Everyone has an innocent private sin. For instance, if I visit Rome, I prefer Chinese food for dinner, and in the afternoon, I like McDonald’s for lunch. (I want to see things, so I don’t want to waste time; fast food is fine with me.) Another sin I must confess is that amongst the museums I like most is the Museo nazionale della civiltà romana, a museum that owns not a single real object. Everything is fake.
But there are a lot of fakes, and it is the best place to get acquainted with Roman civilization. If I have to guide a group, this is the best place to start, even better than the Capitol. In the first rooms, you will see objects that document the historical development of the Empire: there are casts of, for example, old inscriptions and statues, and there are models of all kinds of buildings. There is also a large model of Rome in the archaic age, which is some kind of answer to the model for which the museum is deservedly famous: the large model of Rome in the age of Constantine. The other half of the collection is devoted to Roman culture: ancient medicine, farms, law, traders, libraries, and so on. This part was closed for a long time, but it was reopened a couple of year ago.
The reorganization has had some nice consequences. Many objects were added – you can see the full cast of the Column of Trajan again, although, this being Italy, today only half of it was illuminated. Explanatory signs have been translated into English. What remained the same is the team of nice people.
Yes, I like that place, and if you visit Rome, you must not be discouraged by the fact that it is a bit outside the center. See it as an opportunity to see some modern architecture, and try to ‘decode’ the structure of the museum itself. Look, for instance, at Italy’s borders on one of the maps, and notice that Dalmatia has become part of the country. The explanation is that the museum dates back to the Fascist years, when “Italia Irredenta” was still an important political issue. This map was meant to give people an idea of what Italy ought to be. In fact, the entire museum was an adhortation to Italy to become what it had once been – but that does not mean that you shouldn’t visit the Museo nazionale della civiltà romana.