Upon my first visit, I knew that I wanted to see some of the famous statues in Italy. Some of the oldest statues in Italy date back to the 2nd century BC, so you can unpack a lot of history along with seeing some of the most famous statues in the world. Italy is known for its art and beauty. 

When you look at the sculptures in Italy, you see why this country has had so much influence on the development of Western art. The sculpture was one of the important elements of art during the Italian Renaissance, but it has always been an important part of the history of this country.

If you’d like to learn more about the famous statues in Italy, keep reading as I will cover that, and I will tell you about the five most unusual and fun sculptures in the country.

15 Famous Statues in Italy

1. The Statue of David – Florence

Artist: Michelangelo
Year: 1501-1504
Medium: Carrara marble
Location:  Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

Roughly the size of a two-story building (17 feet, 6 tons), two other previous sculptors deemed the marble block unworkable. In the masterful hands of Michelangelo, he created one of the most celebrated sculptures in all of Italy. From 1501 to 1504, Michelangelo would work to portray the biblical story of David before his defeat of Goliath.

50 years before Michelangelo worked on it, famous Renaissance artist Donatello gave up the marble block as too flawed and abandoned it for a different project. When looking at this as one of the statues in Italy, pay close attention to the exaggerated size of David’s right hand. Most art experts believe it is a secret reference to the nickname of David, “Strong of hand.”

2. Apollo and Daphne – Rome

The statue of Apollo and Daphne photographed in Rome at Galleria Borghese
The statue of Apollo and Daphne, in Rome – “Rome – Galleria Borghese – Apollo and Daphne – Bernini” by ukdamian is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Artist: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Year: 1622-1625
Medium: Marble
Location: Galleria Borghese, Rome

Pulling from Greek mythology, this is one of the famous statues in Italy that captures the exact moment that Daphne turns into a tree. In the story, Apollo, god of music and poetry, was madly in love with the nymph Daphne, but she was a woman sworn to remain a virgin. Taking a closer look at the statue, you will see Daphne’s hands turn into leaves. Her toes, meanwhile, turn into roots, and her torso begins to turn into tree bark.

3. Perseus with the Head of Medusa – Florence

The statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa
The statue depicts Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa

Artist: Benvenuto Cellini
Year: 1545-1554
Medium: Bronze
Location: Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence

One of the sculptures in Italy that I found more interesting, Perseus with the Head of Medusa depicts the love story of Perseus and Andromeda. Despite its beauty, it could rank as one of the most overlooked statues in the world. Most art historians would rank it as one of the masterpieces of 16th-century Florentine art. Even Michelangelo would describe Cellini as a genius goldsmith.

4. Pietà – Rome

One of the famous statues in Italy, the Pietà of Michelangelo
The Pietà in Rome is one of the most famous statues in Italy

Artist: Michelangelo
Year: 1498-1499
Medium: Marble
Location: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Another one of the masterpiece statues in Italy that Michelangelo sculpted, Pietà means “Pity” or “Compassion.” It represents the great sorrow of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she holds the dead body of Jesus in her lap. The Pietà is the only artwork of Michelangelo that shows his signed name on it. He added his name after a spectator saw the work and attributed it to another artist. Michelangelo spent most of his life in Florence, but he would create this work during a short 5-year period that he spent in Rome when Cardinal de Bilheres commissioned him.

5. Veiled Christ – Naples

The veiled Christ statue with transparent shroud, located in Naples, Italy.
The veiled Christ statue is located in Naples in Italy Photo by Get Directly Down CC BY-NC 2.0

Artist: Giuseppe Sanmartino
Year: 1753
Medium: Marble
Location: Cappella Sansevero, Naples

The Veiled Christ depicts Jesus of Nazareth covered with a transparent shroud. The artist was so skilled that he used the same block for the shroud as he did the bodily form. Considered one of the finest statues ever made, you can feel all the pain and piercing of the body in the Veiled Christ statue.

6. Riace Bronzes – Reggio Calabria

The Riace Bronzes, naked statues of Greek warriors.
The Riace Bronzes, in Reggio Calabria Sailko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Artist: Unknown
Year: 1753
Medium: Bronze
Location: Cappella Sansevero, Naples

Also known as the Riace Warriors, most art historians believe that this pair of sculptures originated in Greece in the mid-5th century BCE. The statues depict life-size naked statues of Greek bearded warriors. Most believe that the Riace Bronzes spent more than 2,000 years submerged beneath the Ionian Sea before an amateur scuba diver from Rome, Stefano Marriottini, would discover the statues underwater on August 16, 1972. These are Greek statues in Italy because they discovered them off the coast of Riace Marina, Italy.

7. Madonnina – Milan

Artist: Giuseppe Perego and Giuseppe Bini
Year: 1774
Medium: Statuary Bronze
Location: Milan Cathedral, Milan

Sitting atop the Milan Cathedral, the Madonnina has become a symbol of the city. In fact, it became so much of a symbol that according to tradition, no building can sit taller than the Madonnina. Torre Valasca and Torre Branca Tower weren’t approved to exceed 108.5 meters. The sculptor Giuseppe Perego and the goldsmith Giuseppe Bini created the statue.

8. Juliet Statue – Verona

The statue of Juliet at Juliet's house.
The statue of Juliet in Verona

Artist: Nereo Costantini
Year: 1969-1972
Medium: Bronze
Location: Casa di Giulietta, Verona

Originally, they positioned the statue in the courtyard of Juliet’s house, and they once considered it good luck to touch the right breast of Juliet. That fact eventually forced them to move the real statue to Giuletta’s house museum and a copy of the statue now sits in the courtyard.

9. Moses – Rome

The biblical statue of Moses with other statues, located in Italy.
The Moses, a well-known statue in Italy

Artist: Michelangelo
Year: 1513-1515
Medium: Marble
Location: Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli

One of the best sculptures in Italy, you can look at this sculpture and feel the biblical Moses as a living, breathing figure who represents the might and will of God. Michelangelo made this sculpture to become the tomb of Pope Julius II. In the sculpture, you will see the prophet Moses sitting between decorated marble columns and a marble chair.

10. The Rape of the Sabine Women – Florence

Legendary statue of the rape of the Sabine Women seen in this image.
The Rape of the Sabine Women, a well-known sculpture in Florence, Italy

Artist: Giambologna
Year: 1579-1583
Medium: Marble
Location: Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

Sculpted by the Flemish artist Giambologna, this sculpture depicts one of the most legendary events in Roman history, which is what makes it one of the statues in Italy worth seeing. Hoping to secure wives for his men, Romulus, along with his twin brother Remus, invited the Sabines to the celebrations. As the Sabines came to the celebratory games, the Romans went over and stole the women, which is what the statue shows.

Read more: Statues in Rome – 23 Must-see Pieces in the Eternal City

11. Fountain of Neptune – Bologna

The fountain of Neptune, located in Bologna, Italy
The fountain of Neptune is located in the square of Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Italy

Artist: Giambologna, Tommaso Laureti 
Year: 1563-1566
Medium: Marble and Bronze
Location: Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

Interestingly enough, the Fountain of Neptune represents the pope. In order to assert his dominance over the city of Bologna, Pope Pio IV created this statue and just as Nepture controls the waters, the pope controls the people.

12. David by Donatello – Florence

Artist: Donatello
Year: 1430-1440
Medium: Bronze
Location: Bargello Museum, Florence

The most famous work of Donatello, David consists of two statues that depict the biblical story of David and Goliath. It shows David with his foot on the head of Goliath after the defeat. In the first statue, David is fully clothed, but in the second one, he’s depicted as naked with a sword.

13. Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius – Rome

Showing the famous philosopher king on horseback, the statue of Marcus Aurelius
The statue of Marcus Aurelius as he enters Rome victorious

Artist: Tomaso Cuccione
Year: 161 AD – 180 AD
Medium: Bronze, originally gilded
Location: Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome

Showing the famous philosopher king on horseback, you see a Roman emperor as powerful from the military standpoint, but he was an emperor who much preferred peace, intellectual pursuit, and Stoic philosophy. This statue has importance because of its influence on equestrian statues from the Renaissance onward into the modern era.

14. Elephant Fountain – Catania

The elephant statue known as Liotru's fountain
The elephant fountain in Catania is famous throughout Italy

Artist: Giovanni Battista Vaccarini
Year: 1735-1737
Medium: Black volcanic rock
Location: Piazza del Duomo, Catania

Thought of as a symbol of the city, this is one of the statues in Italy that shares more similarities to an Asian statue. Catania, in the past, had connections with the East. The local residents of the city call this statue “Liotru’s fountain.” Liotru comes from a local story called Eliodor, who was a Byzantine magician who would ride an elephant in the city. Giovanni Battista Vaccarini felt inspired to create this elephant when he saw Bernini’s Minerva Elephant. Above the elephant, you will see an Egyptian obelisk.

