Reason 12-Art is Everywhere in Italy

Sidewalk art in Vicenza

Sidewalk art in Vicenza

Continuing with my winter theme ″Why I keep coming back to Italy″ …

You don’t have to be an art historian or even an authority to appreciate the abundance of art treasures found everywhere in Italy. Whether you prefer Greek and Roman sculpture, modern art or the masterpieces of the Renaissance, you’ll find more than you can imagine in Italy. Don’t try to see everything in one visit. This is one reason I keep coming back. There’s so much to enjoy and explore.

Four Rivers Fountain

Four Rivers Fountain

Art is everywhere in Italy. Visit any major city and you’ll have a long list of museums, monuments, archeological sites and churches on your itinerary. Walk around the city and enjoy the street art, garden sculpture, fountains and monuments for free. Even the architecture is adorned with art. Almost every piazza is a showcase for public art—whether it’s a major piazza in Rome, such as Piazza Navona with Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers or the smaller piazza della Minerva with Bernini’s elephant at the base of an Egyptian obelisk, you are bound to find something wondrous to see.

The popular guidebooks are a good resource for visiting the major museums. Follow their advice about making reservations in advance and consider using the museums cards that most major cities offer. However, if you plan to visit just a few museums, it’s not always worth the price of a card. Use the museum websites to make the best use of your time and reserve your tickets in advance. You don’t want to waste your precious travel time standing in a long line.

John Singer Sargent in Venice

John Singer Sargent in Venice

Besides the major museums, keep your eyes open for special exhibits in the Palazzos and Villas. The local Tourist Information centers will also have information about these temporary shows. One of my favorite venues is the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Opened in 2004, this Renaissance Palace hosts three high quality exhibits each year. I stumbled upon American Impressionists one year. Another time I found an exhibit of John Singer Sargent in a palazzo in Venice. Since these exhibits are not permanent, they won’t be listed in the guidebooks. At these venues you won’t be in a crowded room with tourists—just a few Italians and you.

Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Peter

Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of St. Peter

There are many examples of great art “in situ” in the numerous churches of Italy. Of course St. Peter’s Basilica has many of the masterpieces—Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s massive Baldachino, the world’s largest bronze structure. If you get there early in the morning, you can avoid the lines.

But many smaller churches have impressive works of art, too—and in most cases, there’s no entrance fee. In Rome, the small Santa Maria della Minerva, near the Pantheon is one of my favorites. Inside you will find Michelangelo’s statue, Cristo della Minerva, several busts and works of Bernini and beautiful frescoes of Filippino Lippi.  In the larger Santa Maria del Popolo Church, there are works of Raphael and Caravaggio, whose stark realism and use of light makes him one of my favorites. Close to the Termini Train Station you can find the St. Peter in Chains church with the famous chain replica and the statue of Moses by Michelangelo. Although these churches are not as well lit as a museum, take awhile to acclimate and enjoy these works of art with almost nobody else around.


The major and minor churches in almost any large city are like a small museum with wonderful religious art. But even the churches of the smaller towns are worth a visit. On the tiny island of Ortigia, in Sicily, visit the small church of Santa Lucia to view the wonderful Burial of Saint Lucy by Caravaggio. In southern Italy, don’t miss the intricate mosaic floors of Santa Maria Annunziata in Otranto. In Florence, make the trek to San Miniato for the impressive frescoes and mosaic floors. If you’re a fan of Byzantine art, be sure to spend some time in Ravenna, with the best collection of Byzantine mosaics in Italy. Here’s a post on my time there.

On your first visit to Italy—don’t try to see it all. I rarely visit more than two art venues in a day. A good resource for understanding the various periods of European Art is Rick Steve’s Europe 101 History and Art for the Traveler. I also learn a lot from the Art Blogs listed below. Decide what you like the most and plan your time accordingly. But, also be open to learning something new. Each time I visit Italy, I discover a new artist or art movement. Just another reason why I keep coming back to the bel paese.

Amalfi Wall Art

Amalfi Wall Art

Art Blogs
These bloggers know a lot about art…
ArtTrav– Life, Art & Travel in Italy
Ruins & Relics

Other Useful Links
Find More Michelangelo Art in Italy
More Bernini Art Venues
Caravaggio’s Art in Italy



About msraaka

I am an artist, writer and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there and other countries in Europe. We love to travel, but especially to stay in one area and get a better sense of place. I love learning languages, so I continue to study Italian, French and Spanish so I can communicate a bit more with the locals. Even learning the basic greetings can make a big difference.
This entry was posted in Italy, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reason 12-Art is Everywhere in Italy

  1. NaidaGee says:

    Love the art, Martie. It just makes it seem like everything is beautiful. Thanks for the post!

  2. Do visit Urbino in Le Marche. The city is an artistic gem in itself and in the ducal palace are two Piero della Francescas and Raphael’s La Muta. Also several paintings by Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi. You can see Raphael in Santi’s better works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s