Italy | "Non-Museums" | Food, Handcrafts, Folklore Museums from Courmayeur to Nuoro

"Non-Museum" Museums in Italy

[Regions of Italy]
Click below for the area that interests you:
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| Trentino-Alto Adige | Tuscany | Veneto | Val D'Aosta |

    • Courmayeur: Museo alpino Duca degli Abruzzi. Inaugurated in 1929 and occupying a quintessential alpine chalet, this collection of memorabilia celebrates the mountain guides who know every crag and crevasse of the world's highest peaks, including Mont Blanc, which crowns the horizon just behind the building. Click here for lodgings nearby.


    • San Michele all'Adige: Museo degli usi e costumi, the Museum of Local Folklore and Customs occupies no less than 70 rooms in the beautiful ancient Agostinian Monastery. An astonishing number of displays show the evolution of the local alpine lifestyle, including exhibits about weaving, milling, sewing, metalworking, mountain climbing, woodwork, winemaking, pottery, cuisine and more. Click here for lodgings nearby.
    • Various locations: World War I Museums. As history buffs and Hemingway readers know, the Great War raged mercilessly through Trentino, leaving fortifications, trenches, cemeteries, museums, memorials and monuments in almost every town. To plan your itinerary, visit the composite site.


    • Venice: Museo navale, 2148 Campo San Biagio, Castello (Arsenale vaporetto stop). Open Mon-Sat 9-1, tel. 041-520-0276. One of the most fascinating ways to learn about Venice's past as a great maritime power is to visit this museum. The first section houses an extraordinary collection of model ships from around the world, including a huge model of the Doges' extravagant Bucintoro (pictured here). Back outside, you walk along the canal past the wooden bridge to the shipyard, where many historical boats -- such as a 19th-century gilded hearse, a police boat, an ambulance boat, a 48-oar combat vessel, and a working barge -- are on display. Take advantage of the excellent rest rooms while you're here!
    • Bassano del Grappa: World War I Museum, at one end of the city's famed wooden bridge, open 8am-8pm every day but Monday, and free of charge. To be more precise, this museum is actually dedicated to the Alpini, Italy's fiercely proud, heroic mountain troops, who were decimated in the Great War.

Museo navale, Venice

    • Cremona: Museo stradivariano, Via Palestro 17. Open Tues-Fri 8:30-5, Sun 9-1. A nice display of documents about Antonio Stradivari, the world's greatest violinmaker, as well as his designs for instruments and the tools he used to make them.
    • Como: Museo della seta (Silk Museum), Via Valleggio 3. Open Tues-Sat 9-12 and 3-6. The Educational Silk Museum offers an interesting collection of machines, objects, documents, samples and instruments, testimony of the glorious past of Como's textile industry. Click here for lodgings on Lake Como.
    • Mantova: Museo Tazio Nuvolari, Piazza Sordello 42. Open Sat-Sun 10am-6pm. It is hard to overstate what a gigantic celebrity Nuvolari was to the Italians. Wherever he went in his faster-than-lightning cars, the entire population turned out to watch him flash by. It was over in the blink of an eye but the memory lived on for a lifetime. His personal effects and souvenirs, documents and photographs are collected here.
    • Arese: Museo storico Alfa Romeo, take the A8-A9 autostrada and exit at Arese. Open Mon-Fri 9-12:30 and 2-5; closed in August. Call 02-4442-9322 the previous day to make sure it's open. You can visit the day before you fly home from Malpensa, spending the night at Malpensa Airport Hotel.
    • Milan: Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Via Santo Spirito 10/Via Gesù 5. Open Tues.-Sun. 1-5 pm. Right in the heart of the shopping district, this extravagant 19th-century home is still arranged exactly as it was when its last art collector owner resided there. With its original Renaissance art and decorative arts collections, the museum is like a "magic window" onto the recent past. It also organizes exhibits and special events--such as summertime concerts and live theater--for adults and children alike.
    • Milan: San Siro Museum, which bills itself as "the only museum inside a stadium!" If we have to tell you what San Siro is, then you aren't one of the Inter or Milan fans who will definitely want to visit this entertaining venue, where you are allowed to take as many photos as your heart desires. And yes, indeed, you'll find it inside the stadium, at Via Piccolomini 4, entrance gate 14. Tours are available every day 10am-5pm, but check the site first, as matches or special events may force temporary closures.
    • Angera, Lake Maggiore: Museo delle bambole e della moda infantile (Doll and Children's Fashion Museum), Rocca Borromeo. Open Mon-Sat 9-5:30 and Sun 9-6. Over 1000 dolls and toys from the private collection of Princess Bona Borromeo, inside the fairy-tale castle home of her family.

Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Milan

Museo delle bambole, Angera

    • Santa Maria Maggiore: Museo dello spazzacamino. Supposedly, this charming display of tools and techniques will give the visitor the chance to actually experience what a chimney sweep's job is like. Sounds like a GREAT treat for the kids -- but better bring an extra cake of soap! Email them for current opening hours.
    • Turin: Museo della montagna Duca degli Abruzzi, Piazzale Monte dei Cappuccini 7, tel. 011-660-4104. Open Tues-Sun 9-7. Not to be confused with the charming but tiny museum in Aosta, this is one of the world's premier mountaineering museums, with a large permanent collection as well as frequent visiting shows. The photography displays are particularly fascinating for anyone who's ever taken a walk in the foothills or climbed one of the Seven Summits. Click here for lodgings in Turin.
    • Borgosesia: Museo del folklore valsesiano, Via Manifattura 10, tel. 0163-23178. Open Sat 9-12 and 3-6, Sun 3-6. A group of volunteers lovingly created the perfect reconstruction of the rooms in an alpine home, along with all the tools and accessories used in daily life.
    • Gignese, Museo dell'ombrello. Via Golf Panorama 2, tel. 0323-89622. Open (April-Sept) Tues-Sun 10-12 and 3-6. Everything you ever wanted to know about the making of the umbrella, from the most humble to the most elaborate. About an hour north of Milan and very close to Lake Orta.  Click here for lodgings in Piedmont.
    • Imperia: Il museo dell'oliva, Via Garessio 113, tel. 0183-295-762. Open Mon-Sat 9-12:30 and 3-6:30. No admission charge. 6000 years of history about the olive and the many uses man has found for it.
    • Imperia: Museo navale internazionale del Ponente Ligure, P.zza Duomo 11. Open Wed and Sat 3:30-7 (except July and August, when it's open 9-11pm). Call 0183-651-541 or 64572 two or three days in advance to reserve.
    • Triora: Museo delle streghe (Witchcraft Museum), Corso Italia 4. Open daily 2:30-6 and weekends 10:30-12. A memorial to Liguria's only witch trial, held in 1588 to punish 13 women thought to be responsible for a famine. The museum is in one of "Italy's 100 Prettiest Towns," very close to the French border. Click here for places to stay in this area.

    • Parma: Historic Pharmacy of San Giovanni, Borgo Pipa. Open Tues-Sat 9-2; Sun 9-1. A mysterious world of ancient potions, herbs and apothacary jars, along with some nice 16th-century frescoes and furnishings.
    • Faenza: Museo internazionale delle ceramiche, Viale Baccarini 19. Open (Nov 1-March 31) Tues-Fri 9-1:30, Sat 9-1:30 and 3-6, Sun 9:30-1; (April 1-Oct 31) Tues-Sat 9-7, Sun 9:30-1. The best place in the world for anyone who likes pottery and ceramics, with huge modern and ancient collections from Italy and almost every other country on earth. The pre-Colombian and Oriental exhibits are especially interesting, and the modern exhibit has pieces by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.
    • Cesenatico: Museo della marineria (Seafaring Museum). In 1502 this city about 20 km south of Ravenna was literally sinking into its own sandy foundations, so the local ruler Cesare Borgia called Leonardo da Vinci in to design a harbor, which still runs right through the heart of the town. At the tail end of this picturesque canal is Italy's only floating museum, where numerous historical boats fly their colorful flags when the weather is fine. On the shore nearby is the terrestrial part of the museum, where larger boats are displayed alongside a bona fide 18th-century naval workshop with all the tools of the trade. Click here for more pictures.
    • Soragna: Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano, Via Volta, open March-December 8 on Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-1pm and 3-6pm. Set in a historic cheese factory where you can see all the machinery and tools used for cheesemaking, as well as farm tools and a collection of historic photos. In the annexed museum shop, tastings are available and you can purchase a big chunk of Parma gold to take home with you (be sure to have them shrink wrap it!). To visit all these food museums as well as a parmesan factory and a balsamic farm, we recommend you stay at Hotel Posta.
    • Langhirano: Museum of Prosciutto, Via Bocchialini 7, open March-December 8 on Saturdays and Sundays 10am-6pm. Follow the production of Parma ham from pig to plate, culminating in a tasting, after which you can explore the nearby convent and cloisters.
    • Felino: Museum of Salamis, Strada al Castello 1, open March-December 8 on Saturdays and Sundays 10am-1pm and 3-6pm. Set in the spectacular cellars of a medieval castle, this museum's goal is to illustrate the historic connection between the famed black pig and its environs. From the cellars you proceed to the huge kitchen and through a succession of rooms recreating a historic farm and all the activities that contributed to producing the local delicacies.
    • Collecchio: Museum of the Tomato, Strada Giarola 11, open March-December 8 on Saturdays and Sundays 10am-1pm and 3-6pm. Everyone knows the tomato is an American, but oh, what the Italians learned to do with it! The museum is located in a food processing factory that goes back to the Middle Ages, and its various sections narrate the life of the tomato from the very first day it appeared on the European scene.

