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Stunningly perched on an ocean-view hillside, this museum in a replica 1st-century Roman villa is an exquisite, 64-acre showcase for Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. Dating back 7000 years, they were amassed by oil tycoon J Paul Getty. Galleries, peristiles, courtyards and lushly landscaped gardens ensconce all manner of friezes, busts and mosaics, millennia-old cut, blown and colored glass and brain-bending geometric configurations in the Hall of Colored Marbles. Other highlights include the Pompeii fountain and Temple of Herakles.
The upper balcony has the best view of the lovely courtyard garden surrounding a reflecting pool – and down to the ocean – and there are plays and events in the more modern amphitheater.
When the Getty Villa reopened in 2006 after a seven-year renovation, the institution immediately found egg on its face when allegations of illegally obtained treasures surfaced. Although dozens of items have since been returned to Italy, there are plenty left.
Admission is free, but a timed ticket is required, and parking costs $15 ($10 after 3pm). Walk-ins are not allowed, so if you arrive by bus, be sure to ask the driver to hole-punch your villa ticket.