20 Famous Statues in Italy You Will Love

Italy is home to some of the most iconic and influential statues in the history of art. From Michelangelo’s buff biblical shepherd to Bernini’s Breezy Maniacs, these sculptures showcase extraordinary craftsmanship and are part of the country’s cultural and historical DNA.

Some celebrate mythological figures. Others commemorate historical events or express timeless human emotions. Together these masterpieces have captivated hearts and minds across generations.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff or simply enjoy looking at beautiful things, here are some of the most famous statues in Italy.

large sculpture of neptune in a sqaure in florence which is one of the most famous statues in italy

How I selected these celebrated Italian sculptures

As an art geek, I struggled to narrow this list to twenty. The ones that made the final cut are a mixture of iconic artworks and personal favourites. Inevitably, there are omissions, but I believe that less is more.

Many of these masterpieces are in Florence or Rome.

Florence was the Cradle of the Renaissance, where Donatello and Michelangelo created some of the most important works in art history. Statues in Rome span the millennia from the Etruscans to the propaganda tools of Emperor Augustus to the baroque splendour of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Although many are housed in museums, others are free to view in public places. As they are centrally located, it’s easy to add them to itineraries for each of these cities (and chances are you’ll stumble across some of them by accident).

The remaining sculptures are from different Italian regions and all deserve a place on your Italy bucket list. You can download this checklist here. No email needed, no strings attached.

checklist of must-see sculptures in italy

Famous statues in Italy

David, Michelangelo Buonarroti (1504)

Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence (admission cost applies)

Michelangelo’s David is the most famous statue in Italy, if not the world. Each time I see him, I fall in love with him all over again. 

Michelangelo has captured the biblical figure as he is about to confront the giant Goliath, sizing up his adversary. Carved from gleaming Carrara marble and standing 14 feet high, David embodies the essence of Renaissance ideals, symbolizing the optimism and humanism of the early 16th Century.

marble statue of David by Michelangelo

Get the lowdown on how to see David in Florence here. Unless you want to risk standing in an epic queue or facing a sell-out, book your ticket in advance.

David, Donatello (1435 – 1440)

Bargello Museum, Florence (admission cost applies)

Donatello revolutionised sculpture in the early 15th Century through his imagery and mastery of an extraordinary range of materials. I have chosen this masterpiece for two reasons.

This bronze David statue was the first freestanding male nude that Europe had seen in a thousand years. And as it once stood in the Medici Palace where Michelangelo learnt his craft, it would have had a profound influence on the fledgling sculptor.

Donatello captured David after he had slain Goliath. With the hint of a smirk, he casually rests his foot on the giant’s severed head.

bronze statue of dabvd by donatello

Brutus, Michelangelo (1540)

Bargello Museum, Florence (admission cost applies)

This Michelangelo bust is a personal favourite, largely because it superbly represents Brutus’s internal conflict. When you look at the right side of his face, he looks heroic. But swivel round and look at his face full-on, and Brutus appears sinister and sneering.

marble bust of Brutus in profile
Saviour …
marble bust of Brutus
or assassin?

Brutus was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. Although Caesar was his friend and mentor, he had become an unbearable dictator who needed to be removed.

The Prisoners, Michelangelo (1516 – 1534)

Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence (admission cost applies)

This group of sculptures is compelling because it is a window into Michelangelo’s creative process and understanding of the human body. I love that you can see the marks made by his chisel and that the figures look like they are trying to free themselves from the stone.

unfinished rough marble statue of a bearded man
The Bearded Slave

Michelangelo designed The Prisoners for the tomb of Pope Julius II, which you can see in San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. There are four prisoners or slaves: The Bearded Slave, Young Slave, Awakening Slave and Atlas Slave.

Rape of the Sabine Women, Giambologna (1560)

Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence (free)

The Flemish-born Giambologna, also known as Jean de Boulogne and Giovanni da Bologna, was the last significant Italian Renaissance sculptor.

This extraordinary graphic artwork of entwined bodies and spiralling composition was carved from a single block of marble. It depicts a Roman soldier stamping on a Sabine man, whilst carrying off his wife. The look of horror on the husband’s face gets me every time.

marble statue of three intertwined bodies

Created by the mighty Medici family, Loggia dei Lanzi is one of the best places to find free statues in Florence. It is to your right as you face the Palazzo Vecchio and is also home to Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.

