“ Piazza del Campidoglio 1 - 00186 Rome, Italy. Tel.: +39.06.39967800. „
Piazza di Campidoglio is flanked by Palazzo Conservatorio and Palazzo Nuovo, which form the Capitoline Museums. Palazzo Nuovo a collection of classical statuary and was the world's first public museum, as declared by Pope Clement XII in 1734.
The best works in Palazzo Nuovo are Roman copies of Greek sculptures, including the Discobolos and the famous "Dying Gaul", unusually full of human compassion for a mortally wounded enemy. There is also, in a room of her own, the Capitoline Venus, a lovely nude demurely (but not entirely effectively) covering her breasts and pubis.
Palazzo dei Conservatori has more sculpture, including the iconic Etruscan she-wolf (with later added Romulus and Remus underneath), the original of the Marcus Aurelius from the centre of the square (the only equestrian statue to survive from ancient Rome) Bernini's Medusa and the multi-breasted Diana of Ephesus. The gallery of paintings boasts Caravaggio's St John the Baptist, unorthodox to say the least vision of the Christ's precedesor.
The inner courtyard contains the head, hand and foot of Constantine's gigantic statue: the head itself, at 2.5m, is taller than a full-sized human.
These musuems are not perhaps at the very top of Rome's sights, but this is just because there is so much to see in the Eternal City: in any other city, the Capitoline Museums would be an absolute must-see, and to be honest so it is, really, in Rome.
The Capitoline Museums are, helpfully for those who tend to get themselves lost, situated on the Capitoline Hill, wedged between the unmissable Vittorio Emanuele Monument in Piazza Venezia, and The Forum. From Roman Times this was the seat of the city authorities and it still is today. There are three sections to the museums, well, really two, but a 'link' passage which I'll count as a third. The Piazza itself was designed by Michelangelo and is dominated by a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (a copy.. the original is actually inside the museum). There are three palazzi in the Piazza. The Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo dei Conservatori make up the museums themselves and the Palazzo Senatorio is where the city government still manage (or don't as the case may be) Roman affairs. You should enter the museum through the Palazzo Nuovo (it doesn't really matter if you wander into the Palazzo dei Conservatori instead, they'll still sell you a ticket, but you'll have to walk back across the courtyard.. I guess it depends on how lazy you're feeling!). It costs 12.000L (as of February 2001 - this is about £4). You can also buy an audioguide which was quite interesting actually, although about half of it doesn't work. Inside the museum itself, and probably because it is such an old museum, it doesn't have the layout you really might expect, because things have been arranged in themes rather than in date order, for example, there are lots of busts of emperors and greek philosophers, and they are housed in terms of 'Emperors', although they would have been sculpted hundreds of years apart. It does work though, and the palaces, themselves, are reason enough to visit, let alone what is actually contained within. The link passage underneath the piazza has a walkway up to the Palazzo Senatorio and the collection of books and documents, then you resume your walk over to the
Palazzo dei Conservatorio. This is where the famous she-wolf of Rome statue is, always drawing much attention! The top floor is dedicated to paintings from all periods of italian history. This really is a place you can lose yourself in, I'd put it behind the Vatican Museums, but only just. Even for non-museum people, there is enough to keep you entertained. I'd definitely recommend a visit for at least half a day.