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

Museo Nazionale Romano ★★
tel. +39-06-390-8071
All branches: Open Tues-Sun 9am–7:45pm
Roma Pass: Yes (free) Rome Map

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Roman sarcofagus from Portonaccio (180–190 AD) in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
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  in Rome's Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Altemps
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 RomanoPalazzo 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:


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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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Copyright © 2008–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett