The Capitoline Museums, Rome

Posted by jdg | 11:12 AM

I had never before visited Rome's Capitoline Museums. Once we got to the Capitoline Hill I was always so excited and it felt like there was no reason to go inside a building when there was so much to see outside. But on this trip to Rome with kids, little legs got tired and the late August day was hot, so we opted to go inside the museum during the height of the afternoon. I am so glad we did.

"My Roman costume!" he shouted.

The museum buildings were designed by Michelangelo and today house an enormous collection of classical statuary. I loved the courtyard that still felt like some old 17th-century menagerie of pieces lying around, and the modern sections of the Palazzo dei Conservatori featuring the original massive Marcus Aurelius bronze, the famous Romulus and Remus statue, and (best of all) the foundation remnants from the huge original temple of Jupiter were awesome too.

Looking to see whether Hercules had a butt. Answer: "A big one."
After a couple of hours we were almost ready to head down to the forum but I figured we should also run over and check out the Palazzo Nuovo before we left. There's an underground tunnel that connects the two buildings and houses the museum's collection of fragments and epigraphs. In the middle the path veers past a few ancient buildings and temples right where they once stood to reveal the most incredible view over the forum:

Okay, but the Palazzo Nuovo itself: it was nerd heaven. Nerd heaven! Sorry kids, you're dad is a nerd, and you must suffer for it! Athena! Artemis! Medusa! Aphrodite, from an original by Praxiteles! Have I ever told you about the time a guy actually fell in love with a statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles and broke into the temple at night to. . . (that one had better wait till you're older).

I have never seen such an amazing collection of classical sculptures all crammed together in such a beautiful setting. Anywhere else the Hellenistic masterpiece The Dying Gaul would have a room to itself, behind bulletproof glass or something, but there it was, elbow to elbow with a bunch of other statues. My son wasn't so impressed with it at first ("That doesn't look like Asterix!" True, he looks more like Burt Reynolds) but when I showed him the bloody injury and emphasized that the Gauls sometimes fought naked he showed proper admiration.

I have to say, I think going to this museum before the forum and the Colosseum with the kids really improved our experience at both of sites. The statues help bring more of a human element to the ruins that I think they really appreciated. There's just something about seeing all those human bodies and ancient faces in marble that help remind you that real people were behind all this.

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