Monument to the Pig in Felino
Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano
Museo della Carta e della
Filigrana, Fabriano
    • Florence: Firenze com'era, Via dell'Oriolo 24. Open Fri-Wed 9-2, Sun 9-1. Drawings, paintings, prints and photographs show what Florence has looked like over the centuries, starting with the Roman city Florentia.
    • Siena: Enoteca italica permanente, Fortezza Medicea. Open Mon-Sat noon-1am. What a great way to end a day of sightseeing! Climb the bastions of the fortress for a breathtaking sunset view, then descend into the cellars to this showcase for Italian wines. For a small charge, you are encouraged to sip the vintages in the cellars or on the terrace. Our favorite places to stay in Siena are online here.
    • Carrara: Museo Civico del Marmo, Viale XX Settembre (follow signs for Stadio). For opening hours please call 0585-845-746. If you will be visiting Carrara, it's most likely you're interested in marble and sculpture, so this place will fascinate you. Offering archeological finds dating back to 100BC, it not only traces the history of man's relationship with this exquisite stone, but it also offers a great collection of the tools that have been used to work it through the ages, and many examples of what those tools can produce when wielded by the right hands.
Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano
    • Rome: Mostra permanente della communità israelita, Lungotevere Cenci. Open Mon-Fri 9-1. Manuscripts, religious objects and prints that show what Rome's historic ghetto used to look like.

    • Rome: Centrale Montemartini, Via Ostiense 106. Open Tues-Sun 9-7. This is certainly as one-of-a-kind as it gets! As you probably know, the basements of Italy are stuffed to overflowing with artistic masterpieces that no one will ever see. In an attempt to rectify this sad situation, the curators of Rome's Capitoline Museums took 500 neglected but exquisite ancient sculptures and arrayed them inside the city's first public electricity plant. Result? Two birds for the price of one! Not only do you get to see the ancient works, but the setting is itself a masterwork of industrial architecture. Hardly anyone ever visits this exciting space, which is part of a large cultural area the city of Rome is creating around its old, disused gas towers. Take the Metro B line to Garbatella to get there.

Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano

    • Palermo: Museo internazionale delle marionette, Via Butera 1. Open Mon, Wed, Fri 9-1 and 4-7, Tues, Thurs, Sat 9-1. Sicily's famous puppets and marionettes, along with a nice collection of Oriental marionettes. There's also a charming theatre where shows take place regularly.
    • Caltagirone: Museo delle ceramiche, Via Roma in the public gardens. Open Tues-Sat 9-6:30. Actually, this whole town is like a pottery museum, with almost every square inch covered in bright majolica tiles. Stay at Baglio di Piazza Armerina, an authentic Sicilian wine and prickly pear estate nearby.

    • Nuoro: Museo del costume e delle tradizioni popolari, Via A. Mereu 56, tel. 0784-257-035 or 242-900, check their website for updated opening hours. Occupying a beautiful white stucco ranch house, this astonishing collection includes some 8000 items of apparel, jewels, weapons, wooden and textile accessories, tools and instruments used for every purpose in the life of a Sardinian peasant. Click here for lodgings in Nuoro.

[Regions of Italy]