was expanded a few centuries later the Ara Pacis became submerged under 4 meters of mud, disappearing for 1000 years.

Now restored to much of its old glory and housed inside a modern Richard Meier building full of natural light, it is a pretty incredible museum to visit. Part of what makes the altar so amazing is the carvings that cover the marble walls around it. Again they are detailed in my book, but you can still enjoy meandering around inside the museum looking at thm with the virtual tour, here.

4.The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums virtual tour
The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house some of the greatest collections (of pretty much everything) in the world. Unless you are in Rome in the off season it is impossible to see much in the museums, and in all honesty you really need multiple days there. But lucky for us the Vatican has created some wonderful videos of the most famous rooms across the various wings of the complex. You can spend ages wandering through the virtual tour here. Even if you have been to the Vatican Museums before you will really enjoy this!

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

5. The Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery Florence Virtual Tour
The Uffizi in Florence

Just a quick train ride from Rome or a mere mouse-click on your laptop and you are in Florence, the heart of the Italian Renaissance and home to the best collection of Renaissance Art anywhere in the world. Florence has a tremendous virtual museum offering through a website called Hyper Visions. It takes you though the different artworks in a variety of ways. be sure to click into the Factories of Stories section (my favorite). While on the Hyper Visions site be sure to look at the Pitti Palace section too. At this time the Vasari Corridor section isn’t showing the artworks inside, but do click around on it as well as the Boboli Gardens section.

Do you belong to my Private Members Newsletter? Twice each month I send out a newsletter with fabulous travel tips and secret places to visit in Italy. You can join the Private Members Newsletter here.

Coronavirus and Travel Insurance – What You Need To Know

If you have booked a trip for this spring or summer and now are not sure whether to go or not, or how to interpret your travel insurance, this post will hopefully be of help to you!

If you are on my Private Members Newsletter list you will already have a comprehensive breakdown of everything in your inbox. If you are not on the list you can join HERE

Coronavirus

Some of the information about Coronavirus here in America is very misleading. I never thought there would be a day when I would advise against listening to anything an American president says about an epidemic, but here we are.

coronavirus and travel insurance
image via CDC

I suggest sourcing your information from more than one place, ideally looking to international news as well as domestic. You will see the entire world says one thing and the US president says something quite different.

RELATED POST: SHOULD YOU BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Quick Facts

Coronavirus COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that attacks the upper respiratory system. Approximately 80% of the people who contract it will be somewhere between asymptomatic and having cold/flu symptoms. 20% will get very sick, 5% critically ill and for around 2% it will be fatal.

These figures may be skewed due to not enough people being tested. Here in the U.S we have no idea how many people are already infected.

It disproportionately impacts those with underlying conditions, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. You can read more about it on the CDC Website but be advised they aren’t allowed to tell us everything they normally would have up there. They had to take down posted figures on the number of people tested in the USA.

coronavirus and travel
Coronavirus image via CDC.gov

The USA is ridiculously behind the rest of the developed countries in testing. South Korea has tested more than 110,000 people. Italy has tested more than 25,000 people. The U,K more than 13,500. The list goes on and on, but the USA as of today is still limping along at the 500 mark.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

There are multiple factors to look at with your travel insurance policy. You can normally find it all in the fine print.

Some policies have no cover for events such as epidemics, pandemics.

Foreseen/Unforeseen Events

Travel Insurance policies will normally have an exit clause for Foreseen events. For example if you insure your trip today and then the weather service announces a hurricane advisory next week, you will be covered because you bought your policy before the advisory, so it was Unforeseen.

If you purchased insurance after the weather service announced there could be a hurricane next week, even if you hadn’t heard about it yet, that would be a Foreseen event and you would not be covered.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 was declared an epidemic on January 21st 2020. If you bought your policy before this date you should be covered. If you purchased it after this date you will not be covered for Coronavirus related problems.

RELATED POST: HOW TO AVOID GETTING SICK WHEN YOU FLY THIS WINTER

Cancel For Any Reason

If you bought an additional CFAR or Cancel For Any Reason with your policy before January 21st 2020 you should be able to get a 100% refund. If you purchased CFAR after January 21st 2020 you may not be covered, or the extent of your coverage is in the hands of the insurance company.

Non Essential Travel Advisory and Travel Ban

The State Department or Foreign Service for your country allocates a variety of threat levels for international travel. Two that you need to watch out for are an all out Travel Ban and a Non Essential Travel advisory. At the time of writing this post the U.S State Department has issued Non Essential Travel advisories for several countries. If you travel to one of these countries during the advisory your travel insurance policy doesn’t have to cover you for anything.

This is what Consumer Reports says about Travel and Coronavirus. Also here is an example of how travel insurance companies are dealing with it. My travel insurance is through Travelex, so I am using them as an example: Travelex Insurance and Coronavirus

Should You Cancel Your Trip?

This depends entirely upon where you are traveling and when.

I am going ahead with travel to Italy and Europe for the summer. There is every likelihood the virus will calm down over the summer months if it follows the behavior of its fellow viruses SARS and MERS. Obviously I will be watching and evaluating what is happening over the next weeks. My expectation is that we will see the worst of it in March and that from April forward the virus will start disappearing as the warmer weather comes.

I had planned to travel to Europe in December but for now temporarily have those plans on hold. I’m expecting to see the virus get worse again over the cold/flu season.

