Situated within the confines of a 16th-century monastery on the banks of the Turia riverbed, the San Pío Museum of Fine Arts is a treasure trove of medieval religious paintings, classic Valencian works, and masterpieces from the most famous of Spanish artists.
There always comes a point while visiting a museum when you think, “That’s it! I’ve appreciated all the art I can appreciate, and I can’t appreciate any more!” At the San Pío, we tend to reach this point quickly. The main collection starts with a lineup of Gothic and Renaissance altarpieces. Towering works over three meters in height, they’re beautiful, but there are a lot of them, and each is comprised of many individual scenes, all of them demanding your attention. So, by the time you emerge from the museum’s first hall, you might be tempted to call it a day.
But push through, because the San Pío just keeps improving. This is a large museum, and the best course of action is to march straight through each room, pausing only when a painting catches your eye. Regardless of your pace, you’ll still need a lot of time, because there’s a lot of eye-catching art. Goya, El Greco and Diego Velázquez all make appearances, the latter quite literally, as the subject of a famous self-portrait.
You’ll also want to dedicate some time to the Sorolla section of the museum. Valencia’s most important painter, Joaquín Sorolla y Baptista achieved worldwide fame for his romantic images of Spain, with landscapes and people bathed in the low-lying Mediterranean sun.
The Colegio de San Pío V was constructed in the 17th century as a seminary school. During the Spanish Civil War, it was used as a military hospital, and afterwards earned a new purpose as the city’s fine arts museum. Despite its excellent collection, and its convenient location between the Turia and the Viveros Gardens, the San Pío is rarely crowded; that’s probably not something the museum is proud of, but it certainly makes visiting more enjoyable.