Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
Lonely Planet review for Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
A treasure trove of classical art, the light-filled Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one of Rome's finest galleries, but remains almost off the beaten track in its position a few steps away from Termini station.
The ground and 1st floors are devoted to some incredibly fine sculpture, including the mesmerising Boxer that dates from the 1st century BC; upstairs there's an exquisite crouching Aphrodite from Tivoli's Villa Adriana, the softly contoured, 2nd-century BC Sleeping Hermaphrodite, and the iconic vision of perfection that is the Discus Thrower. Yet the sensational mosaics and frescoes on the 2nd floor blow everything else away. The layout has been revamped so that the rooms are arranged how they were within the villas, and lighting brings out the rich colours of the frescoes. There are intimate cubicula (bedrooms), which feature religious, erotic and theatre subjects, and delicate landscape paintings from the dark-painted winter triclinium (dining room). The show-stopping highlight is the frescoes (dating from 30 BC to 20 BC) that once lined Villa Livia, one of the homes of Augustus' wife Livia Drusilla. These, covering an entire room, depict an illusionary, realistic yet paradisiacal garden full of a wild tangle of roses, pomegranates, iris and camomile under a deep-blue sky. These decorated a summer triclinium, a large living and dining area built half underground to provide protection from the heat. The new display includes special lighting that mimics the modulation of daylight and highlights the richness of the millennia-old colours.