Revoltella Museum, Trieste

On an extremely warm day in Trieste, I didn’t fancy going far, but anywhere cool was a real draw. This museum covered both bases, being a couple of minutes walk right in the middle of town, and mostly air-conditioned.

It isn’t hugely expensive, at €7. Reviews stress how beautiful it is, and sprawling, which is useful information. Even more useful is the irritation of those who weren’t told about the app (“Revoltella”) – download that, get the code from reception (it is on a card, but the card is filled with info and it’s easily missed) and you can read/have narrated extra information on any item with a number next to it. I found the narration interesting and very soothing, though towards the end of the visit I was reading them as tiredness hit. It gave for me the perfect level of background about the picture and, more importantly, talked through the techniques used. An art historian would be less enamoured.

Painting by Giovanni Fattori showing soldiers in camp reading a letter from  home.
A painting with a number. Giovanni Fattori; soldiers reading a letter in camp

The museum grew out of the collection of Baron Revoltella, who left his house to the city to house it. He left quite a bequest; the building, the collection and funds to expand it. He was a financier of the Suez Canal, among other things, and there is a whole room devoted to paraphernalia from his visit there.

A tall room with purple walls and curtains. In the corner is a small screen which is supplied with a view of the square outside by a system of mirrors.
This room overlooks the square, with a camera obscura in the corner to give the baron a preview

The Baron’s palace is itself a great exhibit, just strolling through the rooms looking at old furniture is probably worth the entry price. There are a few artworks here, some with narration, along with the Suez Canal exhibits. It’s worth knowing there are several more floors, so as to avoid feeling done once you’ve seen the lavish accommodation, ballroom and so on.

It is a bit of a gear-change to then head to the floors containing just art, but I was soon into the run of it

Walls are white and decorations, including the chairs, gold in the dining room, seen through the two pillars that mark the entrance from the next room
The dining room

The museum has actively sought to extend its collection with works, concentrating on artists from the region but not restricting itself to them. There’s a gallery of sculptures which then feeds into more art, before you climb the stairs to a couple more floors. On one of these I had very close attention from one of the staff, which became a game as I attempted to out-wait him on one piece, or tuck myself slightly out of view behind another. If I’d felt any irritation or sense of unwelcome, it was removed when he called me back to let me know I’d missed out the top floor. The stairway was part-way round the fifth floor and I’d forgotten all about it.

A painting of young girls outside a church after their first communion. The scene is full of people, but attention is drawn to three girls in the foreground by the sharp, almost photo-realistic depiction of their features. The one in the front is the only character who seems to look directly at the viewer, holding attention
Carl Frithjof Smith, After First Communion, 1892.
A medium-sized open gallery has modern art on the walls and sculptures on different plinths around the room. Lots of skylights allow natural light into the gallery
The top floor – modern art and sculpture

I thoroughly enjoyed both my visit and the chance to cool down in the building, though I was pretty tired by the end, from the walking, the reading and the concentration. I went through some areas more quickly than others, but always found something to grab my attention. It’s a gem of a place, whether you go to see the art, to experience the feel of the place or both.

The Revoltella Museum website (

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