I mentioned in my weekly favorites that last weekend I finally took advantage of the free museum entrance that the city of Rome puts on every first Sunday of the month. I think it's an amazing way to encourage people to visit more of Italy's amazing museums and cultural sites, while also making it more affordable for young people or anyone who wants to save a few euros while traveling.
To explain this offer in more detail, here's the list of museums currently doing this event every month and a good explanation of the system. I really recommend checking the museum list, selecting your chosen museum and then checking if you need to make any reservations or bring anything specifically. Some of the museums are only free for city residents and many private collections aren't included so look out for that.
The list is quite extensive though and includes favorites like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Galleria Borghese and the National Art Gallery (GNAM). If you are a resident of Rome (living or studying here) and have more time, I suggest picking some smaller collections at random after you've gotten to the big names on the list.
On Sunday we went to Galleria Borghese and tried to enter, only to find out that you have to book your tickets online ahead of time, paying €2/ticket to reserve them. Luckily Piazza Barberini is right down the street from Villa Borghese and we were able to see Palazzo Barberini for free.
Palazzo Barberini's been on my list for a while and it was such a nice way to spend a couple hours on a rainy Sunday. The palace itself is not overwhelming in size so you can make your way slowly through the various rooms and still see everything. The architecture of the building is beautiful, with white marble columns everywhere, while inside there are a bunch of frescoes on the ceiling and gorgeous medieval and renaissance paintings on the walls. I managed to do it without a guide or audioguide (using my art-savvy friend to fill in the blanks), but I bet it would be even more entertaining to have some type of guide.
Palazzo Barberini is most known for it's Raphael and Caravaggio works. The rooms that really gave me pause were on the second floor of the building and included an amazing ceiling fresco that is both reminiscent of and less-crowded than the Sistine Chapel and the Caravaggio room. The artist and his followers all have a very identifiable style and his work Judith Beheading Holofernes is truly breathtaking.
So moral of the story: do your research ahead of time and start enjoying the many, many museums that Rome has to offer. If you're a tourist, make sure that after you get to the big ones, you make time for smaller museums that may be even more interesting.