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1050 Campo della Carità
30123 Venice, Italy

Accademia was founded in 1750 as a school of painting, sculpture, and architecture. The art was mainly aimed at replicating ancient monuments of historical value that had existed in Rome, Milan, Bologna, and various other locations in Italy. By 1777, the academy had established the study of art restoration as a course, making it one of the first institutions ever to do so. Currently, the Accademia boasts masterpieces of Venetian paintings up to the 18th century, with the artworks lined up sequentially to portray the evolution of art over the ages.

Ambrosian Art Gallery and Library

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Piazza Pio XI 2
Milan, Italy

This unique fusion of library, gallery, and religious academy sums up the Renaissance values of aesthetics, spirituality, and intellectual endeavor like nowhere else in Milan. Cardinal Frederico Borromeo founded the Pinacoteca in 1603 and sent agents out across Europe and the Middle East to acquire artifacts of all kinds. At present, an astonishing 35,000 documents and 750,000 art prints are kept here. Frescoes and sketches by Leonardo, Caravaggio, Botticelli, and Bassano tell the artistic and cultural history of Milan. The Romantic poet Lord Byron was a frequent visitor, and the future Pope Pius XI worked as a scriptor here. 

Bagatti Valsecchi Palace

Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi

5 Via Gesù Via Santo Spirito 10
Milan 20121, Italy

The Barons Bagetti Valsecchi, to whom the palace once belonged, also assembled a vast array of Renaissance weapons, armor, clocks, and musical instruments, all of which are on display here. The attraction would not be Milanese if it didn't reflect Renaissance art. True to form, visitors can marvel over 15th- and 16th-century masterpieces by Bellini, Rizzoli, and Zenale. 

Bargello Museum

Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Via del Proconsolo 4
Florence, Italy

Included here is Michelangelo's bust of Brutus, as well as his glorious Bacchus, which clearly depicts the god of wine in a drunken state. You'll also find many pieces by the sculptor Donatello, including two statues of David, an early one in marble and a bronze version made some 40 years later; a smiling Cupid; and a Marzocca, the lion symbol of the Florentine Republic. Also of interest are glazed terra-cotta works by members of the della Robbia family.

Belliniano Museum

Museo Civico Belliniano

3 Piazza San Francesco dAssisi Catania
Sicilia 95100, Italy

He was the darling of Sicilian music, a child prodigy raised by a family of musicians to become a 19th-century rock star. In this house at the base of the beautiful and baroque Via Crocíferi, Vincenzo Bellini was born in 1801. His father was an organist, his grandfather a master of composition. The young Vincenzo learned all he could and then traveled to Naples to study at the conservatory, where he outdid both of them. He produced his first opera as a student, earning a commission at Naples' renowned Teatro di Carlo. Having wowed the south, he moved north, earning rave rewards in Milan and Venice. In the early 1830s, he was lionized in London and fêted in Paris, where he died at the height of his fame at the age of 34. Four decades after his death, he was reclaimed by Catania, and his body was reinterred in the Cattedrale di Sant'Agata. This free museum chronicles Bellini's brief but glittering career, and features signed manuscripts, paintings, antique furniture, and instruments including two pianos, a spinet, and a harpsichord.

Borghese Gallery and Museum

Museo e Galleria Borghese

5 Piazzale del Museo Borghese
Rome 00197, Italy

The Borghese Gallery and Museum collection of art is second only to the Vatican. Filling more than 25 rooms of the Villa Borghese, a 17th-century building designed to be a showplace for the Borghese collection, the art includes countless pieces from the classical Roman era, as well as the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods. Highlights of the collection include many important works by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. The Borgheses were patrons of the sculptor Bernini (known for his many Roman fountains and the Grand Piazza di San Pietro in Vatican City), and the museum features a large number of his paintings and sculptures. The gallery maintains a regular calendar of special exhibitions, and continues its history of patronage by commissioning new works from current artists.

Brera Art Gallery

Pinacoteca di Brera

Via Brera 28
Milan, Italy

Unique among Milan's galleries, the Pinacoteca achieved its preeminence through the policies of Napoleon, who raided churches around Italy for their Renaissance art treasures and stocked them here. Its modern highlights include Boccioni's Riot in the Galleria, Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, and Canaletto's Bacino di San Marco. Going farther back in time, Mantegna's Dead Christ altarpiece is a marvel that the gallery worked hard to reconstitute. The Palazzo Brera that all this is housed in is a stunning example of late-baroque design, and a grand bronze statue of Napoleon in the guise of the Roman god Mars graces its spacious courtyard. European Union citizens under the age of 18 or over 65 are admitted free. 

Capitoline Museums

Musei Capitolini

Piazza del Campidoglio 1
Rome 00186, Italy

This wonderfully proportioned, Michelangelo-designed square commands a fine view of the Roman Forum below. (Michelangelo also designed the Cordonata, the gently sloping steps that lead from Via Teatro del Marcello to the Campidoglio.) The square is dominated by the golden statue of Marcus Aurelius upon his horse. The building to the rear of the square houses the Roman mayor's offices. The two identical buildings opposite each other (also Michelangelo's handiwork) house the Capitoline Museums. Inside is a vast collection of ancient statuary, mosaics, sculpture, and other artifacts from ancient times, as well as works of Renaissance painters including Caravaggio and Titian. The original statue of Marcus Aurelius is here, too-the one in the Campidoglio outside is a copy.

