The Best Works of Art You Should See on Your Visit to Rome

Michelangelo sculpture
Michelangelo's Pieta at Saint Peter's Basilica. fotokris / Getty Images

Rome is rife with ancient ruins, but it is also awash in artworks from some of the most famous artists of the Renaissance and the Baroque. Find out about the Eternal City's most famous artists and where you can see their iconic works on display.

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    Michelangelo's frescoes of Seven Prophets above the altar, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome, Italy
    Michelangelo's frescoes of Seven Prophets above the altar, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome, Italy. Photo by Danuta Hyniewska/age fotostock/Getty Images

    Though largely associated with Florence, Michelangelo worked on several projects in Rome. The Sistine Chapel, located in the Vatican Museums is by far his most impressive claim to fame.

    However, he also drew up designs for Saint Peter's Basilica, sculpted the incredibly life-like Pieta (located in Saint Peter's), and contributed his artistic sensibilities to several other architectural projects and works of sculpture in the city such as the Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill. His massive marble sculpture of Moses in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli is also one of his top works in the city of Rome.

    For more in-depth information about where to see the works of Michelangelo, see the Michelangelo Art Trail in Italy guide.

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    Piazza Navona
    Piazza Navona. Basic Elements Photography / Getty Images

    From elaborate fountains to highly detailed sculptures, the Baroque imprint of Gianlorenzo Bernini can be found all over Rome. The artist's most famous masterpieces in the Eternal City are the delicate marble statue group of Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese Gallery and the Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, one of Rome's most famous fountains.

    Benini also worked on several other fountains in Rome, and in the Vatican City, he is responsible for the bronze canopy in Saint Peter's Basilica.

    A visit to the Borghese Gallery, a former private villa, is a great way to see a wide variety of Bernini's sculptures, as well as paintings from another famed Baroque artist, Caravaggio. If you're planning to visit, reserved tickets are mandatory, and you can purchase ​Borghese Gallery tickets in advance from Select Italy.

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    Caravaggio - The Gypsy Fortune Teller, ca. 1595
    Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Pinacoteca Capitolina, Musei Capitolini, Rome

    Caravaggio is a painter known as much for his troubled personal life as for his superb portraits, still life paintings, and drawings. Born Michelangelo Merisi and known as the "bad boy of the Baroque," Caravaggio produced some of the most famous paintings of the Baroque period. The works of Caravaggio are particularly hassle-free to view because many of them reside in churches, therefore require no admission fee ​and minimal crowds.

    In addition to his paintings in churches, you'll find Caravaggio paintings in the Vatican Museums and in two of Rome's top museums, the Borghese Gallery and the Capitoline Museums.

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    Raphael

    Self-Portrait of Raphael
    Self-Portrait of Raphael, 1506. Courtesy of Wikimedia/Public Domain

    Though he was born and raised in Umbria, Raphael became a star artist in Rome. One of the painter's most famous compositions, The School of Athens (which apparently impressed Michelangelo because of its life-like depictions and rich colors) is a fresco on the walls of one of the apartments and the Raphael Rooms are one of the top things to see in the Vatican Museums.

    For an in-depth look at the art of Raphael and Michelangelo at the Vatican, take the ​Two Masters at the Papal Court: Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican guided tour.​