Palazzo dei Conservatori is one building that makes up the entire Capitoline Museum complex. This building used to be a governing palace prior to being transformed first by Michelangelo and then into a museum. The collections in this building are primarily ancient sculpture, mostly Roman but also Greek and Egyptian. There are also paintings on the top floor. The most famous works here are the original statue of Marcus Aurelius on his horse (the copy of this statue is in the Piazza del Campidolglio outside the museum) and the most famous Roman iconic statue of the She-Wolf nursing Romulus and Remus. The museum also has elaborate interior decorations, including frescoes, stuccos, tapestries, vases, and carved ceilings and doors. The paintings on the third floor are very impressive and include masterpieces by Caravaggio and Titian; however, the floors are creaky with the wood inlays seemingly falling out and the rooms are headache-inducing stuffy. Humidity control is an issue here, which is amazing since the paintings MUST not be well-served by the stickiness here. It can be uncomfortable on the third floor, and bathrooms are atrocious.
TIP: Don’t visit the museum at the end of a busy day. There is a lot to see here, and you need to be fresh and focused in order to fully appreciate the art and artifacts. Many of the pieces also need historical context, so either read about them ahead of time or get the audio tour. Unlike the Vatican museum, the pieces here aren’t always the most accessible to appreciate without the extra information to bring out the importance of the pieces, and the museum makes no effort to give out that information for free—no description tags by most pieces and not even a map/museum guide with the purchase of a ticket. You’ll be wandering, clueless if you don’t prepare in advance. In the bigger scale of museums, this one isn’t necessarily a crowd-pleaser. It takes a little work. However, there are some obvious pieces that are popular hits—like the She Wolf statue. I do believe that the museum is fantastic; it just comes with some frustrations, too.
Concerning practical information, beware that the staff is also AWFUL! I couldn’t find the entry into the second museum of the Capitoline Museum complex—the Palazzo Nuovo--and I felt like the biggest idiot for not seeing any signs for the entry but there were none. And I guess I wasn’t the only “idiot.” In fact, the problem wasn’t really me, as other tourists were also seeking help. As an impromptu group, we even asked one of the guards at the exit of the Palazzo Nuovo for help. She would not even acknowledge our presence. It was quite stunning. So, I never did enter the Palazzo Nuovo, just the Palazzo dei Conservatori. However, the tickets cover entry into both museums, so I didn’t get the full value of my ticket, unfortunately. I later learned that there is an underground tunnel that connects both museums. I don’t know if that tunnel is the only way into the Palazzo Nuovo, but please stay in the building where you buy the tickets (the Palazzo dei Conservatori), and check the bottom floor for this mysterious tunnel before leaving the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
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