Castel Nuovo

Maschio Angioino

Via Vittorio Emanuele III
80133 Naples, Italy

The sight of ancient castles is always impressive, no matter what age you are. Castel Nuovo is especially imposing, and it is located right in central Naples, in front of Piazza Municipio and city hall. The fortress and former royal residence that faces the Mediterranean Sea dates to 1279 and is one of the city’s most famous and important symbols. Meticulously restored over the centuries, today the castle includes the Municipal Museum of Naples, spread over two floors. Also inside is a prison, armory hall, chapels, bronze doors, sculptures, paintings, and much more. Your kids should be captivated imagining the history within these walls and the stories and legends they’ll hear about on their visit.

Castle of Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art

Piazza Mafalda di Savoia Rivoli
Turin, Italy

This former royal residence of the House of Savoy is now one of Europe's foremost contemporary art spaces. The history surrounding the castle, from the negotiations surrounding medieval accession to the house arrest of Victor Amadeus II (at least until he had produced a male heir), lend the collection an aspect of historical permanence, even though the museum was only established in 1984. The roll call of artists is as impressive as Castello di Rivoli's aristocratic pedigree. Consider these names from the international art scene, featuring some of the most influential painters, photographers, and sculptors from the last 60 years: from America, Sol LeWitt, Nan Goldin, and Dan Graham; from Britain, Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George, and Tacita Dean; Germans Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Anselm Kiefer; Italian Francesco Clemente; Canadian Frank Gehry, Dutchman Jan Dibbets, Dane Olafur Eliasson, and South African William Kentridge.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Duomo di San Giovanni Battista

Via XX Settembre 87 Piazza San Giovanni
Turin, Italy

It has been Turin's most celebrated icon for centuries: Sacra Sindone (the Holy Shroud), an enigma in linen. Thought to be the cloth that wrapped the crucified body of Christ, this length of linen has been debated and discussed virulently for hundreds of years. Even after the Catholic Church agreed to sophisticated carbon dating in the 1990s, the genesis of the shroud was not completely clear. Due to the relic's age, it is only shown every quarter of a century, though there is a permanent replica on display in front of the altar of this 15th-century cathedral (plus a museum, the Museo della Sindone, on nearby Via San Domenico). Outside this Renaissance structure designed by Meo del Caprina, look out for Turin's Roman remains, the old Porta Palatina gate, flanked by two towers.

Cesare Lombroso Museum of Criminal Anthropology

15 Via Pietro Giuria
Turin 10126, Italy

Part of the University of Turn, this museum—once only available to academics—showcases the collection of criminologist Cesare Lombroso. Founder of the Italian school of criminology, he tried to link criminal behavior with physical defects of the brain. The museum’s exhibits include brain specimens, hundreds of skulls, dozens of complete skeletons, wax models, criminal evidence, drawings, photographs, and works produced by criminals. Also on display are Turin’s gallows, which were used until the city’s final hanging in 1865. Topping it all off is the head of Lombroso himself, preserved in a glass chamber.

Charterhouse of St. Martin

Certosa e Museo di San Martino

5 Largo San Martino
80129 Naples, Italy

There is much to see and admire at this former monastery, from its museum full of artifacts and the hanging gardens, to the view from its Vomero hilltop setting. Take the funicular at Montesanto station to get here then wander the grounds and admire the chapel’s intricate exterior. Inside are the painted ceilings and marble alters that amount to what some say is the most beautiful church in the city. Kids will see boats, model ships, swords, pistols, and much more in the museum. Adults will appreciate the 17th-century paintings and collection of presepi (nativity scenes). The views from outside offer all of Naples below, including Mount Vesuvius and the Gulf of Naples. Once you’ve taken your share of outstanding photos, wander the Vomero neighborhood and shop, grab a bite to eat, and finish off with some gelato.

Cinema Museum

Museo del Cinema

Viale Africa
Sicily, Catania, Italy

Italian filmmakers have long mined Sicily's landscape and distinctive streets. This museum, which opened in 2003, records the island's rich cinematic history. Of particular interest is the golden period between 1912 and 1917, when Sicilian production groups such as Etna and Sicula led the nation. The exhibition owes much of its creative force to François Confino, the Swiss architect and curator whose work includes the auto museum and cinema museum in Turin. Confino utilizes every part of the atmospheric 900-square-meter Zo space, which was originally a sulfur refinery called Le Ciminiere. Among the displays are portraits, technical explanations of cinematic projection, scientific discoveries, and comments from the greats of Italian cinema. Look out for posters, stills, and images taken on the sets of filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Closed Mondays.

City of Science

Città della Scienza

57/104 Via Coroglio
80124 Naples, Italy

Kids can touch and learn in this 5,000 square meter (16,404 square feet) museum, one of the country’s largest. Themed exhibition areas include Sea, Planetarium, Bugs & Company, Green and Other Colors, and Corporea, Human Body Museum. The last is an interactive space with more than 100 exhibits based on the human body and biomedical sciences, including a feature where you can see an x-ray of your body as you move. There are virtual reality experiences, interactive features, games, labs, and much more. The whole family should find a visit here fascinating. Check the museum website for information on temporary exhibits, tours, and special events, as well as operating hours.

Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art


Via Magenta 31
Turin, Italy

Turin may be labeled an industrial city by some, but its artistic credentials go back a long way. This city gallery (known as GAM) was the first in Italy to show a public collection of contemporary art. Founded in 1863, its sterling Italian collection spans 18th-century neoclassical pieces by the likes of sculptor Canova, 19th-century paintings including works by landscape artist Fontanesi, and a 20th-century section that features many more familiar names: Italian luminaries Giorgio de Chirico and Amedeo Modigliani, plus international artists such as Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Andy Warhol. Appropriately for the city connected in the 1960s to Arte Povera (a bold postwar art movement which questioned artists' need for luxurious or beautiful resources, instead turning to recycled or reclaimed materials), GAM has a sizable Arte Povera collection. Closed on Mondays, GAM also offers an art library and photography archive.

