Visiting Italy's Great Art, Virtually

As a consolation for lack of in-person travel, this summer the Arts Blog will take you on a global tour of museums, monuments, and other locales from the comfort of your own home. This week’s stop: Italy. 

By Leigh Houck, UC Davis Media Relations Intern

Did you miss our previous trips? Visit London, England here, and Paris, France here. In our tour through Italy, we hit the Vatican first, then move on to other famous sites.

St. Peter’s Basilica: a church like no other 

This large, 17th-century Baroque church is located in Vatican City, a small city state adjacent to downtown Rome. Pope Francis regularly presides over services and Mass at this church, and it is also said to be the final resting place of St. Peter. (The late Pope Francis put on public display, for the first time, a chest bearing the remains of what is thought to be the apostle Peter). Want to visit this beautiful religious site? Click here to explore St. Peter’s Basilica, from the altar to St. Peter’s square. The website offers an immersive 360-degree virtual reality tour of each area. 

Basilica cupola
Detail of St Peters basilica cupola. (Getty Images)

See Religious Art at the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums, or Musei Vaticani, are also located within Vatican City. These museums hold scores of religious art. The answer to our prayers? An incredibly detailed free virtual experience on the museum website. 

  • Click here for 13 different virtual tours of the museum’s best pieces. You can even take your time (as opposed to the real tour) to marvel at Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, an effort that took more than four years, here
  • Learn more about each museum here

Imagine where the lions fought at The Colosseum 

The Colosseum amphitheatre in Rome is one of the most recognizable places in the world. The massive arena was built in the first century as a hub for Roman entertainment, which could get quite bloody. According to the video tour linked below, over 400,000 people and a million wild animals met their demise at the Colosseum. Now you can see where it all happened for yourself without leaving your living room and without dealing with vendors and other distractions common at the site.

  • Click here to come along on a walking video tour of the Colosseum. The tour even displays educational facts on screen as you walk around. Among these facts: It held more than 50,000 spectators, and its tunnel system and multiple exits allowed for everyone to exit in 10 minutes. If only modern stadiums were this efficient. The same website offers a similar tour of the nearby Roman Forum, which was Rome’s “original downtown.”

See Italian Renaissance Art, David, in Florence

The Uffizi museum, or le gallerie degli uffizi, is an art museum known for its collection of great works from the Italian Renaissance. Uffizi’s holdings of Venetian painting of the 1500s are among the most important in the world. The galleries  were restored and opened in 2019. For this museum, we leave Rome and travel to Florence in the Tuscan region. 

Details of David by Michelangelo, which is located in the Accademia Gallery in Florence.
  • Take in a 360-degree view of the Uffizi’s new halls here. Virtually “walk” through the galleries and click on the green circles to learn more about each painting. 
  • You can also explore several online exhibits here through Google Arts and Culture. 
  • No trip to Florence is complete without a trip to the Accademia Gallery, home of the famous David sculpture by Michelangelo.

Explore other sites of Italy at your leisure (The Amalfi Coast, or Assisi, for instance) and get ready for the next Arts Blog trip. Next we will head to Spain. We already missed Pamplona's famous running of the bulls, but maybe that is okay.

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