Galleria dell'Accademia (Venice): The single most important gallery of Venetian painting and one of Italy's top museums was founded in 1750 and gorgeously installed in this trio of Renaissance buildings by Napoleon himself in 1807. (Napoleon swelled the collections with altarpieces confiscated from churches and monasteries he suppressed.) The works, spanning the 13th through 18th centuries, include masterpieces by all the local northern Italian greats -- the Bellini clan, Paolo Veneziano, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Lorenzo Lotto, Palma il Vecchio, Paolo Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, and Canaletto.
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (Venice): The Guggenheim family was among the 20th century's greatest art patrons. Peggy not only amassed a stunning collection of modern art; she even married Max Ernst. Her half-finished 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal is now installed with her collections, including works by Picasso, Pollock (an artist Peggy "discovered"), Magritte, Dalí, Miró, Brancusi, Kandinsky, and Marini.
South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology (Bolzano): Bolzano's major sight is a high-tech, modern museum crafted around one of the most important archaeological finds of the past 50 years. When hikers first discovered the body of Ötzi high in the Alps at the Austrian border, everyone thought he was a mountaineer who had succumbed to the elements. He turned out to be a 5,300-year-old hunter whose body, clothing, and tools had been preserved intact by the ice in which he was frozen. The Ice Man has done more to give us glimpses into daily life in the Stone Age than any other find, and the museum excels at relaying all that scientists are still learning from him.
Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan): One of Italy's finest collections of art, from medieval to modern, is housed in a 17th-century Milanese palazzo. Venice's Accademia may have a richer collection of Venetian art, but the Brera has a broader collection of masterpieces from across northern and central Italy. As with the Accademia, the Brera started as a warehouse for artworks Napoleon looted from churches, monasteries, and private collections. There are masterpieces from Mantegna, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, the Bellinis, Signorelli, Titian, Tintoretto, Reni, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, and Canaletto, and great works by 20th-century geniuses such as Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Giorgio Morandi, and Giorgio de Chirico. They even throw in some works by Rembrandt, Goya, and Reynolds.
Museo Egizio & Galleria Sabauda (Turin): The world's first real museum of Egyptian artifacts remains one of the most important outside Cairo and London's British Museum. The history between Italy and Egypt dates back to Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, though this collection of 30,000 pieces was largely amassed by the Piedmont Savoy kings. The exhibits range from a papyrus Book of the Dead to a full 15th-century-B.C. temple to fascinating objects from everyday life. But Egypt isn't all; upstairs the Galleria Sabauda displays the Savoys' amazing collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings by Van Dyck, van Eyck, Rembrandt, Hans Memling, and Van der Weyden.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.