Civic Museum

Piazza Federico di Svevia
Catania, Sicily, Italy

Although its palatial chambers now house the Civic Museum, Castello Ursino was originally designed in 1240 as a military fortress for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II on the cliffs above the Ionian Sea. The fact that it's now 400 meters from the water is thanks to Mount Etna, which created a beachhead of new volcanic land when it erupted in 1669. The castle survived the eruption unscathed, but its strategic position was totally compromised. In the 14th century, it evolved into a royal house and an administrative headquarters. Later, it was utilized as a jail and barracks, before finally being converted into a museum in 1934. It features classical antiquities such as vases, coins, sculpture, and mosaic pieces excavated during various construction projects in Catania (many donated by the Benedictines and Prince Biscari), Sicilian painted carts, curios from life in 18th-century Catania, and a medieval art collection featuring work by Fra Angelico and Michele Rapisardi. 

Correr Museum

Museo Correr

San Marco 52
Venice, Italy

Although this museum is named for Teodoro Correr, the Italian count who gifted the city his art collection in 1830, the building has a French air. That's because part of it was built when Venice was under the control of Napoleon. The French emperor stayed here when he visited the city, and the Napoleonic Wing contains some of the museum's masterpieces, including sculptures by Antonio Canova. Although the collection contains exhibits of Venetian history down the years, the centerpiece of Teodoro Correr's works are paintings by Venetians between the 14th and the 16th centuries. Alongside pieces by Lorenzo Veneziano and Lorenzo Lotto, there is an entire room devoted to the Bellini family: Renaissance master Jacopo and his sons Gentile and Giovanni. One particular work by Vittore Carpaccio, depicting two courtesans with ambiguous sexuality, has been debated locally for centuries.

Doge's Palace

Palazzo Ducale

1 San Marco Venice
30124 Veneto, Italy

Doge's Palace is a Gothic-style palace constructed from 1309 to 1424, although its foundations are thought to date back to the 9th century. The palace, the official residence of the Doge (Chief Magistrate) of Venice, houses lawyers' offices, office of the Chancellery, office of the Censors, naval offices, the Grand Council Chamber, and the Ballot Chamber, spread over the first and second floors. The third floor is decorated with paintings, including those of previous Doges, and usually reserved for hosting foreign ambassadors. Tintoretto's Vast Paradise, the world's largest painting on canvas, can also be seen in the Grand Council Chamber.

Duomo Museum

Eastern side of the Piazza del Duomo
Florence, Italy

Also here is the second of Michelangelo's three versions of the Pietá; apparently, the artist caused the noticeable damage on the piece when he took a hammer to it in a moment of frustration with his work. The top floor holds the statues of the Prophets created for the Campanile, and in the space leading to the exit you'll find some of the machinery used to construct the cathedral dome, a death mask of its designer, Brunelleschi, as well as wooden models for different parts of the cathedral.

Egyptian Museum

Museo Egizio

Via Accademia delle Scienze 6
Turin, Italy

Jean-François Champollion, the French scholar who cracked the hieroglyphic code of the Rosetta Stone, knew the value of this exceptional Egyptian Museum. "The road to Thebes passes through Turin," he wrote. The museum boasts that it is the only world institution dedicated to Egyptian art, other than the Cairo Museum. Highlights include a sandstone Sphinx from Karnak, a limestone Theban group sculpture of the Pharaoh and Amun from the reign of Tutankhamun, and a sculpture of Rameses II in black diorite. The collection of 30,000 items includes everything from funerary masks to eating utensils. Look out for the temple of Elessiya, gifted by an Egyptian government grateful for Italy's help saving its treasures from the flooding Aswan Dam. On the floor above the museum, check out Galleria Sabauda, which has its own treasure trove of artistic gems from the northern Renaissance. Among its highlights are works by Rembrandt, van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and Hans Memling.

Galileo Museum

Museo Galileo

1 Piazza dei Giudici
50122 Florence, Italy

Budding scientists and historians will enjoy this unique Florence museum. Named in honor of Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, Galileo Galilei, older kids especially should find the attractions intriguing and educational. Visitors will learn just how influential Galileo was, making fundamental contributions to the scientific fields of motion, astronomy, strength of materials, and scientific method. The museum features Galileo’s instruments such as telescopes, microscopes, and surgical tools as well as oil clocks, maps, chemistry cabinets, and other interesting items, totaling more than 1,000 objects. Videos accompany many exhibits, and guided tours are available. Outside a massive sundial casts a shadow indicating the time of day. Give it a try before heading on to the next fascinating Florence attraction. See the museum website for more information on tours and operating hours.

Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca' d'Oro Gallery

Cannaregio 3932 Venice Italy

Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca' d'Oro Gallery is housed in the historic Palazzo Santa Sofia. Commissioned by the Contarini family, the Palazzo Santa Sofia became known as Ca' d'Oro (Golden House) because of the gilt facings to its marble walls. It was designed by father and son Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon, who were also involved in sculptures in the Doge's Palace. The Contarinis were something of a Venice institution, siring no fewer than eight doges for the city between the 11th and 17th centuries. Alas, a later owner was less respectful of this building's Venetian Gothic design. After ballerina Marie Taglioni was gifted the palazzo by a smitten Russian prince, she ripped out the stairway in the elegant inner courtyard. Ca' d'Oro is now owned by the state, thanks to its final owner, Baron Giorgio Franchetti, who gave his name to the museum containing paintings by Giorgione, Titian, Guardi, as well as Andrea Mantegna's celebrated St. Sebastian.