Neptune Fountain, Bartolomeo Ammannati (1560 – 1575)

Piazza della Signoria, Florence (free)

This is Florence’s most famous fountain and celebrates Tuscan victories at sea. But just because it’s well-known doesn’t mean it’s universally loved.

ornate fountain of neptune in florence piaza della signoria

The pomposity of the central figure of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, has been derided, earning it the nickname Il Biancone (“Big Whitey”). Beneath him is a troupe of gods, fauns, satyrs and sea horses.

Mary in Majesty / Maesta / Madonna with Glass Eyes, Arnolfo di Cambio (1296)

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence (admission cost applies)

Arnolfo di Cambio’s Maesta, also known as Madonna with Glass Eyes, was one of the monumental statues gracing the façade of Florence’s new cathedral, chosen to proclaim the city’s modernity and economic strength. The façade was torn off in 1587 and the statues were removed.

Di Cambio, who also designed Orvieto Cathedral, sculpted her in marble and included glass eyes to make her look more realistic. I think that they are slightly creepy, but maybe that’s just me.

marble statue of mary holding the baby jesus

Pietà, Michelangelo (1498 – 1499)

St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome (free)

If you only have time to see one sculpture in Rome, make it this one.

michelangelo pieta statue of virgin mary holding body of jesus

Instantly recognisable and profoundly moving, Michelangelo carved this Pietà from a single block of Carrara marble when he was just 25 years old. His depiction of Mary cradling the body of a lifeless Jesus is one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance, its fluid lines and emotive expressions embodying grief, serenity and maternal love.

You’ll find it to your right as you enter St. Peter’s, protected behind bullet-proof glass (it’s tricky to grab a decent image of it).

Florentine Pietà, Michelangelo (1547 – 1555)

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence (admission cost applies)

Drawings and sculptures of Pietà scenes were recurring themes during Michelangelo’s lifetime. Although it is less celebrated than that in St. Peter’s Basilica, I find his unfinished Florentine Pietà more moving.

marble michelangelo sculpture in florence of the pieta with 4 figures

Also known as The Deposition or Bandini Pietà, Michelangelo carved this as an old man to decorate his own tomb. Three mourners tend to the body of a crucified Christ: Mary, Mary Magdalen and a third hooded male figure, whose identity has been debated.

Scholars say he is either Nicodemus, who was a converted Pharisee, or Joseph of Arimathea. The figure’s face is modelled on that of Michelangelo.

Rome She-Wolf (5th Century BC)

Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini), Rome (admission cost applies)

Also known as the Capitoline Wolf, this Etruscan bronze sculpture has become a symbol of Rome’s mythological origins and maternal protection. It depicts a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.

bronze statue of she wolf suckling two naked boys

If you are visiting Rome on a budget, you can see a smaller copy of the she-wolf on top of a column outside the museum.

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius (176 – 180 AD)

Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini), Rome (admission cost applies)

Monumental sculptures were a big thing in Imperial Rome.

Starting with Augustus, the first emperor, statues were used as propaganda tools. Usually sculpted in marble or bronze, these artworks idealised Roman leaders with eternal youth and strength and connected them with great military commanders of the past.

This gigantic statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback is a fabulous and famous example. It was erected in 176 AD, to mark his triumph over the Germanic tribes, or in 180 AD soon after his death. The figure of the emperor would have been originally gilded.

bronze sculpture of a roman emperor on horseback

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), Bernini (1648)

Piazza Navona, Rome (free)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s work left an indelible mark on Rome’s artistic landscape. His sculptures, characterised by dynamic movement, emotional intensity and fine detail, defined the city’s visual identity during the 17th Century.

Beautiful Piazza Navona is a triumph of Bernini’s Baroque style and is home to one of his flashiest and best-loved masterpieces, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

Four monumental figures representing the Danube, Ganges, Nile and Rio della Plata are seated on a triangular rock base. A horse and a lion inhabit a grotto beneath them, which is overgrown with carved plants and a palm tree.

