Amid the ancient ruins and Renaissance frescos of Rome is MAXXI, Italy’s first national contemporary art museum—and a welcome change of pace. True to its name, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts (Museo Nazionale Delle Arti del XXI Secolo) features over 300 artworks from 1970 on and by artists around the world, like the avant-garde sculptures of Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, and includes a second space dedicated solely to contemporary architecture. Changing exhibits and an array of paintings, installations, video art and photography put a modern twist on the Eternal City’s art scene, with the added benefit of skipping the crowds found at Rome’s more historic sites.
Given its location on the outskirts of the city center (and its lack of mention of any of the four Ninja Turtles’ names), MAXXI is often overlooked by tourists, offering art buffs the chance to stroll its dynamic 300-foot-long (90-meter) galleries at leisure. Designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, the museum’s most famous work is the building it sits in, a maze-like structure featuring the open space and skylights that make MAXXI so unique.
While the museum is often a photo stop on city architecture tours, be sure to check out its spacious galleries (the permanent gallery is free) for the full contemporary art experience.
The museum is located in the Flaminio neighborhood of Rome north of Villa Borghese. It is open Sunday and Tuesday through Friday from 11am to 7pm, and on Saturday from 11am to 10pm. The site’s restaurant, MAXXI21, offers light Roman-style dishes from noon to museum close, while the bookstore is open throughout museum hours. Photography is not allowed in the exhibition galleries.
To reach the site by metro, take Line A to Piazzale Flaminio, where you can board the Line 2 tram to Apollodoro. If arriving by bus, lines 168 and 910 will take you to the Reni/Flaminia stop, just a five-minute walk from the museum, or you can take line 53 to De Coubertin/Palazzetto dello sport.