Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia

Sarcophagus of a married couple at the Etruscan Museum
Sarcophagus of a married couple at the Etruscan Museum

In the middle of Rome, there’s a park with a lake, a zoo, several Roman ruins, countless fountains, and two of the world’s finest museums – the Galleria Borghese and, in the Villa Giulia, the Etruscan Museum.

When the Romans were still scrabbling around in the mud up on their seven hills, their neighbors to the north, the Etruscans, were already building aqueducts, paving roads, and decorating their exquisite temples with Asian-style Medusas. Though their art was archaic and occasionally inscrutable, the laughing eyes of the Apollo of Veii or the easy affection between the Bride and Groom in the 2,500-year-old funerary sculpture evoke more genuine warmth than a thousand Roman statues.

There are also distinctly unsettling works, like the frieze depicting Tydeus gorging himself on the brains of his rather shocked archenemy Melanippus.

The very best works in this former papal villa are also the tiniest. The Etruscans were fabulous goldsmiths, and some of the jewelry from the Castellani collection is amazing. There’s nothing in the shops on the swank Via dei Condotti that can match this stuff.

Practical Information

Address Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9;

Getting There The Villa Giulia is at the northern end of the Parco Villa Borghese, a pleasant 15-minute walk from the Flaminio metro stop, on Line A. Alternatively, take the 19 or 3 tram.

Opening Times 8:30am–7:30pm Tue–Sun.

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