Historic Center of Florence

Central Florence, Italy

Florence’s compact and historic city center has much to offer families visiting the city. Kids will get a sense of history just from the cobblestoned streets and there’s scenery aplenty along the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone arch bridge. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of piazzas (public squares) and distinct architecture of Renaissance-style palaces and churches. Some of the city’s major art museums are found here, including the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace. Street musicians are a common sight within the city center, providing entertainment for the whole family while you enjoy yet another cup of creamy gelato. If you’re accompanied by little travelers, be sure to let them ride the antique carousel.

Historic Center of Rome

Rome, Italy

Believed to have been founded in 753 BCE., Rome was the center of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and it was acclaimed as the center of the Christian world by the 4th century. Some important monuments of ancient Rome include the Colosseum (the largest amphitheater of the Roman Empire), Roman forum, Pantheon, Catacombs of Rome, and the Pyramid of Cestius. Equally famous are the vast and regal squares and the obelisks (shafts of stone with a tapering end on one side) built in the 17th century. The old city has about 200 palaces, 900 churches, 300 hotels, eight major parks, the President's official residence, offices of the government and innumerable well-known monuments.

Imperial Forum

Fori Imperiali

Via dei Fori Imperiali
Rome, Italy

The Imperial Forum is a collective unit of the forums of Trajan, Augustus, Nerva, and Caesar. Julius Caesar built the additional forum to ease overcrowding in the Roman Forum. It became Rome's first shopping district, complete with liquor stores, fast food outlets, and Trajan's Market, a surprisingly modern two-story mall with stores selling wine, groceries, flowers and household necessities. Much of the Imperial Forums has been lost over time. Some ancient structures were recycled for new building materials, and others were plowed under when Mussolini built the Via del Fori Imperiali. This broad avenue runs from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, and ironically, takes its name from the forum it partially destroyed. The buildings and temples that remain are remarkably intact, more so than most of those in the Roman Forum. The Museum of the Imperial Forum is located in Trajan's Market and offers tours of the market and forum grounds.

La Scala

Teatro alla Scala

Piazza della Scala Milan
20121 Lombardy, Italy

The Teatro alla Scala was inaugurated in August 1778, two years after a fire destroyed the former opera house, Teatro Ducale, that stood on the same spot. The Teatro alla Scala, which has more than 3,000 seats and two loggiones (galleries), boasts one of the largest stages in Italy, with a width of 26 meters (85 feet) and height of 27 meters (88.5 ft). La Scala's season opens on December 7 every year, and all opening performances on this day are required to end before midnight. The La Scala Museum attached to the theater displays a vast collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and documents relating to the history of opera and the theater.

Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum

Via de Servi, 66R
50122 Florence, Italy

If your children don’t know much about the incredibly talented Leonardo da Vinci, they will have a better understanding of his genius after a visit to this museum. The Italian painter, sculptor, engineer, and architect still holds prominence throughout those fields into the modern era. Kids can touch and test the inventor’s machines, with 50 life-size models. Visitors can see geographical tables written in his own hand and reconstruct some of his inventions in the workshops. They can observe the progression of his art, including the famous Mona Lisa and Last Supper, in the Hall of Paintings. Exhibits include multimedia installations and explanatory panels in five languages. Check the museum website for more information including operating hours.

Mássimo Bellini Theater

Via Giuseppe Perrotta 12
Sicily, Catania, Italy

Although the foundation stone for this grand theater was laid in 1812, the doors were not opened to the public until 1890 (with a performance of Bellini's Norma). Given that Catania had to battle cholera outbreaks during this period, perhaps it isn't so surprising. Designed by Milan architect Carlo Sada, Teatro Mássimo Bellini seats 1,200 spectators, with an orchestra numbering 105 and a choir totaling 84. Despite the fact that it was mostly built in the late 19th century, its baroque design matches the 17th- and 18th-century structures around it. The theater has hosted many of Italy's most renowned performers, as well as international stars. Among the roster of musical legends to have played or conducted here are Maria Callas, Georg Solti, and Riccardo Muti. The list of musical directors is equally accomplished, featuring cinematic luminaries Franco Zeffirelli and Werner Herzog.

Milan Children’s Museum

Museo dei Bambini Milano

Via Enrico Besana, 12
20122 Milan, Italy

It’s true that children learn the most through play and hands-on experiences, which is why you’ll want to bring them to the city’s children’s museum. Most appropriate for ages 6 and under, Museo dei Bambini Milano (MUBA) lets visitors touch and explore its interactive exhibits. Most displays are in kid-size dimensions, while workshops and activities are led by friendly and patient staff. Older kids also will enjoy things like learning about light and color, magnetic walls, and transforming materials into original creations. Check the website for information on special events, temporary exhibits, as well as for operating hours.

Milan Natural History Museum

Corso Venezia, 55
20121 Milan, Italy

There’s no denying that the sight of dinosaur skeletons enrapture kids the world over, which is why a visit to Milan Natural History Museum is a must. Unsurprisingly, the T-Rex skeleton is a highlight, and the selection of more than 100 dioramas amounts to the most of any Italian museum. The permanent exhibits cover topics from fossils and dinosaurs to plants and the history of man. There really is something for the whole family, and many of the exhibits have interactive displays that will keep even the youngest kids entertained. Guided tours are available; check the website for more information.

Museum of Contemporary Art

79 Via Settembrini
Naples 80139, Italy

A testament to Naples' modernization and revitalization, this museum, known as MADRE, features permanent and rotating exhibitions within its stark, high white walls inside the Palazzo Donnaregina. On display are such big names as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Yoko Ono, and Jeff Koons. The museum provides a satisfying break from churches and castles. Located near the Duomo and the National Archaeological Museum, the MADRE claims to be the first contemporary art museum established within a historic district, labeling it as a place where cultural artifacts are not confined in the past. Closed Tuesdays. Exhibits are in Italian and English.

Museum of Italian National Reunification

Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano

Via Accademia delle Scienze 5 Piazza Carignano
Turin, Italy

The 19th-century Austrian statesman Metternich once described Italy as "only a geographic expression." Whereas several other European powers had consolidated their various internal states, Italy began the 19th century as a series of squabbling regions. This museum tells the story of Italy's unification, and it is the perfect location for such a history. From 1860 to 1865, Italy's first parliament met here, in this stately 17th-century baroque palace designed by Guarino Guarini. Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the united Italy, was even born here. Learn about Giuseppe Garibaldi, the charismatic revolutionary whose vision earned him the allegiance of millions. And discover Count Cavour, the wily moderate who rode Garibaldi's coat tails to become Italian prime minister. Recently reopened after a five-year refurbishment, the museum's collection not only lays out the history, but also illustrates it, with displays ranging from the Austrian printing presses used to spread the revolution to replicas of the cells endured by conspirators known as Carbonari.

Museum of Pathological Anatomy

85 Via Giovanni Battista Morgagni
Florence, Italy

Located at the University of Florence, this museum contains wax figures sculpted by 19th century anatomical artists. The wax representations were important teaching tools for the times that were made by artists such as Luigi Calamai, Giuseppe Ricci, and Egisto Tortori. There are tissue samples and plaster casts as well as skeletal remains, many of which are depicted in wax. Perhaps the most famous figure is the leper model from 1851, which turned out to be a man suffering from Norwegian scabies, not leprosy. There also are the remains and model of a child with severe hydrocephaly (abnormal buildup of fluid in the brain, often leading to an unusually large head), among others. The museum is open to the public by appointment only.

Museum of the Landing in Sicilia

Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia

Le Ciminiere
Catania, Sicilia 95129, Italy

The Allies called it Operation Husky-the amphibious assault on Sicily by a combination of British and American forces during World War II. Utilizing deception, air power, naval ordnance, and paratroopers, Husky was like a rehearsal for the D-Day landings. Many of its key personnel, including Americans George Patton, Omar Bradley, and Dwight Eisenhower, later played leading roles in the Allied drive across northern Europe. Situated in a former sulfur mine, this 3,000-square-meter history museum outlines the chronology of Operation Husky. Color-coded displays illustrate the advancing armies, and the battles fought across Sicily: Agira, Floridia, and Ponte di Primosole. Other exhibits show the cost of the Allied onslaught on the Sicilian population, with monitors projecting images of destruction in Catania, Messina, and Palermo. Military and civilian experiences are both given space and attention, with a section on uniforms and weapons complemented by a testimony hall, recording the everyday experience of men and women who lived through this challenging time. Closed Mondays.

Naples National Archaeological Museum

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

19 Piazza Museo Nazionale
80135 Naples, Italy

There are so many interesting things to see at Naples National Archaeological Museum that it would be a shame to miss it. With a history going as far back as the 8th century BCE, paleo-Christian relics, and the memory of Pompeii just a glance toward Vesuvius away, Naples has something to say about archaeology. Housed in a 16th-century palace, the museum contains mosaic floors from the Roman era and marble statues excavated from Pompeii, as well as an excellent collection of inscriptions and Egyptian and Etruscan collections. There also is a large model of Pompeii that depicts the lost city. Audio guides are available and recommended. The museum is closed Tuesdays. Check the website for information about tours, temporary exhibits, and special events.

National Automobile Museum

Corso Unità d'Italia 40
Turin, Italy

In the Detroit of Italy, a city sometimes dubbed "Fiatville," visiting this car museum is akin to a pilgrimage. Despite the legacy and largesse of the city's Agnelli family, the institution owes its formal establishment to Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, a small-time Italian aristocrat and big-time auto enthusiast. It was Biscaretti's collection of early 20th-century vehicles that formed the cornerstone of the museum, which opened in 1960 in a purpose-built modernist block designed by Amedeo Albertini. With more than 170 vehicles, the museum offers a view not only of Turin's economic development, but also of 120 years of automotive history, from the earliest buggies (Isotta Fraschini, Renault, Model-T Ford, and Oldsmobile) to design classics such as the Volkswagen Beetle, the Citroen DS, and the Ferrari F-40, a racecar disguised as a road model, capable of a speed of 320 kilometers per hour (200 mph). This place is must-visit for motorheads.

National Museum of Capodimonte

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

1 Via Miano
Naples, Italy

The National Museum of Capodimonte is a place for serious art aficionados. Located in the Palace of the Bourbons, it houses the world-class Farnese collection (named for Elisabetta Farnese, mother of Carlo di Borbone and inheritor of some of Italy's finest art), including masterpieces by Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Titian. The Appartamento Reale gallery houses artifacts from Neapolitan royal life. The other galleries contain fine Southern Italian art, 19-century art, and contemporary art, making the Capodimonte a rare find for both Renaissance masters and Andy Warhol. Closed Wednesdays.

