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Once the cultural centre of one of the largest empires in history, Rome has museums dedicated to virtually every artistic movement.

The MAXXI (the name derives from the Italian for the National Museum of Art of the 21st Century) has a permanent collection which includes works by Ed Ruscha, Gilbert & George, Anish Kapoor and Gerhard Richter. The building itself, by the Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid, is a curving, jutting, eye-popping structure of glass, steel and concrete which won its designer the 2010 Stirling Prize for architecture for the best new European building built or designed in Britain. Consisting of two museums, MAXXI Art and MAXXI Architecture, it is Italy’s first national museum dedicated entirely to contemporary art.

Antonio Canova, ‘Hercules and Lica’ (National Gallery of Modern Art)

They don’t build ‘em like the National Gallery of Modern Art any more. This monumental building with its immense, pillared entrance houses the largest collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century Italian artists, including de Chirico, Modigliani, Canova and many others, as well as notable works by international artists, from Calder, Renoir, Klee and Kandinsky to Mondrian, Klimt, Miro and Moore. The works are divided into three sections: Neoclassicism to Naturalism (1800-1885), Symbolism to Avant-Garde (1886-1924) and Return to the Order (1925-1990s). The entrance hall with its mirrored flooring reflects a real sense of magic which the collection delivers in spades.

Raphael, ‘The deposition’, 1507, oil on wood (Galleria Borghese)

A short walk from the National Gallery of Modern Art in the Villa Borghese Park is the Galleria Borghese, one of the oldest and most famous museums in Rome. Housed in a sumptuous, 17th century villa, it is renowned for its collection of classical sculptures by the likes of Bernini and Canova (many of them displayed in the very spaces they were intended for) and paintings by Renaissance masters like Rubens, Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio and Corraggio. You will probably not get in without booking in advance (visits are at specific times), although you can try your luck and join the queue to get a ticket in the event of a no-show.

Keep walking out the other side of the Villa Borghese Park into a residential neighbourhood of 19th century apartment buildings and you’ll come across the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea de Roma, or MACRO. Spread over a disused Peroni beer factory and an old slaughterhouse set back off the street, it seems quite discreet from the outside, but once inside the entrance hall, the cavernous rooms of its industrial past are put to good display use and its public spaces are swathed in shiny, flat, colourful surfaces. It’s also a bit more fun than the superior-named MAXXI, with mirrored walls in the toilets and translucent plastic sinks which flash different neon/UV colours as you use them. In the car park, you can see the remains of an ancient Roman house unearthed during the restoration.

Built in 1883, the magnificent Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Exhibition Palace) was the first monumental public construction after the unity of Italy, with Rome as its capital. Located in the centre of Rome, the exhibition space covers 10,000 square metres on three levels. Photography plays a major part in the programme, and previous shows have featured classic Paris scenes by Robert Doisneau and Helmut Newton’s carefully staged and highly stylised images, which redefined fashion photography.

Housed in the former carriage house and stables of the Quirinale Palace, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. the Scuderie del Quirinale hosts a changing exhibition programme which has included “100 Masterpieces from the Hermitage”, “Masterpieces from the Guggenheim” and exhibitions devoted to Botticelli, the Renaissance, Italian 19th century art, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Bernini and Dürer. There are great views over red-tiled rooftops from the glass-encased staircase between floors.



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