Enjoy Martedi in Arte… Throughout 2011

Martedi in arte nighttime visits through 2011 to Italian museums

Martedi in Arte — that fantastic tradition where, on the last Tuesday of each month, major state museums in Italy are open and free from 7pm-11pm — is a hit. Such a hit, it's going on all year long.

Here in Rome, participating sites include the Palazzo Massimo (a savings of €10!), a treasure trove of ancient art and sculpture; the often-overlooked, but useful, Crypta Balbi; the Pantheon (always free, but only open so late for occasions like this one); the Palazzo Barberini, filled with gems by Raphael, Caravaggio and more; Castel Sant'Angelo, the papal castle; and the Galleria Borghese, that world-renowned collection of pieces by everyone from Bernini, Raphael, and others.

So mark your calendar: The next Martedi in Arte is May 31. But if you miss it, don't worry. You've got more shots… on June 28, July 26, August 30, September 27, October 25, November 29, and December 27. Phew!

Here's a list of museums across Italy participating in Martedi in Arte.

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The Newly Renovated Palazzo Barberini: The Verdict

Da Cortona's fresco of Divine Providence, Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini, home both to the powerful clan that produced Pope Urban VIII and to paintings by greats like Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian and El Greco, hasn’t been a proper museum in years. Plans to create a central space for its collection were stalled for decades; until 2006, the palazzo even served as an administrative office for the Italian military. Paintings were split between various galleries across Rome, and even more of them remained in storerooms, hidden to the public.

That all changed just a couple of weeks ago.

I paid a visit to the newly-restored Palazzo Barberini today, and all I can say is: what a difference a few more rooms make.

(Note: This post was last updated with current information in April 2017).

The piece-de-resistance of the whole collection long has been Pietro da Cortona’s Triumph of Divine Providence (shown above), the fresco on the ceiling of the Grand Salon, mind-boggling for its size, its spot-on execution of trompe l’oeil, and its sheer over-the-top-ness. Under restoration for months, it’s now viewable in all its Baroque glory. A plus: Two comfy, long sofas let you stretch out on your back to take it in without hurting your neck.

But there are other jewels in the collection that are only now being shown off, too. Medieval pieces that had been undisplayed, including 14th-century scenes of crucifixions and sad-eyed Madonnas, now take up several rooms. A hall of landscape paintings includes several sweeping works by Paul Brill. And one room just opened to the public features a rushing fountain, a little piece of indoor theatricality in a time that loved everything unexpected and dramatic in art.

As well as the art itself, the museum experience has improved. A description in English and Italian greets you in each room, giving an overview of how the pieces link together (usually, by period and geography), and the flow of your visit is set up so that you progress from the 14th century all the way up until the 17th. And because there’s more room, the pieces aren’t as crammed in together.

With its new rooms, the Palazzo Barberini should take you about two hours to get through.

The Palazzo Barberini is located just steps from the Barberini metro at Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13. It’s open every day but Monday from 8:30am-7pm, making it an ideal early-evening stop. The entrance price is currently €10. For more on Palazzo Barberini, click here.

Click here for more information about Palazzo Barberini, including on the pieces that have always been the main draws of the collection, like Raphael’s La Fornarina and Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Also: a good reason to head “outside the walls,” books about Italy to put on your must-read list and an answer to the question: is Rome really safe?

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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On Tuesday Nights, Free Art Across Italy

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Just in case all of the fun events and free entrances on European Heritage Day (September 25-26) weren't enough for you, mark the last Tuesday of the month in your calendar, too.

That's because, on the last Tuesday each month through December 28, a series of state-run museums and sites will have late openings and free entrances. It's called "Martedi in Arte" and takes place across Italy. In Rome and Lazio, the following sites will be open from 7pm-11pm and will be free:

  • Palazzo Barberini, with its reopened archaeological exhibit, Via Quattro Fontane 13
  • Pantheon
  • Borghese Museum
  • Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Viale delle Belle Arti 131
  • Baths of Diocletian, Via Romita 8
  • Crypta Balbi, Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31
  • Museo Nazionale Romano and Palazzo Massimo, Largo di Villa Peretti 1
  • Palazzo Altemps, Via di S. Apollinare 44
  • Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, Lungotevere Castello 50
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli (shown above)
  • Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli
  • Necropoli, Strada Provinciale Monterozzi Marina, Tarquinia

To see which sites will be open elsewhere in Italy, check out this list on MiBAC's site (in Italian, but pretty self-explanatory).

