When my husband and I travel, we are very intentional in our planning, and all things being equal, we like to stay in one city for the entirety of our trip. Why? Because we can deeply engage. We can see “the big stuff,” and then we can spend time seeing the other sites that most tourists don’t have time to see. In Rome, Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures are in the category of things many visitors to Rome never see…at least not on their first trip. But, after reading this post, I’ll bet that many of you will add this amazing museum to your “must see” list! Let’s explore!
The Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one museum out of four that comprise the National Roman Museum. The Palazzo Massimo is also called Palazzo Massimo alle Terme due to its close proximity to the Baths of Diocletain. The villa is a superb Neo-Renaissance style palace, erected between 1883 and 1887. It was used as a Jesuit college until 1960, and in 1981 it was transformed into part of the National Roman Museum.
There are four floors in this museum, and each one is worthy of scouring every inch…but today, I’m sharing my personal favorites.
Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures: The Boxer at Rest
This 4th Century BC bronze is one of the most important treasures in this museum. The boxer is represented just after a match. His lips are sunken as though his teeth have been knocked out. His broken nose and cauliflower ears are common for boxers. The results of boxing are emphasized by drops of blood—represented by inlaid copper—that appear to have just fallen from his face onto his right thigh and arm. The amazing preservation of the Boxer at Rest for centuries after its creation is a miracle and an example of the longstanding appreciation of Greek art and culture by the ancient Romans. Some scholars believe that parts of the toes and fingers of the Boxer at Rest are worn from frequent touching, suggesting that the statue was attributed healing powers.
Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures: Mosaics
The collection of Roman mosaics from ancient villas is amazing. This mosaic is displayed on a wall, but it originally was the floor of a wealthy Roman’s home…the detail that those ancient artisans could achieve with their mosaic art is fascinating to me!
Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures: The Villa of Livia Frescos
Contained in one room, this might be my very favorite exhibit in the entire museum. An 1863 excavation of the house of Livia Drusilla (58 BC–29 BC), wife of the Emperor Augustus, in the Roman suburb of Prima Porta, uncovered a series of four magnificent frescoes decorating the walls of an underground triclinium, or dining room. These gorgeous wall paintings are filled with images of exotic birds and a variety of flowers, plants, and trees. The flora and fauna were, in fact, depicted in such great detail that scholars have been able to identify many of the species represented. Among the vegetation, for instance, are strawberry trees, oleander, Italian cypresses, date palms, and English oak.
Can anybody say #wallpapergoals????
Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures: The Nemi Ships
Before you look at these amazing bronze treasures, watch the short 4 minute video about the history of attempted salvage of these ships, that spanned hundreds of years. It was a shock when Roman Emperor Caligula’s two massive ships were uncovered in their opulent glory in Lake Nemi. While their presence was known for centuries, their size and extravagance were thought to be greatly exaggerated. Turns out….the ships were all that treasure-seeks thought they might be, and while the wood deteriorated over the years, the bronze fittings remained….totally amazing!!!!
Palazzo Massimo’s Priceless Treasures: Roman Jewelry
In the basement of the Palazzo Massimo, you can admire Roman coins, as well as an excellent collection of jewelry. I always am struck by how the designs from so long ago, are revived over the centuries, and even today. I would 100% wear that necklace…how about you?
OK…so now that you have enjoyed a TINY glimpse into this fabulous museum, here’s some tips:
- I always recommend a private tour guide in large and important museums. The scope of the exhibits can get overwhelming, and good guides can help you see the highlights, with information that will make your experiences so much more meaningful. I work exclusively with a fabulous private guide service, detailed in this post. It is important that you tell them The Curious Cowgirl sent you….because they take EXCELLENT care of my people!
- In the absence of a Private Guide, you can always rent an audio guide.
- The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.
- While you are in this area of Rome, be sure and visit Santa Maria degli Anglei….The site where Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri was erected was where the Baths of Diocletian had been founded, an impressive demonstration of the glory of the Roman Empire until, in an intent to conquer Rome, the Goths cut the water supply of all the aqueducts of the city, and the baths had to be abandoned. A Sicilian priest suggested building a church on the site of the Baths of Diocletian, in honor of all the Christian slaves who died while building the baths. Several decades later, in 1560, the priest’s efforts were rewarded by Pope Pius IV who commissioned Michelangelo to transform the baths into a church.
If I can assist you in planning out a custom curated trip to Rome you will never forget, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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