Unfortunately, Rome has suspended its free first Sunday of the month for the city museums and monuments. Luckily, there are some incredible free things to do in Rome all of the time – including the Mario Praz Museum.
Mario Praz was a writer, literature professor, and art critic who was born in Rome in 1896. Despite his many varied creative jobs, Praz was also a collector of a wide variety of art and antiques. It didn’t have to be costly to have a high value to Praz – who amassed a huge personal collection of interesting books and objects.
Praz’s mother was descended from royalty but Praz had to live on a professor’s salary, so he became incredibly talented at seeking out old pieces of memorabilia and eccentric artistic value for a very low cost.
Praz used to live on Via Giulia, but when the landlord had to sell the grand old palazzo, the writer-professor was stuck searching for a home that was large enough for him to work, live, and display all of his beautiful furniture and art. It was actually his collection that allowed him to find his next home. In exchange for donating his 15,000 volume collection of books to a foundation, he was allowed to live rent free on the top floor of Palazzo Primoli.
Then he set about making the Palazzo really feel like home, carefully decorating each room with his treasured objects.
When Praz passed away in 1982, his home (which lies near the river, a 5-minute walk from Piazza Navona) was preserved exactly as he left it. These days, it is a free museum dedicated to the Italian thinker.
I love house museums in Rome. There is the Giorgio de Chirico museum as well as the HC Andersen museum, in different parts of the city. There is something so intimate about entering an artists’ personal space and seeing their own little corner of the world.
You can visit the Mario Praz Museum on Thursday and Friday from 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm, and on Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm. Volunteer docents will lead you on a free tour every hour, accompanying through the art-filled space.
There are not necessarily any major masterpieces inside the museum but Mario Praz had an incredible eye for particular objects. The guides will tell you more about the subcollections he specialized in, and point out details you may otherwise miss.
You can also learn more about the solitary life Praz led, and see the bedroom he set up for a daughter who never once came to visit.
It is truly a little Roman gem of a place.
Via Zanardelli, 1
Rome, Italy (Centro Storico)
Open: Thursday – Friday 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm and Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm.