One of the most elegant public spaces in Rome, Capitoline Hill is the site of Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo in 1536. This piazza overlooking the Roman Forum includes an open square, three Renaissance palace museums—Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Senatorio, and Palazzo Nuovo—and Cordonata, a monumental staircase. The square’s three palazzi house the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini), considered the world’s first public museum. The vast collections include classical sculpture, Renaissance paintings, and archaeological finds.
The Capitoline Museums, established in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV and opened to the public in 1734, house collections spread between the three palazzi linked by an underground gallery and Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino, just off the piazza. The scope of the collection is comparable to that of the Vatican Museums, so a private tour led by an expert guide who concentrates on the highlights is the best way to visit. This is one of Rome’s most important museum sites, so expect long lines to enter; joining a group tour in advance will allow you to skip the line.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There are two separate entrances for visitors with limited mobility, available on request.
- Book a private tour guide to avoid the long lines during the museum’s frequent special exhibitions.
- Strollers are allowed in the museum, but large bags and backpacks must be checked in the free cloakroom.
- The museum has a rooftop cafe with a beautiful view over Rome.
How to Get to There
The main entrance to the Capitoline Museums is through Palazzo dei Conservatori in Piazza del Campidoglio, which is located behind the famous Vittoriano monument in Piazza Venezia. There are a number of bus and tram lines that stop in Piazza Venezia, or you can take the metro to the Colosseo stop and walk about 10 minutes to Piazza del Campidoglio.
When to Get There
The Capitoline Museums are open daily from 9:30am to 7:30pm, with last admission one hour before closing. Like most of Rome's most famous repositories of art, the site is crowded year-round, though numbers peak in summer and during special exhibitions. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning, or during the quieter winter months.
Capitoline Museum Highlights
A number of important works of art are housed in the Capitoline Museums' collections, including the “Capitoline Wolf,” a bronze statue of Romulus and Remus suckling a she-wolf, and “The Dying Gaul,” an ancient Roman sculpture of a dying soldier. There are also masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian, Pietro da Cortona, and Guercino.