Shabby Borromini

There are lots and lots of museums in Rome … and some of them are simply not worth a visit. This one belongs on you “Don’t Bother” list, thanks to years of neglect and overall disinterest.

It sounds good in the tour-book, though! A 16th-century palace, formerly owned by a fairly important Roman family, crammed from floor to ceiling with that family’s art collection. What’s not to love, right?

SpadaBut in person, it’s a tremendous let-down. With one or two exceptions, like the cardinal’s portait by Guido Reni seen in this photo, the art is grade B, or A- at best. But on top of that, decades of indifference on the part of those being paid to take care of the place has left it in a run-down and dingy state. There are only five rooms, all covered with dust, and the lighting is bad; the labelling of paintings is almost non-existent (except for some dilapidated hand-outs, dirty from being handled thousands of times); the staff is breath-takingly rude–and no, they will not speak English to you, although they were all sent to English school at the taxpayers’ expense. And while the quality of the experience has consistently spiralled downward, the ticket-price has gone nowhere but up! You get the idea.

BorrominiThe gallery’s star-attraction is the famous Borromini Perspective, seen here. The great artist-architect cleverly fitted it into a small bit of empty space on the ground floor, during 17th-century renovations. The diminishing size of the columns, and the tiny statue at the end, give you the illusion that the corridor is over 100 feet long–but in reality, it’s less than a quarter of that length! Borromini did the math, crunched the numbers, and produced a real treasure. But even this part of the museum is in desperate need of a wash and a coat of paint. Who would ever have thought that Borromini could get this shabby?

Ironically, you can view Borromini’s perspective without even entering the gallery and buying a ticket, since it’s located right off the courtyard on the ground floor–so if you’re dying to see it anyway, you don’t need to pay a cent. Save your money, and we’ll be happy to recommend other, simply outstanding art and antiquities museums where it’ll be better spent!