Bernini’s Angels (1668)

Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome (free)

Also known as Bernini’s Breezy Maniacs, this Baroque parade of angels are the superstars of one of Rome’s most famous bridges. His ten statues lining the Bridge of Angels represent Christ’s Passion.

monumental statue of an angel

The statues of the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), Niccolò Salvi / Giuseppe Pannini (1762)

Piazza di Trevi, Rome (free)

Throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return trip is on most visitors’ Rome bucket lists. The city’s largest and most famous fountain was designed to commemorate the restoration of Agrippa’s aqueduct by Nicholas V in 1453.

the fountain of travi in rome with majestic statues in niches

It is a grand sight. Featuring the Palazzo Poli as a majestic backdrop, its niches contain a figure of Neptune at the centre, flanked by statues symbolising Health (right) and Abundance (left). Two giant tritons conduct the winged chariot of Neptune pulled by winged horses on an enormous tufa rock.

As this is an extremely popular spot, I suggest visiting early in the day to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Pauline Borghese as Venus, Antonio Canova (1805 – 1808)

Borghese Gallery, Rome (admission cost applies)

Curated by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th Century, the Borghese Gallery (Galleria Borghese) is famous for its outstanding collection of sculptures, especially those by Bernini and Antonio Canova.

Pauline Borghese was Napoleon’s sister and scandalized the good citizens of early 19th Century Europe by reclining on a couch in the buff for Canova. Her satisfied smirk speaks volumes to her licentious behaviour.

classical marble sculpture of semi nude lady

The textures Canova created in this sculpture – which is also known as Venus Victrix – are extraordinary, from the mattress seemingly sinking beneath Pauline’s weight to her glowing skin.

Apollo and Daphne, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1622 – 1625)

Borghese Gallery, Rome (admission cost applies)

Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollo and Daphne is my favourite Bernini sculpture.

It captures the moment Daphne’s fingers sprout leaves, her toes become roots and she transforms into a laurel tree. Bernini has captured the intensity of this moment, from Daphne’s flowing hair to her fingers branching into leaves.

classical marble statue of a male and female figure

Juliet Statue, copy of that created by Nereo Costantini (1972)

Via Cappello, Verona (free)

Verona is a magnet for the lovelorn across the globe, hoping to be sprinkled with a little romantic fairy dust through the city’s association with Romeo and Juliet. Romance’s Ground Zero is a small courtyard next to Casa di Giulietta, a 13th-century building that once belonged to a noble family who are believed to have inspired the fictional family of Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare’s play.

Visitors flock here to grope the breast of a statue of Juliet, a ritual believed to bring luck in love. But the much-mauled statue is a copy of Costantini’s original which is now exhibited inside Juliet’s House I(ticket required).

bronze statue of juliet outside an old building with stone balcony

Veiled Christ, Giuseppe Sanmartino (1753)

Sansevero Chapel Museum (Museo Capello), Naples (admission cost applies)

Although I would dispute that the Veiled Christ is “more beautiful than Michelangelo’s sculptures”, it is an extraordinary sculpture. Carved from a single block of gleaming marble, it depicts Christ between his crucifixion and resurrection.

What makes it remarkable is Sanmartino’s rendering of the transparent shroud – some claimed it was created by alchemy – and the life-like representation of Jesus.

Antonio Canova famously declared that he would have given ten years of his life to have created this masterpiece.

Riace Bronzes (460 – 450 B C)

Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, Reggio Calabria (admission cost applies)

Add the Riace Bronzes to your itinerary if you are visiting Southern Italy. Also known as the Warriors of Riace, they were discovered off Calabria’s coast in 1972.

Standing six-foot-seven inches high, these two naked bearded warriors are considered to be amongst the greatest sculptures of antiquity. Statue A (pictured below) looks like he’s spoiling for a fight.

ancient bronze statue of a man with curly hair and beard

La Madonnina, Giuseppe Perego (1774)

Duomo Milan Cathedral (free)  

gilded sculpture of virgin mary with halo and spear on top of milan cathedral

This gold-gilded monument of the Madonna Assunta (the Assumption of Mary) is perched on the gran guglia (great spire) of one of Italy’s finest cathedrals. La Madonnina is over four meters tall and is covered with 33 beaten copper plates. 6750 sheets of pure gold were used in the final gilding.

Little wonder she shimmers in the sunlight.

For the best view of La Madonnina, buy a ticket to access the cathedral’s rooftop.

And that’s a wrap!

I hope that this sparks your curiosity and inspires your itinerary. If this has been useful, you may enjoy some of my other guides to sculpture in Italy: