10 of the Best Exhibitions to See in Italy this Winter

by Andrea Gambaro  |  Published November 22, 2021

If you’re planning a trip to Italy this winter, here’s a selection of some of the best art exhibitions taking place across the country to look out for.

An Escher-inspired installation at Palazzo Ducale, Genoa (Photo courtesy of Arthemisia)

From English photographer Martin Parr to the largest Escher retrospective to date, international artists feature widely among the top exhibitions scheduled for this winter in Italy. Bill Viola is a must-see for contemporary art lovers visiting Palermo, while the iconic shots of Robert Doisneau are on display in Rovigo. Not far from there, a milestone show in Venice marks the city’s 1600th anniversary. Our selection below also includes eclectic Italian painters from the late 19th, early 20th century periods.


The largest retrospective to date of M. C. Escher is Genoa’s flagship exhibition this winter. Around 200 works explore each stage of the graphic artist’s career, from early biblical illustrations to impossible perspectives and plane filling studies. Creative genius meets mathematical structures in mind-bending masterpieces like Metamorphosis II, a four-meter-wide woodcut unfolding into multiple layers of illogical yet enchanting worlds. Order versus chaos, and repetition versus alteration, are some of the recurring themes in the show, which also highlights the influence the Dutch artist had on 20th century arts and pop culture. Interactive stands and immersive rooms allow visitors to get hands-on with the enigmas and paradoxes underlying Escher’s art.

Palazzo Ducale, Piazza Giacomo Matteotti 9, Genova / 9 September 2021 – 20 February 2022

‘Metamorphosis II’ by M. C. Escher (Photo courtesy of Arthemisia)

Martin Parr. We ❤ Sports

Running parallel to the first-ever ATP Finals to be held in Italy (Turin, 14-21 Nov 2021), this exhibition celebrates sport culture through the iconic shots of British photographer and documentary maker Martin Parr. Tennis is of course the central subject, which Parr has widely captured by attending major international events in recent years. Other sports also feature in the 150 photos on display, showcasing portraits of contemporary society through the cynical and ironic lens that has become the hallmark of Parr’s work.

CAMERA, Via delle Rosine 18, Torino / 28 October 2021 – 13 February 2022

Roland-Garros, Paris, France, 2016 (Photo: Martin Parr / Magnum Photos)

P u r i f i c a t i o n [From Bill Viola to the Palatine Chapel]

Hosted by the Royal Palace of Palermo, prominent videoartist Bill Viola brings together contemporary and ancient art to address the timeless realm of spirituality. The five installations on display include four martyrs and one ascension, which compel visitors to confront existential themes such as life, death and salvation. Water is the unifying narrative thread – a basic element connecting the earthly experience to the sacred sphere. A highly introspective show, ‘P u r i f i c a t i o n’ had been in the making for almost a year before opening last July.

Palazzo Reale, Piazza del Parlamento 1, Palermo / 10 July 2021 – 28 February 2022

The world and the sacred at Palermo’s Palazzo Reale (Photo courtesy of Fondazione Federico Secondo)

Klimt. La Secessione e l’Italia

This exhibition features over 200 works including paintings, drawings, posters and sculptures. Alongside other artists from the Vienna Secession, among those whose work appears is Gustav Klimt, focusing on the central role he played in the development of the movement. A series of handwritten postcards document Klimt’s travels across Italy, which influenced his art while inspiring a range of Italian artists of the time. In addition to highlights such as Judith I, Portrait of a Lady in White and The Bride, the exhibition premieres a digital Artificial Intelligence project recreating a series of allegoric works destroyed by fire in 1945 (Faculty Paintings).

Museo di Roma, Piazza di San Pantaleo 10, Piazza Navona 2, Roma / 27 October 2021 – 27 march 2022

[E]MOTION. Op Art, Arte Cinetica e Light Art nella Collezione Würth

Usually known for its bolts and screws, the Würth Group also boasts an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. The Art Forum Canepa – a forty minutes drive north of Rome – is one of many Würth exhibition spaces scattered around Europe, and is currently hosting a show focused on Optical, Kinetic and Light art. Some 35 works from a wide range of artists explore space, colour, perspective and movement, with an entire section dedicated to English contemporary artist Patrick Hughes. Other highlights include Lucio Fontana and François Morellet, as well as L’Illumination by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Art Forum Würth Capena, Viale della Buona Fortuna 2, Capena / 15 May 2021 – 8 October 2022

[E]MOTION features over twenty contemporary artists (Photo courtesy of Art Forum Würth Capena)

La Dinastia Brueghel

Comprising five generations of painters, the Brueghel family heavily influenced Flemish art throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. In Naples, this touring exhibition is housed at the ancient Pietrasanta Basilica, which provides a most fascinating setting to enjoy still lives, Baroque paintings and cryptic compositions. Over a hundred works recount the artistic revolution culminated in the golden age of Dutch and Flemish art, starting from Pieter the Elder and moving on to the other scions of the Brueghel dynasty.

Santa Maria Maggiore alla Pietrasanta, Piazzetta Pietrasanta 17-18, Napoli / 11 November 2021 – 15 April 2022

Giovanni Boldini. Lo sguardo nell’anima

The whims and fancies of the Belle Epoque conceal unexpected depths in the work of Giovanni Boldini, celebrated here 90 years after his death. The Ferrara-born artist lived in Paris from 1871, where he developed an original perspective on the fashion and salons of high society. His female portraits are especially revealing of the spirit of the age, painted in a variety of eclectic styles. Other artists from the same period are also featured, posing interesting comparisons with Boldini’s work.

Palazzo Albergati, Via Saragozza 28, Bologna / 29 October 2021 – 13 March 2022

Two female portraits by Giovanni Boldini (Photo courtesy of Arthemisia)

Mario Sironi

Active through the first half of the 19th century, Mario Sironi was one of the founding fathers of the Novecento movement. This retrospective spans the whole of his career, from early symbolism and metaphysical painting to futurism and mural art. Expect urban landscapes to be a recurring subject in the display, especially those inspired by pre-World War II Milan. The exhibition also highlights his interest in the human figure, and includes paintings never shown before to the public.

Museo del Novecento, del Duomo 8, Milano / 23 July 2021 – 27 March 2022

VENETIA 1600. Nascite e rinascite

Marking the 1600th anniversary of Venice, ‘Births and Rebirths’ looks at the long history of the Serenissima from a fresh perspective. It features a wide range of artists, architects and intellectuals whose stories are intertwined with the city, including masters like Tiziano, Veronese, Tiepolo and Canaletto. Paintings are displayed alongside prints, miniatures, cloths, glassware and more, with a focus on famous landmarks of Venice. In short, this exhibition offers a journey into the past of one of the world’s most celebrated destinations, while also striving to imagine its future.

Palazzo Ducale, San Marco 1, 30124 Venezia / 04 September 2021 – 25 March 2022

A close up on VENETIA 1600 (Photo courtesy of Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia)

Robert Doisneau

The Venetian town of Rovigo is a fine option for ecaping the well-beaten tourist trail of northeastern Italy. Facing its main square is Palazzo Roverella, a grand example of Renaissance architecture currently hosting a Robert Doisneau exhibition. Many visitors will be familiar with some of the 133 photos on display, while lesser-known works by the iconic French photographer are also included. Together, they comprise a unique portrait of 20th century Paris. The complex is also home to an archaeology museum, a fine painting collection and a photo exhibition documenting the tragic floods that hit the region 70 years ago.

Palazzo Roverella, Via Giuseppe Laurenti 8/10, Rovigo / 23 September – 30 January

‘The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville’ (Photo: Robert Doisneau courtesy of Studio Esseci)