Museo Nazionale Romano ★★
Rome's Museo Nazionale Romano (National Roman Museum) is the world's single greatest collection of Ancient Roman art spread across five amazing spaces: Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Baths of Diocletian, teh Crypta Balbi, and the Aula Ottagona
All branches: Open Tues-Sun 9am–7:45pm
Roma Pass: Yes (free)
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Roman sarcophagus from Portonaccio (180–190 AD) at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme branch (Photo by Lansbricae)
Used to be, I'd tell people looking to get a quick fix of Ancient Roman art to hit the Capitoline Museums and Vatican Museums. Since the National Roman Museum reopened at the turn of the century, however, I've changed my tune.
The statue of Dionysus and a satyr, an AD 2nd century Roman copy of a Hellenistic original at the Palazzo Altemps branch.Those other two are still great museums, don't get me wrong. But if you've only the mental energies and interest to make it through one or two collections of ancient Roman statues, frescoes, mosaics, friezes, and sculpture, make a beeline for a branch of the Museo Nazionale Romano—Palazzo Massimo alle Terme if you've only time for one, the Palazzo Altemps if you can squeeze it in.
A Museum Split in Five
A museum with branches? Yeah. The Museo Nazionale Romano is, annoyingly, split across five different major collections (including one rather bland excavation called the Crypta Balbi, which I won't bother to detail since it isn't worth the bother of visiting).
See, they took what was once a single museum—one that languished for decades in a quasi-mythical state inside the formally-eternally closed Baths of Diocletian—and split it up across the city in four stellar "Museo Nazionale Romano" collections:
- Palazzo Massimo alle Terme - Excellent statuary plus exquisite ancient Roman mosaics, bronzes, frescoes, coins, and jewelry in a 19th-century villa near Termini. Of the various MNR branches, it is most boring space, but has the best of the collections.... » more
- Palazzo Altemps - The Ludovisi, Mattei, and Altemps Collections of Classical statuary in a frescoed Renaissance villa off Piazza Navona. It is prettiest space of the four by far, with the second-best collection.... » more
- Baths of Diocletian - Installed in the palazzo that was converted out of a portion of the ancient baths complex. The space is intriguing, but the collection the least interesting of the bunch.... » more
- Aula Ottagona - [open only for special exhibits] A separate, single echoing room of that baths complex filled with bathhouse art and colossal statuary; small but mighty collection, most evocative space.... » more
- Book ahead: You might want to book ahead for the Palazzo Massimo branch, since you are assigned an entry time to get into the excellent frescoed rooms upstairs (and if you just show up, you might end up having to wait around for several hours before your entry time).
- Cumulative ticket: The regular ticket to the museum includes all branches of the Museo Nazionale Romano for the amazing low price of €7 (you get a week in which to visit them all). This is a fantastic deal—though also consider using this as one of the two freebies you get with the Roma Pass (though there are few more expensive sights—the Forum/Colosseum, or the Galleria Borghese—on which you might spend your two "get in free" coupons).
These sights are also covered by the Archaeologia Card, but that is no longer a good deal. » more
- Branches of the Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Baths of Diocletian, Aula Ottagona
- Rome cumulative tickets
- Other museums of antiquity and ancient sights
This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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