I don't expect too much from Museum guides, really. I just expect the guide to provide an accurate description of the contents of the museum and when they say History of Rome, that’s exactly what I expect. Now by History of Rome museum, we have come to expect something equivalent to the Museum of London or the Musee Carnevalet. I expect my puzzle pieces of knowledge to be aligned correctly and all the major holes filled to my satisfaction, after all that’s what those other museums succeeded in doing. I expected something that covered Roman History from Aeneas through Romulus, the Gracchi, Caesar and his subsequent Emperors, the end of the Roman Empire, through Early Christianity, the major medieval Popes and Anti-Popes including Innocent III and the crusades, the Borgias, the invasion of Napoleon to the unification of Italy. It’s not asking for much. Particularly as I’m currently visiting the city of Rome and would benefit from a chronology that ties all of this delicious history together.
So invigorating, and such a pleasant change from current decorating techniques.
Unfortunately, Museo di Roma did no such thing. In my humble opinion, it was a waste of time and energy and money. Don’t get me wrong, it provided statues and portraits of some of the major papal families, some paintings from their personal collections and some sketches of a few small parts of the city. And there were some simply delightful buttons of the busts of the cardinals. These were not all done up, but some were completely undone, some sitting to the side of the button hole, some in the process of coming undone. Delightfully natural, casual and preserved for prosperity.
However, these do not a Museum of Rome make!
Thoroughly depressed and (heat)exhausted we decided to call it a day and head back to the air-conditioned luxury of our hotel when we were distracted by posters of constellations associated (that was the impression given) with ancient verse and ancient statues. Our curiosity piqued we couldn’t very well ignore it and retrace our footsteps back across the square. The Museo Massimo was better than superb and made our day, without a doubt. Typically it carried a gallery of classical statuary all recently re-exhibited, their stark white features standing out against the backdrop of staid black. Included in this display was the rare find of the serene face of Diana carved of a single block of ivory.
On different floor, frescos and mosaics of ancient Rome were laid out, mounted on walls or in rooms of a villa reassembled from the archaeological remains. In the process of building the central Roman train station, the people of Rome were blessed with the discovery of almost completely intact Roman villas.
That these have survived just below the surface for so many hundreds of years is incredible, and it is thankful that they were so carefully excavated and reassembled for the benefit of generations to come.
And the delicacy and intensity of the colours and designs were incredible. Walking through reconstructed rooms, they almost felt as though they were as fresh today as the day they were first laid.