A glass of natural wine at Caffè delle Arti in Rome, Italy

The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea)

The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea)

If you’re looking for an under-the-radar museum to visit in Rome, check out the city’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, located just outside of Villa Borghese.

The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy

I recently went on a sunny Saturday morning after not having been in many years. The last time I had gone was when I was studying abroad in Rome, so we’re talking 2005/6. I had to write a paper – I can’t even remember what it was about – and the piece I was writing about was there, so I went to see it. That was probably the best thing about being an Art History major in Rome. One class, we’d study something on a slide, and the next lesson, we’d go see it.

I was propelled there on my recent visit to see the exhibit about Rome’s Grande Raccordo Annulare delle Bici (GRAB), a 44-km long bicycle ring road that’s going to encircle the city. I can’t wait to see how the project goes, and more importantly, how it might be able to make a Rome a little more pleasant to navigate, and a little more sustainable.

A map of Rome's bicycle ring road
The plan for the GRAB

The exhibit was at the very end of the main rooms, and for some stupid reason, I found myself hurrying to get there, even though I had carved out hours for my visit. I realized how foolish I was being and slowed down to admire works by Modigliani, Warhol, Pollock, Duchamp, Braque, Kandinsky, Mirò, Monet, Klimt and de Chirico, to name a few. 

I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures of those works to share, because somewhere deep inside, I’m terrified to take pictures in museums, even though I know that taking a picture without a flash doesn’t do anything and that I won’t get in trouble, but I sort of still think that there’s someone waiting behind a curtain that will come out and castigate me in front of the other museum-goers if I take out my phone. 

I repeat, I know this isn’t true (but like… what if it is).

Anyway, I took one picture of one painting when I was COMPLETELY ALONE (and only after I had seen other people taking pictures). 

Painting of the Tiber River before the embankments were built at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy

As you can see, it was of a little painting of a view of the Tiber before the stone embankments were built, and it made me wonder what the river was like back then. Probably horrible – a giant sewer system called the Cloaca Maxima drained into it – but Rome looked like a little country town in this painting and I thought it was cute.

I loved my visit to the museum – the GRAB exhibition was great – and it was so nice to be surrounded by so many great works and so few other people. 

Visiting Rome’s major attractions these days is actually really unpleasant. The numbers at places like the Colosseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon are overwhelming, but if you just look a bit beyond them to lesser-known sights in the city, you’ll have them nearly to yourself. The National Gallery is one of these places. Anyone looking to get away from the crowds and who enjoys modern art should check it out (and you should also check out my other post on lesser-known sights in Rome). 

Caffè delle Arti – the museum restaurant

So before when I said I hadn’t been to the museum in years, I wasn’t actually telling the truth. I had been much more recently, but just to go to the museum’s restaurant, Caffè delle Arti, which was open for coffee on my sunny Saturday visit. 

I didn’t have time to stop because I had to get to the table of friends and the bottles of wine that were waiting for me for lunch, but the dinner I had at the restaurant a few months ago was lovely.

The cafè has two spaces – an indoor one with high ceilings and modern furniture, and an outdoor one with a mix of dining tables and some more loungey areas. I loved the ravioli I ordered, and I was extra happy because they have natural wine.

Ravioli at Caffè delle Arte at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy

All in all, I’d say that visiting Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art makes for a great day, especially if you want to get off the typical tourist track. Book a table for lunch, visit the museum beforehand, and then, once you’ve had your fill, cross the street and take a passeggiata through Villa Borghese. 

A glass of natural wine at Caffè delle Arti in Rome, Italy

La Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – contact and other useful info

Viale delle Belle Arti 131 – e-mail: gan-amc@cultura.gov.it  – +39 06 322 98 221

Metro –Line A, Flaminio

Tram – 3 or 19, Viale delle Belle Arti 

Bus – 61, 89, 160, 490, 495, M

Closed Mondays

Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am – 7pm (last admission 45 minutes before closing)

An adult ticket is €10 and kids under 18 are free!

More Rome tips and guides

Where to eat in Rome

The best non-Italian restaurants in Rome

Roman street food for travelers on a budget

What to eat in Rome

The foodie’s ultimate guide to Rome

The complete guide to Rome’s best pasta

The ultimate guide to Rome’s rooftop bars and restaurants

Rome public transportation guide

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