National Museum of Cinema

Museo Nazionale del Cinema

Via Montebello 20
Turin, Italy

This unusual building, which has become the architectural symbol of Turin, enjoyed a similarly unusual genesis. Originally, it was commissioned to be a synagogue, which the  city's Jewish community hired Alessandro Antonelli to build. It was to be a celebration of the city's Jewish population and its newfound legal freedom. But Antonelli's own obsession with reaching the sky, reframing his blueprint to add height to the structure, only escalated costs. Several years in, the Jews pulled out, and the city stepped into the breach. Today, the building with the curiously square dome (and the name of its visionary architect) houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema), a suitably artistic and fantastic tenant in a city known for its early cinematic experiments. The museum is particularly strong on the technical development of the medium, and contains a library of 7,000 films.

National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci

Museo Nazionale Scienza e della Tecnica Leonardo da Vinci

Via San Vittore 21
Milan, Italy

This state-of-the-art museum, housed in a 16th-century Olivetan monastery, honors Italy's contributions to world science and technology. Among its impressive exhibits is the world's largest ship to be housed indoors. Thirteen interactive labs allow you to participate in theater animation and experience life on board the Enrico Toti submarine. A whole section is devoted to Renaissance legend Leonardo da Vinci and more than 100 of his original drawings and designs. Taking the concept even farther, the minds behind this museum have built working machines based on the great artist-inventor's blueprints. 

Natural History Museum

La Specola

17 Via Romana
50125 Florence, Italy

If you’ve maxed out on all of Florence’s palaces and art, revisit the amazing natural world at La Specola. It features mammals, insects, sea creatures, birds, and the hippopotamus that was once a pet of the city’s wealthy Medici family. The museum is especially entertaining for older children, as it contains wax cross-sections of the human body that may unsettle the littlest kids. There are more than 5,000 specimens collected over 200 years—enough to engage your aspiring zoologists. Be sure and check the website for operating hours, special events, and information on tours. Located next to the Boboli Gardens, plan a stop there afterwards to relax and imagine the pet hippo who once romped in the garden.

Ovo Castle

3 Via Eldorado
Naples 80132, Italy

Legend has it that Virgil placed an egg beneath this Naples fortress to protect it—hence its name, the Castle of the Egg. Located at the spot upon which Naples' history began in the 9th century BCE, this iconic castle jutting out from the seashore is a hotbed of history. Its prehistoric location and classic poet's affiliation aside, the fortress stood strong through the Middle Ages and functioned as a royal residence until the 1900s. Now it fittingly houses the Museum of Ethno-Prehistory, which is open for special exhibits. Check out the stunning views, and then head to Borgo dei Marinari for seafood.

Palazzo Vecchio

Piazza della Signoria
50122 Florence, Italy

Noted as one of the city’s most family-friendly museums, Palazzo Vecchio showcases how the wealthy lived centuries ago. Plan to book a guided family tour of the Palazzo Vecchio in advance, as kids should enjoy the costumed guides, activities, puppet shows, and scavenger hunts. A secret passage leads to a room where they can dress up in royal children’s clothing. Tours and activities take one to two hours. Parents will find sumptuously decorated rooms and panoramic views from the walkway and 95-meter-tall (311-foot-tall) tower. The second floor features Donatello's Judith and Holofernes, one of his last bronze masterpieces, and on some summer evenings the outdoor balustrade on the roof is open, offering a terrific view of the city in all directions.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Collezione Peggy Guggenheim

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni Dorsoduro 701
Venice, Italy

The sinking of the Titanic ended up enriching Italy's famous sinking city, when art collector Peggy Guggenheim inherited her drowned father's millions. Before locating her exceptional collection in Venice, Guggenheim was a name in 1920s Paris. She became friends with dozens of artists, whose works she started showing, and later buying. She even married one of her favorite painters, Max Ernst. Ernst's works are part of this collection, spanning the movements of cubism, abstract expressionism, futurism, and surrealism. The roll call of European and American stars includes Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, and Marc Chagall. Guggenheim's shrewdly chosen collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the unfinished 18th-century palace on the banks of the Grand Canal where the American heiress lived for more than 30 years upon returning to Europe after World War II.

Phoenix Theater

Teatro la Fenice

1965 Campo San Fantin
30124 Venice, Italy

Teatro La Fenice, located in Venice and inaugurated in 1774, has been home to many famous operatic premieres. Famous Italian composers like Bellini, Rossini, and Guiseppe Verdi premiered many of their productions at this theater. The theater was twice razed by fire and once lost in a legal battle involving the owners and the theater management. Reconstructed in 1790, 1837, and 2001, the current structure was built with the help of old photographs to resemble the original 19th-century style.

Pietro Micca Museum

Museo Civico Pietro Micca

Via Guicciardini 7a
Turin, Italy

Turin stood alone in 1706, outnumbered by a large Franco-Spanish army and besieged for several months. Although the city's fortifications saw skirmishes daily, the real battle lay underground. Both sides dug deep into the soil, trying either to enter the city or foil those attempts. In one celebrated incident, an Italian sapper named Pietro Micca sniffed out a daring attack by French grenadiers. He blockaded the tunnel, lit a fuse connected to a barrel of gunpowder, scotching the French assault though sacrificing his own life in the process. This unassuming museum is the gateway to more than five miles of tunnels, painstakingly dug out by archaeologists since the 1950s. Visitors can see displays in the museum about the 1706 siege, and arrange tours of the subterranean battlefields. Look out, too, for historical reenactments staged by Torinesi history buffs in period costume.

Poldi Pezzoli Museum

Museo Poldi Pezzoli

12 Via Alessandro Manzoni
Milan, Lombardia 20121, Italy

This astonishing collection of artworks was donated to the city of Milan by the wealthy Poldi Pezzoli in 1879. Masterpieces such as Bellini's Ecco Homo, Francesca's Saint Nicholas and Guardi's Gray Lagoon hang on the walls of its Golden Room, which overlooks some of the city's most lavish gardens. Pollailo's Portrait of a Lady, a graceful depiction of a beautiful woman's profile, is perhaps the highlight of the whole museum and has come to be regarded as a symbol of Milanese culture. Free audio guides are available in various languages including English, French, and Japanese. 

Puppet Museum

Museo della Marionetta

Via Santa Teresa 5
Turin, Italy

Taking lore and legends from across the world, the Lupi family has been crafting puppets for more than 200 years. Visitors to the museum (open by appointment only) might see a fairytale staple like Cinderella or Harlequin, a German folk tale hero such as the Pied Piper, or a ghost from a Scottish castle. Add to those satirical versions of characters from Italy's own history, including Giuseppe Garibaldi and Count Cavour, and it is clear that although children may enjoy these figurines, they aren't entirely child's play. The museum (closed Sundays) is made up of 5,000 puppets, as well as an Imelda Marcos-esque wardrobe of costumes. Families who hunt out this venerable spot next to the 17th-century Church of St. Teresa will also find the Gianguja Theater, in which they can enjoy shows featuring the collection's wooden characters.

Royal Palace of Naples

Palazzo Reale

1 Piazza del Plebiscito
Naples 80132, Italy

Commissioned in 1600 and finally finished in 1843, this sprawling palace stands for the opulence of the Bourbon rulers. Now a museum and a testimonial to Naples' vibrant history, the palace has 30 rooms open for tours, each one more extravagant than the next. Visit the throne room, the king's study (which holds a desk and other furniture made for Napoleon), and marvel at the multitude of rooms that display marble, gems, gold, and artwork by such masters as Giordano and Vaccaro. The Royal Palace also houses the National Library, one of Italy's finest institutions, which contains approximately 1.5 million printed volumes and 1,800 Herculaneum papyri. 

San Carlo Theater

Teatro San Carlo

98/F Via San Carlo
Naples, Italy

Built in the 1730s for Bourbon King Carlo (Charles III), this theater was the world's first opera theater. It is still in use today and underwent an exquisite renovated in the 1990s. In the early days the theater featured mostly comic operas, and over the years such greats graced the hall as Giocchino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini. The stunning building may be toured during the weekdays by contacting Sirio Services; on Sundays guided tours run at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Reservations are necessary. Better yet, take in a performance.

San Lorenzo Maggiore Church

316 Via Tribunali
Naples, Italy

The 6th-century San Lorenzo Maggiore basilica was reconstructed in the 13th century, and while its façade hints of (yet another) baroque basilica, the interior tells a Gothic tale of airy simplicity and stunning frescoes and artwork. Not only is this one of Naples' more intriguingly beautiful churches, it contains literary significance as well: 14th-century author Giovanni Boccaccio met his Fiametta here, and Petrarch occupied the convent for some time. All the more thrilling is Il Criptoportico, the crypts beneath the building that lead into excavations of Naples' sottosuolo, revealing the stony remains of the ancient Roman forum. This is one of the city's best underground sites, so be sure to book a tour. The church also houses a museum dedicated to the archaeological, historical, and religious artifacts associated with the site.

San Martin's Charterhouse

Certosa di San Martino

8 Largo San Martino
Naples, Italy

Perched high on the hill of Sant'Elmo in the foreground of the Sant'Elmo Fortress, this monastery-turned-museum was built in 1325 and restored in the 1600s. The imposing structure contains world-class paintings, sculptures, and frescoes by acclaimed medieval and Renaissance artists. Baroque and rococo style dominate the church, complete with marble floors and lapis lazuli, signs of the Catholic Church's new and opulent leanings in a time of change for Christian life. After exploring the church, visit the museum, which contains centuries of Italian artifacts, drawings, sculptures, and one of the finest nativity scene collections (presepi) in the world.

Sansevero Chapel Museum

Museo Cappella Sansevero

19/21 Via Francesco de Sanctis
Naples, Italy

Naples has a stake in the dark and occult, and this chapel-turned-museum speaks to this eerie current running through the city's sites. In the early 18th century, eccentric Renaissance man Prince Raimondo di Sangro of Sansevero more or less repurposed the chapel into a celebration of death. The most notable aspect of his contribution is the presence of several sculptures depicting veiled people: veiled naked women, a man disentangling himself from a net, and a veiled Christ, whose stony sheath lays over his realistic body like milky glue. Curiosity-shop types will get a thrill out of the underground chamber, where 18th-century "anatomical machines" contain the bodies of a man and a woman whose skeletons and, unbelievably, circulatory systems, remain intact and on display. Legends tell the rest of the story, which would make for a fascinating thriller if Hollywood would just pick it up. The prince's tomb is here too, as if that comes as a surprise. 

Santa Maria della Concezione

27 Via Vittorio Veneto
Rome 00187, Italy

The crypts beneath Rome’s Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini are the final resting place of more than 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870. Known as Capuchin friars because of the capuche meaning “hood” attached to their brown tunic, they moved from the friary of St. Bonaventure in 1631 bringing with them the remains of deceased friars so that all the Capuchin friars could be in one place. The bones were sorted by type with all the skulls, leg bones, and pelvises were used to decorate different crypts along with a plaque that reads, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Mummified monks dressed in friar clothes hang from the walls and ceiling. Today, the church also includes a museum.

Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy

Via della Scala 16
Florence, Italy

Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is considered the world’s oldest pharmacy. It dates to 1221, when Dominican monks at the adjacent Basilica of Santa Maria Novella started growing herbs to make natural remedies. These high-quality medicines and balms made the remedies locally known and favored, leading to the pharmacy opening to the public in the 17th century. Today, these original recipes are still followed, along with traditional methods of preparing them. A small museum features antique terracotta jars, though the whole store is outfitted with antiques and is itself a lovely venue worth visiting, featuring vaulted ceilings, frescoes, marble floors, stained-glass windows, bronze statues, and antique scales and mortars. Notable items available include Aceto dei Sette Ladri meaning “Seven Thieves Vinegar,” which are smelling salts so named for a band of seven men who robbed corpses during the plague, dousing themselves in vinegar in hopes of protection as it was believed at the time that bad smells were the cause of sickness.

Secret Cabinet

Gabinetto Segreto

National Archaeological Museum of Naples
18/19 Piazza Museo
Naples 80135, Italy

A specific room at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is reserved for a collection of exotic 1st century Roman art found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Referred to as Gabinetto Segreto, meaning “secret cabinet,” the room is filled with naked sculptures, sexual depictions, and plenty of penis-shaped objects such as windchimes and oil lamps. There also is an assortment of terra cotta penises, which were thought to bring good luck. Over the years, the collection has been opened and closed repeatedly due to its graphic nature until finally being made permanently available to the public in 2000.

Sforzesco Castle

Castello Sforzesco

Piazza Castello
Milan 20121, Italy

Three museums are contained here, the best of which is the Museo d'Arte Antica, which contains classic sculptures by Michelangelo in its collection. The museum's Busti tomb carvings were saved from convents and churches that were on the verge of being demolished. 

St. Agatha's Cathedral

Via Etnea 28
Sicily, Catania, Italy

Sicilian architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini took an 11th-century shell—the old fortified church erected by Roger I and battered by the 1693 earthquake—and turned it into Catania's signature. To do so, he envisioned a cruciform design, re-using the surviving transepts and adding a monumental nave. For the Duomo's façade, he drew inspiration from Bernini's work in Rome, creating a baroque frontage built upon columns formed of the very stone used in the city's Roman amphitheater. The interior contains several historical features, including the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini-the Catania-born composer died in Paris in 1835 at the age of just 34, but his remains were reinterred in his hometown in 1876. Don't miss the various chapels, especially the one dedicated to St. Agatha, which houses the relics used in festival processions. The adjacent Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum) has a fine collection of silverware, canonical robes, and reliquaries.

Stibbert Museum

26 Via Federigo Stibbert
50134 Florence, Italy

Recall the era of knights in this engaging museum full of armor from both Eastern and Western civilizations. Once the private villa of Frederick Stibbert, he added to a collection of artifacts that he inherited. The grand hall will make a lasting impression, as it contains life-size horses and knights in procession. There also are tapestries, furniture, musical instruments, ceramics, and clothing, amounting to tens of thousands of artifacts from throughout the world. The museum also offers a café, and gardens surround the outside of the villa.

Uffizi Gallery

Galleria degli Uffizi

6 Piazzale degli Uffizi
50122 Florence, Italy

The Uffizi Gallery, a palazzo (palace) originally built for the offices of the Florentine magistrates, now holds some of world's rarest masterpieces in art and antiquities. The gallery has a major collection from the Italian Renaissance period, including Italian paintings and classical Roman sculptures. The collections are arranged in sequence, displaying the progression of art from the Byzantine period to the baroque era. The gallery is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Florence.

Vasari Corridor

Corridoio Vasariano

Florence, Italy

This raised passageway runs for just under a kilometer (0.6 miles) and crosses the Arno River by running above the jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). Marvelous views of the city are available from the round windows set into the corridor, which has also been lined with more than 1,000 paintings from the Uffizi collection, including work from masters such as Rubens, Bernini, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Titian. Reservations to view the corridor are required; while the cost is steep compared to other attractions, the Vasari Corridor is a unique Florentine experience.

Vatican Museums

Musei Vaticani

Viale Vaticano
Vatican City, Rome 00165, Italy

Located at the heart of Vatican City, the Vatican Museums have a rich and unique collection of art and antiquities collected over centuries of history. A tour of the museum stakes the visitor through galleries, palaces, apartments and, finally, the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. The Raphael Rooms, private quarters of Julius II, stand out because of the spectacular frescoes that adorn the walls and ceiling. Galleries of tapestries, a library with a vast collection of ancient and rare documents, Greek sculptures, and Egyptian mummies are also on display at the museums.

Venetian Ghetto

Ghetto di Venezia

Central Cannaregio
Venice, Italy

Venice has experienced an ambiguous relationship with Judaism. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Jews were limited to 15-day stays in the city. In 1516, Venice realized Jews' financial importance, but still confined them to a Cannaregio island known for its foundry (hence ghetto from the Italian word geto, meaning foundry). They were also banned from many professions, although Jewish medical doctors were respected. The ghetto's narrow confines explain why some of its buildings rise to nine stories (the highest in the city). Although Napoleon eliminated the segregation laws in 1797, Venice's Jewish population was virtually eradicated by the Nazis. The museum and ivy-strewn Jewish cemetery (with graves dating from 1389) are worth visiting. So, too, are the ghetto's five synagogues, which offer a fascinating cross-section of Renaissance architecture, with decoration by artisans who also worked on Christian churches.