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.
1. The Statue of David – Florence
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
Artist: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
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
Artist: Benvenuto Cellini
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
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
Artist: Giuseppe Sanmartino
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
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
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
Artist: Nereo Costantini
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
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
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.
11. Fountain of Neptune – Bologna
Artist: Giambologna, Tommaso Laureti
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
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
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
Artist: Giovanni Battista Vaccarini
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.
1. The Colossus of Villa Demidoff – Vaglia, Florence
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
Artist: Tullio Lombardo
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
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
Artist: Maurizio Cattelan
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
Year: 3rd century BCE
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.