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
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
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.
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 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!
5. The Uffizi
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.
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