I visited the Villa Giulia for the first time in 1982, a couple of days before my eighteenth birthday. I had read the first five books by Livy and had become fond of early Roman history, which naturally drove me to this museum, which is devoted to art of ancient Etruria and archaic Latium. I still have some of the slides I made back then, but I do not remember much of my visit, except the double surprise that there was a picture of an elephant and that the building itself was a monument from the Renaissance.
Two years later, I returned with my father, and I remember (a) the excellent coffee and (b) that the museum was very, very big. They seemed to believe that they had to expose every object. On later visits, I started to recognize some system, and it seemed as if the size of the museum was, after all, limited. Still, I overestimated it; when I visited the Villa Giulia last week, I believed I needed several hours, but in the end, a couple of hours were sufficient to see everything and take photos.
Yes, photos. Officially, photography is not allowed, but permission to take them can easily be obtained. In every room, I went to the guard to explain that I had a permesso, but somehow, everyone already knew and smiled. I really felt as if they warmly took care of me, almost as if I belonged to a family.
The collection itself is beautiful, and explanatory notes are really good. I was impressed by the Pyrgi temple façade and the gold tablets, the statues from Veii, and the finds of Satricum. The latter are admittedly not very special and the best piece, the Lapis Satricanus, is now in the National Museum, but I have met some of the excavators, which made these finds special, at least for me. The only object I did not see, was the elephant, which happened to be on loan to another museum.