15. The Boxer at Rest – Rome

Artist: Lysippus or Apollonius
Year: 323 BC – 31 BC
Medium: Bronze inlaid with copper
Location: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

In 1885, archaeologists excavated the Boxer at Rest from the south slope of Quirinal Hill at the Baths of Constantine. Dating back to the Hellenistic period, bronze statues were common during this period. Some believe that Lysippos, the Athenian, was the sculptor of this statue. Lysippos was the personal sculptor of Alexander the Great. Especially if you’d like to see an ancient masterpiece, the Boxer at Rest shows a muscled torso with a scarred and bruised face.

5 Unusual Statues in Italy

1. The Colossus of Villa Demidoff – Vaglia, Florence

The stunning statue of Appennine Colossus surrounded by nature.
The Colossus of Villa Demidoff is located around Florence Costantinus at Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Artist: Giambologna
Year: 1579-1580
Medium: Stone
Location: Villa Demidoff, Vaglia

They completed most of this park in the 16th century, and these are some of the statues in Italy that you don’t want to miss if you love the unusual. Originally funded by Francesco I de’Medici, this area is stunning with many natural caves to explore. The Appennine Colossus would prove the main focal point of the villa. They abandoned this park in the 1800s, and unfortunately, they removed some of the statues. Luckily, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III, felt so awestruck at the beauty of the park that he decided to remove the ruins of the villa and focus completely on the park.

2. Guidarello Guidarelli Funeral Monument – Ravenna

Guidarello Guidarelli shown in this image with his sword at his funeral
Guidarello Guidarelli shown with his sword at his funeral

Artist: Tullio Lombardo
Year: 1499-1500
Medium: Marble
Location: Ravenna Art Museum, Ravenna

According to legend, any woman who kisses the Guidarello Guidarelli statue would become married within the year—some estimate that more than a million hopeful women kissed the statue. No one knows the exact artist, but they believe that Tullio Lombardo most likely created it. You see a strong contrast between the armor and the realistic face of the statue.

3. The Statues of the Park of the Monsters – Bomarzo Viterbo

A stone statue in the Park of the Monsters
A statue in the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo, Italy

Artist: Unknown
Year: 1547
Medium: Stone
Location: Località Giardino, Bomarzo

This Park of the Monsters inspired Salvador Dali and countless other artists over the years. Like the Colossus of Villa Demidoff, it sat abandoned because they viewed it as a monstrosity rather than a work of art. However, it holds some of the more interesting statues in Italy that you can see. Especially for the time in the 16th century, statues like this weren’t common, and it was one of the reasons that when the heirs took the park from Pier Francesco “Vicino” Orsini, they left it in ruins. 

4. Middle Finger Statue – Milan

On this photo, the middle finger is represented by a statue in Milan
The middle finger is represented by a statue in Milan Photo by Felipe Tofani CC BY 2.0

Artist: Maurizio Cattelan
Year: 2010
Medium: Resin
Location: Piazza Affari, Milan

Commonly referred to as Il Dito, in Italian, that stands for “The finger.” The actual name for the statue is called “L.O.V.E.”, but few people ever call it by its official name. Maurizio Cattelan meant the statue as a way of sending a straightforward message to the bankers of Italy. In fact, the statue reflects Cattelan’s overall attitude of being a rebel. The statue stands 36 feet tall. 

5. Talking Statues of Rome

A statue of man laying over the rocks with animals on his bottom and water.
One of the 6 talking statues, in Rome © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Artist: Unknown
Year: 3rd century BCE
Medium: Marble
Location: Capitoline Museums, Rome

Consisting of six statues, their curious name immediately invites questions. Found in 1501, most believe the statues as being of ancient Roman origin. The reason they’re called the talking statues of Rome is because the statues became a point in the city for public discourse. People would post anonymous political messages near them as a way to fight the oppressive power of the pope. During that time, leaving such messages could risk severe consequences. Even today, the statues continue to “talk.” In 2011, someone wrote, “Italy is not a brothel.” It’s one of the statues in Italy worth seeing especially if you love and value free speech.