Obviously I’m not a doctor/microbiologist/epidemiologist and have no scientific background to support that theory. If I am wrong with my predictions then in December you will find me shopping in the Christmas markets in Europe.

RELATED POST: 15 FABULOUS BOOKS SET IN ITALY

Trips To Re-Evaluate

There are two types of trip I think you should re-evaluate and that I would opt out of:

Theme Parks/Water Parks

Although the hot weather may reduce or possibly even eliminate the risk of spreading the virus, theme parks are the perfect places for contagions to spread quickly. You may want to really rethink trips to theme parks for the next few months, at least until the virus is under control

Cruises

I am very outspoken in my aversion to cruises and freely admit to being very biased. Cruise ships are floating incubators for viruses. They are incredibly difficult to sanitize, which has made them a paradise for a variety of ailments including Norovirus. I have known several people who contracted Norovirus on cruises and who were very ill for months and as long as a year.

We are seeing cruise ships around the world banned from docking due to Coronavirus. As I write this a Princess cruise has been denied entry to San Francisco due to Coronavirus. A passenger from a previous trip on this particular ship (February) died from Coronavirus in California yesterday.

The Grand Princess leaving San Francisco

The CDC is helicoptering test kits to 100 passengers who have been identified as “at risk” due to flu-like symptoms and upper respiratory illness. There are 2500 passengers on the ship.

You have to ask yourself is it really worth the risk? But don’t take my word for it. Here is an article from Tara C Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State about the dangers of contracting viruses on cruise ships: CRUISE SHIP NIGHTMARE

I hope this post has been helpful to you. If you have additional advice or information for travelers please leave a comment below. If you are a virologist/epidemiologist/microbiologist etc and can refute or add to anything here please do so in the comments below, and if possible link any articles that corroborate your position. I will happily add them to the body of this post. The more facts that can be given (vs my personal opinions) the more helpful this will ultimately be to travelers.


728x90 Get Quote

How To Get From The Airport Into Florence

Are you flying into either Florence or Pisa? If so you may be wondering how to get into town from the airport. Both airports are small and efficient and both have inexpensive options to get you into the heart of the city.

Florence Duomo view from Piazzale Michelangelo
Florence at sunset

FROM FLORENCE AIRPORT

Florence Peretola airport, which is also known as Amerigo Vespucci airport, is just 4 km outside the city center city and Santa Maria Novella train station.

There are 2 main ways to get to and from the airport.

BY TAXI

The taxi ride from the airport to the city center takes 15 minutes. It will cost you a flat fee of 22 euros with an additional euro per extra suitcase. Normally if there are only 2 or 3 of us I haven’t been charged for surplice luggage.

If you don’t know your way around Florence a taxi is by far your easiest option door to door, especially if you have heavy luggage or are tired from you flight. Remember Florence has cobble-stoned streets so dragging suitcases around can be difficult and also can be tough on your suitcase wheels.

RELATED POST: 10 DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE BY TRAIN

BY TRAM

As of February 2019 Florence now has a tram service that takes you from the airport to Santa Maria Novella station. The tram ride takes 15 minutes and costs 1.50 euros.

Tram from Florence Peretola Airport to Santa Maria Novella Station
Tram arriving outside Santa Maria Novella train station

The tram is easy to find. As you exit the airport terminal turn left and follow the signs to the T1 Tram. There are ticket machines at the tram stop. You may have to buy an additional ticket for oversized luggage.

When you board the tram you need to validate your ticket in the yellow machine beside the door. Should guards/conductors/police board your tram and check tickets there is a huge fine for a non-validated ticket.

FROM PISA AIRPORT

The other airport in Tuscany is Pisa’s Galileo airport. Often you can find fantastic deal flying into Pisa instead of Florence, so it pays to check it out when booking your flights.

RELATED POST: 14 FOODS YOU MUST TRY IN TUSCANY

There are two main ways to get from Pisa airport into Florence.

BY TRAIN

To take the train from Galileo Airport you will first take the Pisa Mover Shuttle from the airport into the Pisa Centrale train station. From there you take a train directly into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station.

Pisa Mover lightrail from Galileo Airport to Pisa Centrale train station
The Pisa Mover light rail from Galileo Airport to Pisa Centrale train station

Trains run on average 3 times per hour and cost less than 10 euros. The trip runs between an hour and an hour and 20 minutes.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

BY BUS

There are also charter companies that offer bus service from Galileo Airport to Florence Santa Maria Novella train station. This can be a great option as your luggage gets stored below, so you don’t have to deal with it, and you have a very comfortable and pretty drive through Tuscany and into Florence. You can see the timetable and website here. You should book in advance as the bus does fill up quickly. The cost is around 14 euros. The ride takes approximately an hour.

Caronna Tour bus Pisa airport

From the arrivals terminal exit and turn left. The bus stops are in the corner of parking lot number 3. You can purchase tickets from the bus driver or from the ticket machines both inside and outside the airport.

Download my free Secret Florence PDF to get insider info on my favorite things to do in the Renaissance City. Get my favorite places to eat, where to go for a drink, which markets can’t be missed, even learn about a secret jewelry store! CLICK HERE

Best Italy travel guide

Need help planning your trip to Italy or helpful advice for when you are there? Everything from how to use the trains to how to get your tax back when shopping to what to do if you get sick while you’re away. Get your copy of my best selling book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy, available worldwide on Amazon.com