National Museum of the Early Middle Ages
This is where really much started. Well, not exactly here, but this museum, located on Viale Lincoln 3 (a bit off the usual city centre, but easily accessible using the underground – line B), holds a truly impressive collection of a number of amazing artefacts, including richly ornamented weapons, intricately detailed tapestries, glamorous jewelry and other age-old items that cast a much different light on the early Middle Ages than you’d actually expect. Still, the most remarkable sight is a full hall taken from a luxurious aristocratic villa in Ostia, which features amazing creations forms by way of opus sectile involving cutting and inlaying coloured pieces of marble to make patterns or pictures on walls or floors. The highlights of the visit are most definitely the fine ancient metal dog chain and the opus sectile image of tigers and lions catching their prey. All the details concerning opening hours and exact location can be found here.
The name speaks for itself – these museums, found within the borders of the Vatican City, offer everything you need to know about this magic place. Inside you’ll find a wonderful display of works from the immense collection gathered over time by the Roman Catholic Church, including some of the most famous classical sculptures and masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world! In 2011 the number of visitors exceeded 5,000,000.00, so let that be a recommendation. The museums offer a truly mind-boggling amount of works of art on display, lined along dozens of halls and rooms grouped into separate galleries, but apart from that, the sole architecture is worth your visit – for the astonishing Spiral Stairs or the magnificent vault of the Sistine Chapel, to name only a few highlights. See the full spectrum of treasures awaiting you right here.
Historical Museum of the Liberation
Recessed between the Central Station (Roma Termini), the beautiful Parco del Colle Oppio and the ever-dominating Colosseo, on Via Tasso 145 there is a building of particular historic significance. At first glance it’s just a regular building, though on further inspection you’ll see that its walls have a really shocking story to tell. It is there where during the German occupation of Rome the Nazi used to have its headquarters, which served as a prison for Jews and political opponents, who were incarcerated and tortured – quite often to death. Knowing that, it’s hardly possible to look at the concrete block the same way when you leave this memorable museum. The experience could be best described as haunting and although a great number of rooms have been adapted to become displays for exhibits and documents, some of them still retain the spirit of the shameful past. So if you’re not afraid of close encounters with history, this museum is highly recommended. You can preview it here.
National Etruscan Museum
Many visitors agree that it is the place to go to on a hot summer day. Apart from the cool, shaded interiors, the National Etruscan Museum will take you back in time and provide you with a unique opportunity to face the past and have a glance at many fascinating artifacts used by the mysterious Etruscans – the predecessors to the Romans. Ranging from ornate sarcophagi, bronze sculptures and pieces of jewelry to daily-use vases, weapons and tools, the collection offers a great insight into the times well before the year 00. Expect to see some really impressive statues and world-famous exhibits – like the bride and bridegroom coffin from the 6th century B.C., and all of that put proudly on display in the splendid interiors of Villa Giulia, a former papal palace located on Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9, just past the area of Villa Borghese.
Castel Sant’Angelo National Museum
This fortress-like structure is actually a mausoleum built for Emperor Hadrian, who was buried there with his family in 138 A.D. It took on its defensive role only in 410 A.D. and was used mostly by former popes who usually took cover inside of it in turbulent times; there still exists a secret passage which connects the castle with the Vatican. Yet, what you’ll be there for is the National Museum found inside, which covers the history of this amazing work of architectonic art. It features plenty of Renaissance paintings, some age-old military equipment and intricately-patterned pottery, just to mention a few examples of the treasures collected over time. You can get to the very top by way of a huge spiral ramp, which stretches upwards for approximately 400 feet. It surely is a bit of a walk, but the reward at the end of the route is really worth the effort – the top level grants you a stunning view of the surroundings, and if you need an energy boost to get down, visit one of the towers and have a cup of coffee. The best way to reach the castle is simply to cross Ponte Sant’Angelo and head straight towards the edifice. Check out the website to find out about the opening hours and admittance fees.