This is one of my favorite museums in Rome. Located in the Piazzale di Villa Giulia (see map below), this museum houses treasures found from the dozens of Etruscan burial tombs, many of which are located in Latium, Tuscany and other parts of Italy. These tombs are often noted for their intricate wall paintings, but also inside are exquisite terracotta sculpture, jewelry, bronze weaponry, tableware, vases and more.
The museum is a historical artifact, as well, and used to be the Villa Giulia, commissioned by Pope Julius III by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola along with other noted artists and architects. The building we see today is just a part of the original building with the original building have a public as well as a garden entrance, vineyards and a connection to the river, by which the then Pope would travel often. Now the museum houses one of the greatest collections of Etruscan art and artifacts.
One of the hallmarks of the collection is the terracotta sarcophagus called Il sarcofago degli sposi or the Husband and Wive Sarcophagus. Many archaeologist and historians believe that the Etruscans treated women better than most and see this statute as a sort of equality between man and woman, something very uncommon in the ancient world. These sarcophagi can be seen in some shape or form (man and woman together on sarcophagus) at other museums around the world too (for example at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
This museum houses an exquisite collection of Etruscan artifacts and the array of items on display gives us a glimpse of what the Etruscan people might have been like. Sadly, the Etruscans as a people ceased to exist after they were conquered by the Romans. They were completely assimilated and very little of their culture existed once the Roman Empire took hold in Italy.
Just north of the Villa Borghese, this museum is easily accessible and quite inexpensive at only 4 euro. Reach the museum by taking the metro to Flaminio or by bus along the Via delle Belle Arti or by tram on the Via Flaminia line.
If you are looking for a good introductory source on Etruscan Art, check out The Etruscans : art, architecture and history by Federica Borrelli and Maria Cristina Targia. Originally published by Mondadori in 2003, this excellent guide gives a good introduction to Etruscan art and history. The book was published in English by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and is an excellent translation of the original. Full of beautiful photos, charts and graphs – you won’t be disappointed.
The museum of open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays like most museums in Rome) from 830am to 730pm. The museum can be reached by phone at +61 06 322 6571 (drop the first zero if calling from overseas). This is a great museum to visit in the morning before heading off to explore the Villa Borghese.
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