Here are 10 of Italy’s great virtual museum tours that I’ve recently enjoyed while being under lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
While regular travel may be banished for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus outbreak, more and more Italian museums and cultural sites are implementing virtual tours to offer Italy lovers a chance to admire the wonders of the country right from their couch. I know, it’s surely not the same as exploring the country in person, but still, it’s a good compromise given the circumstances. Think of these virtual tours as a preview for the actual trip that you will enjoy as soon as this will be all over.
So here are 10 of my favorite Italian museums to virtually visit for free under lockdown, from internationally-renowned museums to lesser-known but equally fascinating exhibits. Just choose your favorite, select the full view mode and enjoy the visit!
The Egyptian Museum, Turin
The Egyptian Musem in Turin is the oldest Egyptian museum in the world, second only to the one in Cairo, and is a must on any visit to the Piedmontese capital. It was first opened in 1824 and focuses exclusively on ancient Egyptian culture and art, with a vast collection that includes 24 human mummies and an incredibly long papyrus measuring 1847 cm.
The museum has recently launched a web series called “Director’s Walks”, with Christian Greco taking viewers on a delightful virtual stroll around the treasures. The episodes are published every Thursday and Saturday on the museum’s Youtube channel, the first one is available at this link. I particularly enjoyed the third one discussing Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt.
Via Accademia delle Scienze 6, Turin | +39 011 5617776 | website
Basilica of St Francis, Assisi
This stunning Gothic church located in the region of Umbria dates back to the 13th century and is a place of great spirituality. It’s dedicated to Saint Francis, Italy’s patron saint and the founder of the Franciscan order, who was born in Assisi and lived a simple life of poverty and abstinence.
The virtual tour takes you behind the imposing walls of the church to admire the stunning frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti. What’s more, there is also a 24-hour webcam showing the crypt with St Francis’ tomb for devotees to spend a moment in prayer wherever they are.
Piazza Inferiore di S. Francesco 2, Assisi | website
The National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa, Naples
I love traveling by train and the virtual visit to the National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa showcasing the history of trains in Italy really made my day. The exhibition is located in Pietrarsa, just outside Naples, on the site where the very first Italian locomotives were assembled in 1839, during the reign of Ferdinand II Bourbon.
The museum consists of over 55 pieces, from old engines to vintage carriages, and displays also the splendid Royal Train built by Fiat in the 1920s for Italy’s royal family. The virtual tour is available at this link.
Via Pietrarsa, Naples | +39 06 44103000 | website
Capitoline Museums, Rome
The Capitoline Museums are one of those places that get easily overlooked when rushing around Rome to see all the major highlights in only 48 hours, but they are surely well worth a visit. Considered the first example of a modern museum, their origins can be traced back to 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV (the same who sponsored the creation of the Sistine Chapel) established an exhibition of ancient statues for the people of Rome, and today they are home to an incredible collection of archeological finds, paintings, and sculptures.
The Capitoline Museums are housed in two buildings on Michelangelo’s splendid Piazza del Campidoglio, which offers scenic views over the ancient Forum. You can easily follow the floor plans here to enjoy the virtual tour. The Hall of Captains in Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Hall of the Emperors in Palazzo Nuovo are really stunning.
Piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome | +39 060608 | website
Quirinal Palace, Rome
Another great palace I loved touring virtually from home is the Quirinal Palace, the official home of the President of the Italian Republic in Rome. I haven’t had a chance to visit it in person yet, but luckily this virtual tour offered me a sneak peek inside the 16th-century mansion.
The online visit is really well organized, consisting of an easy-to-navigate floor plan and audio commentaries of each room in various languages. Look for the First State Room, where the President greets his guests, the sumptuous Grand Ballroom used for state luncheons and the swearing-in ceremony of new governments, and the spectacular Mascarino Staircase featuring splendid travertine columns.
Via Erminio Macario, Rome| +39 06 39967557 | website
The Vatican Museums, Rome
With a mesmerizing collection of artistic and historical treasures, the Vatican Museums are certainly one of Rome’s top attractions, but such popularity often means huge crowds and rushy visits. Although I already visited the Vatican Museums with no crowds, I really welcomed the opportunity to browse the 360-degree tours and videos available on the museums’ website from the peace and quiet of my sitting room, while mentally planning my next trip to Rome.
The virtual tours cover the most famous sections, including Michelangelo’s stunning frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and the rooms painted by the famous Renaissance artist Raphael.
Viale Vaticano, Rome | +39 06 69884676 | website
Kartell Museum, Milan
If you are design enthusiasts, then you should take this virtual tour of Kartell Museum, the historic Italian design brand founded near Milan in 1949. Kartell is specialized in the industrial production of design objects made of plastic and it’s a symbol of our Made in Italy excellence.
The museum is housed inside the Kartell factory on the outskirts of Milan and displays over 8,000 objects and 15,000 photographs that narrate Kartell’s history and production strategies. In 2000 it received the Guggenheim Enterprise & Culture Award as the best business museum.
Via delle Industrie 3, Noviglio | +39 02 90012269 | website
Civic Museums, Venice
The Civic Museums of Venice are a circuit of 11 exhibition spaces spanning 10 centuries of art and architecture. All together, these museums represent the city’s exceptional cultural and artistic heritage.
With the virtual tours realized in partnership with the Google Art Project, you can visit the beautiful interiors of places like the Doge’s Palace in St. Mark’s Square, which used to be the seat of the government during the Venetian Republic, or Ca’ Rezzonico, the sumptuous palace home to the museum of 18th-century Venice.
READ MORE: “11 useful tips for your trip to Venice”
Piazza San Marco 52, Venice | +39 041 2405211 | website
Casa Martini, Turin
Martini is an iconic Italian vermouth born in Piedmont in the late 1800s from the idea of a clever entrepreneur and a master herbalist. There are three main varieties of Martini – Rosso/Red, Bianco/White, and Extra Dry – and we often drink it ice-cold at aperitivo time, although it is also commonly used to prepare cocktails.
At this link, it is possible to enter the 18th-century villa that hosts Casa Martini, the museum where the story of this popular Italian brand is narrated through an interesting exhibition of documents, historic objects, and vintage advertisements. The museum is located in the town of Pessione, just a short train ride from the Turin.
Piazza Luigi Rossi 2, Chieri | +39 011 9419 562 | website
Trajan’s Market, Rome
Back in Rome, another of Italy’s best virtual museum tours is the Trajan’s Market, offering a virtual experience complete with descriptions and photos that allow exploring the beautiful archeological site right in the heart of the Eternal City.
The Market was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 107 AD and built by his trusted architect Apollodorus who also designed an impressive bridge over the Danube. It consists of a semicircular complex arranged over multiple levels, with a series of commercial and administrative buildings where public activities took place. It’s considered the archeological example of a modern shopping mall and provides a great insight into what life was like back in imperial times.
Via IV Novembre 94, Rome | +39 060608 | website
Have you already taken any of these virtual tours? Do you have others to suggest? Let me know in the comments below!
A super hug from Italy,