Visit a small private museum

Visit private museums in Italy for unsung masterpieces and an utter lack of crowds

You wouldn’t believe the places you can find where wealthy collectors left behind dusty old mansions jumbled with valuable bric-a-brac ranging from Ming vases and Roman reliefs to medieval suits of armor and occasional paintings by a Renaissance master.

Although few of the individual pieces, or the collections as a whole, tend to be first rate, they offer fascinating insights into one man or family’s tastes and styles—and often as not these places are preserved exactly as the collector left them in 1754 or 1892 or whatever, and as such offer a glimpse into the lives and times of a different era.

And before you pooh-pooh the idea of a private collection and being piddling or pathetic, remember the names of a few of the larger private collections ones installed in the personal residences of Italy’s richest past collectors: the Uffizi (the Medici’s artwork installed in their old office building), and the Vatican (the Pope’s best heirlooms in his private digs).

A few favorites:

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