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European Heritage Day=Free Events and Entrances

Ancient statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline Museums - which will be free September 26.
On Sunday, September 26, On Saturday and Sunday, September 25-26, every state-run museum and site in Rome, and across Italy, will be free — including such big-time sites as the Colosseum, Borghese gallery, and Capitoline museums (shown above).

But free entrance is far from the only perk. Many sites are offering (mostly free) events. And those events sure do range. They include:

I beg you, as much as I'd love to see a Nordic-Walking mountain-biker who's spouting modern art knowledge and staggering from too much kosher wine, please don't do all four of these in one weekend.

The events and free entrances are all part of European Heritage Days, which the Council of Europe launched in 1991 to promote European art and culture. And while it's exciting, do keep in mind that at the highly-trafficked sites (like the Colosseum), lines are likely to be looong. Let me repeat that: looong.

So unless it's worth it to you to stand in a 3-hour line to save €12, I'd recommend hitting up the lesser-known galleries, instead. Think: the Palazzo Barberini (which just unveiled its refurbished archaeological wing and newly-restored Pietro da Cortona fresco), the Palazzo Massimo with its incredible archaeological collection, the MAXXI with its modern art and cutting-edge architecture…

The list goes on, so take advantage! It's not every day that you can do so much, while spending so little. At least in Rome.


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The “Night of Raphael” at the New Palazzo Barberini

La fornarina by Raphael, Palazzo Barberini

After two years, the €5 million restorations at the Palazzo Barberini have finished. To celebrate, the museum is opening its doors to visitors for free on Sunday, September 19.

Called "La Notte di Raffaello" in honor of one of the collection's most famous paintings, Raphael's portrait of La Fornarina or "baker's daughter" (above), the inaugural event should include free guided tours to the public. The event begins at 6pm Sunday, September 19; the exhibit will also be open on Monday, September 20. (It's usually closed Mondays). If you go, particularly make sure to check out the newly-restored fresco by Pietro da Cortona on the ceiling of the Grand Salon.

As of late August, the Palazzo Barberini folks still weren't sure exactly what the opening hours or when the guided tours would be, since they said (apologetically) that work is still continuing on the building. So stay tuned. I'll keep updating this post here as I get more information.

Update, 9/13: The Palazzo Barberini will definitely be open from 6pm till midnight on Sunday, and the Grand Salon will be open. However, they're still unsure about tour times.

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Palazzo Barberini, Rome’s Most Underrated Art Museum

Palazzo Barberini in Rome

Rome’s Palazzo Barberini is one of the best places to go if you’re tired of Rome’s overwhelming art collections (think: Vatican museums), but want to see more of what Rome has to offer. A stunning art museum in a Renaissance palace, it’s an often-overlooked gem in the heart of the city.

Palazzo Barberini boasts works by some of Italy’s best painters: Caravaggio, Raphael, Tintoretto, Bronzino. Its stars include the lush and moving “La Fornarina,” Raphael’s portrait of his lover (and possibly secret wife), the baker’s daughter; Hans Holbein’s famous portrait of King Henry VIII; and Caravaggio’s startlingly realistic — and frightening — Judith Beheading Holofernes (above).

(Note: This post was last updated with current information in April 2017).

For fans of Baroque art, the building alone merits a visit. Started in 1627-1633 by Carlo Maderno with his nephew Francesco Borromini, construction was handed over to Borromini and his soon-to-be-rival Bernini. (Yes, that Bernini. Some of his sculptures are also inside). The palace’s frescoes include Pietro da Cortona’s famous “Allegory of Divine Providence”; a triumph of trompe l’oeil, it literally “tricks the eye” into thinking that the ceiling opens up to show the heavens and tumbling figures. But it’s also a political piece, a tribute to the Barberini family — the powerful clan whose Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII (and started construction on the building).

Palazzo Barberini, an art gallery in the heart of Rome, Italy
An underrated art museum: Palazzo Barberini

But the piece-de-resistance is Pietro da Cortona’s Triumph of Divine Providence, the fresco on the ceiling of the Grand Salon, mind-boggling for its size, its spot-on execution of trompe l’oeil, and its sheer over-the-top-ness — which benefited from a months-long restoration in 2010 and is now on full and stunning display.

The Palazzo Barberini is located just steps from the Barberini metro at Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13. It’s open every day but Monday from 8:30am-7pm, making it an ideal early-evening stop. The entrance price is currently €10. For more on Palazzo Barberini, click here.

Also: why the Borghese Gallery should also be on your list, the best places for gelato and Rome’s most fascinating archaeological museum.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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