Italy has an astonishingly rich history of art and culture stretching back thousands of years. Fortunately, many of these breathtaking artworks are still around for us to enjoy.
Of these scores of famous painters, Caravaggio stands out as one of the most revolutionary. He’s famous for his realistic portrayals of the human form using light and shadow to bring his works to life.
If you’d love to see some of these masterpieces in person, Rome is the place to go. Here’s where to see the best Caravaggio paintings during your trip to the Eternal City.
1. Caravaggio Paintings at the Vatican
The Vatican Museums contain some of Italy’s most treasured historical artifacts including art and sculpture.
You’ll find Caravaggio’s ‘The Entombment of Christ’ on display in the Pinacoteca along with some paintings by Raphael, Perugino, Giotto, and da Vinci.
Apart from these brilliant works, the Vatican is also home to the Sistine Chapel, the Borgio apartment and the Spiral Staircase. Now, those are things you can plan a vacation around.
2. The Borghese Gallery
One of Rome’s top art museums, The Borghese Gallery, has almost a dozen Caravaggio artworks on display. These include:
- Boy with a Basket of Fruit
- David with the Head of Goliath
- The Caravaggio self-portrait as Bacchus
- A portrait of Pope Paul V
- St Jerome Writing
- Madonna and Child with St Anne
- St John the Baptist
You’ll need to make reservations to visit this elite gallery and your ticket gives you access for two hours only.
If you want to visit this gallery, it makes sense to buy your tickets online in advance. They’re in high demand.
3. Church of San Luigi Dei Francesi
This small church near piazza Navona has a few Caravaggio works on display in the Contarelli Chapel. These represent the artist’s “Saint Matthew” cycle and include:
- The Calling of Saint Matthew
- The Inspiration of Saint Matthew
- The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
This series is famous for the way in which Caravaggio used the existing lighting of the church to bring his paintings to life.
Instead of competing with the interior gloom, Caravaggio used it to bring suspense and drama to his work, using the only two rays of light in the room to highlight key areas of the paintings.
Entry to the church is free, but you’ll need to pay a small fee to activate the lights so you can see the paintings in all their glory.
4. Church of Santa Maria del Popolo
This unassuming Cerasi Chapel is home to one of Caravaggio’s most famous works–The Crucifixion of Saint Peter.
You’ll also find the “Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus” in this small chapel on the north side of Piazza del Popolo.
Admission to the chapel is free.
5. The Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums also house two Caravaggio works. One of these, “The Fortune Teller” is the first version of a painting that the artist created twice.
The recreation is in the Louvre in Paris.
The second Caravaggio painting located at the Capitoline is, “John the Baptist (With a Ram).”
You’ll find the Capitoline Museums at Piazza del Campidoglio.
6. Palazzo Barberini
The Barberini Galleri has famous masterpieces by most Italian artists within its walls. Caravaggio’s work includes the following four pieces:
- Judith Beheading Holofernes
- Saint Francis in Meditation
- Saint John the Baptist
While you’re there, you can also see paintings by more than 40 other acclaimed artists.
7. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
You’ll find this large gallery in a private palace between the Via del Corso and Via Della Gatta. It’s the largest privately owned palazzo in all of Rome.
Here, you’ll get to see the following Caravaggio artwork:
- John the Baptist
- Rest on the Flight into Egypt
- Penitent Magdalene
The paintings are on display in staterooms and in galleries surrounding a courtyard. The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj also contains an interesting collection of Byzantine and Medieval art.
8. Galleria Corsini
This small art gallery has only one Caravaggio work, namely a representation of “John the Baptist” from 1604.
Galleria Corsini is along Via Della Lungara in an out-of-the-way location that doesn’t attract a lot of visitors. The entry fee is just 5 euros.
It’s a beautiful place and together with the Palazzo Barberini and Galleria Borghese forms part of Italy’s Arte Antica collection.
Along with the 16th and 17th-century artworks, Galleria Corsini has a large library of beautifully bound books to admire.
9. Church of S. Maria Immacolata
A single Caravaggio painting was recently authenticated at this small church on Esqilino Hill, close to Piazza Vittorio Emanuel.
The piece, entitled ‘The Meditation of St Francis’, dates back to 1605 and is a good example of Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro to convey emotion.
An almost identical version of this painting is on display at the Museo Civico in Cremona. At first, experts questioned the authenticity of both these paintings.
However, both are now accepted as legitimate Caravaggio paintings, although there’s still some dispute over which one came first.
10. Casino Boncompagni Ludovisi
This privately-owned villa contains ”Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto”, one of Caravaggio’s earliest works. It’s also the only oil wall painting he ever did.
The painting adorns the roof of what was once cardinal del Monte’s private study. It’s believed that del Monte allowed his protege to complete his first attempt at a wall painting in this enclave far from prying eyes.
Either way, it’s interesting to stand at the very site where this acclaimed artist once toiled away, brush in hand.
As the villa changed hands over the years, this painting was largely ignored until an Italian scholar brought it to public attention in 1969.
Find the World’s Best Treasures
If you enjoyed this article about Caravaggio paintings, you’ll also enjoy the rest of our travel section.
Keep reading for more useful information about how to make the most of your wanderlust, locally and around the world.