Rome and Our Four Favorite Hidden Museums

What do the Colosseum, Crypta Balbi, and the Borghese Gallery have in common? Along with several other well-known sites, which hosted more than 18k visitors in 2014, they make up some of the most popular attractions in the city.  And though museum visits grew by more than 4% most travelers and local only scratch the surface in exploring the more than 150 archeological sites and museums in Rome.

Together with our docents we have picked four of our favourites off-the-beaten-path museums. They are by no means small, or “minor.” Quite the opposite: they display unique collections in extraordinary locations. From March and until June 2015, together with the Context Foundation for Sustainable Travel, we are running a series of Tours in the Public Interest taking curious travelers and locals alike to discover a mostly hidden Rome through intimate 90-minute seminars.

With the Tours in the Public Interest program we go back to the core principle of our philosophy: taking people away from over-run monuments and into lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path sites. This allows us to unfold the complexities of our cities for the truly receptive visitor by drawing upon the expertise of Context’s network of scholars which includes historians, art historians, archaeologists, architects and other specialists.

Here is a small preview of our spring/summer 2015 program.

Slide 1
In 1912 Centrale Montemartini was the first power plant to produce electricity for the city of Rome. After the plant ceased being used and its Art Decò building rennovated, hundreds of artefacts, primarily ancient sculptures, were moved here permanently in 1997. “It is an extraordinary example of industrial archaeology converted into a museum” explains docent and architectural historian Agnes Crawford, “The early 20th century machinery creates a unique backdrop for the masterpieces on display.” Join our TPI at Centrale Montemartini on March 26 at 5 pm. This walk is free as part of #museumweek on Twitter.
Slide 2
Ambling through engines and turbines visitors come face to face with some beautiful examples of ancient funerary statuary, as well as religious and decorative art. Whilst learning about the different materials the art on display is made of, our docent Agnes Crawford explores the meaning of their “foreign-ness” during the Roman Empire: “Just as exotic animals brought to the Colosseum spoke of the distant conquests, and thus of the glory, of Rome; so we can consider the marbles and granites used in the decoration of Rome as a sort of geological map of the Roman world.” Join our TPI at Centrale Montemartini on March 26 at 5 pm. This walk is free as part of #museumweek on Twitter.
Slide 3
The Museum of Rome is housed in the Braschi Palace between Piazza Navona and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. It hosts a unique collection of paintings revealing the history of Rome from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. Originally home of the Braschi papal family, the palace is a beautiful example of late 18th century Neoclassical architecture. “The building has a tremendous history” reminds us our docent Lauren Golden “it was used as the political headquarters of the Fascist party and after World War II, it housed around 300 homeless families.” Join our TPI at Palazzo Braschi on April 11 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.
Slide 4
The richly decorated interiors provide a wonderful atmosphere to accompany us back in time to the Rome of another era. Our docent Lauren Golden has little doubt about why any visitor to the Rome should be coming here: “This is the perfect place to bring alive historical Rome, the splendour and the pageantry, the processions and the changing face of the historical cityscape of Rome.” Join our TPI at Palazzo Braschi on April 11 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.
Slide 5
The palace owes its name to the Republic of Venice, which had established here its Roman embassy. In 1916 it became the National Museum of the Italian reign, but from 1929 to 1943 the Fascist government held its head-quarters here and only after the Second World War the museum opened again to the public. The museum houses paintings, wooden sculptures, furniture, porcelains, ceramics, bronzes, marbles, terracottas and armoury making its collection one of the most eclectic in Rome. “This museum offers an extraordinary intimate experience between the viewer and the art on display” argues our docent Frank Dabell “it is the perfect place where to view close-up and undisturbed, an eclectic collection of Medieval and Renaissance art.” Join our TPI at Palazzo Venezia on May 27 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.
Slide 6
The museum of Palazzo Venezia houses paintings, wooden sculptures, furniture, porcelains, ceramics, bronzes, marbles, terracottas and armoury making its collection one of the most eclectic in Rome. “It is the ideal context to explore and discuss the different aspects of the artist’s creative process” continues our docent Frank Dabell in front of one of Bernini's terracotta angels, “From the concept behind the design, to engaging with the material, to the final work of art: it is a magical process.” Join our TPI at Palazzo Venezia on May 27 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.
Slide 7
The National Museum of the Early Middle Ages is located in the EUR neighbourhood; a few kilometers outside the historic centre of Rome, along the metro B line. It is housed in the Palazzo delle Scienze, a perfect example of fascist architecture. “This museum is mostly known for the Opus Sectile [inlay of pieces of coloured marble] which once lavishly decorated a monumental domus dating to the 3rd century AD outside Porta Marina at Ostia ” says our docent Patrizia Sfligiotti and adds “It is one of the most spectacular opus sectile I have ever set my eyes on: it combines a refined aesthetics with skillful craftsmanship, one can look at it for hours.” Join our TPI at the Museum of the Middles Ages on June 24 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.
Slide 8
In addition to this extraordinary finding, the museum exhibits artefacts coming from Lombard burial sites (necropoleis) in central Italy (6th - 7th centuries AD): weapons, jewelry, ivories, glassware and bronze and ceramic vessels. “The period following the fall of the Roman Empire is characterised by social, political, military and economic change and upheaval” remarks Patrizia, pointing at the different fibulae on display “The analysis of grave goods is vital in identifying the changing modes of deposition and display, in revealing status markers and understanding how people went about their lives at this crucial time in history.” Join our TPI at the Museum of the Middles Ages on June 24 at 5 pm. As part of this special program spaces are just €5 per person.

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