Rome Around Piazza Repubblica
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme This museum, one of four National Roman Museums (Museo Nazionale Romano) in Rome is a "must see" with kids. It has fabulous stuff from ancient Rome – marble sculptures of gods, figures of mythology, realistic statues of Roman emperors and their wives (check out hairstyles). Tip: It's much less crowded than the Capitoline Museum.
|On the ground floor, at the entrance is a large statue of Minerva (Athena), and zippy black and white mosaic of Medusa. In the galleries, look for two statues, Greek bronze originals - "The Boxer" and "The Hellenistic Prince," monumental statue of Augustus, and gold-bronze portrait of Alexander and Great.
|First floor is filled with Imperial portraits, emperors and their wives - Hadrian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius etc. The Portonaccio Sarcophagus has a spectacular battle between the Romans and barbarians. In Room X see artifacts (including head of Medusa) from Caligua's pleasure ships, Ships of Nemi.
|The second floor is filled with exquisite wall murals from Roman villas and mosaics. The Villa of Livia gallery reconstructs a summer dining room about 20BC - paintings depict a garden filled with flowers, trees and birds. In Gallery III are four marvelous mosaics of charioteers (in four colors of teams that raced in the Circus Maximus), and an inlaid marble panel depicting the start of a chariot race.
|In the basement are collections of jewelry of ancient Rome (golden armbands, necklaces, bracelets and hair ornaments), coins dating back to 4th century BC, and scepters of Emperor Maxentius.
|Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is closed on Mondays.
|Read our blog post " Hidden gems: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome"
Baths of Diocletian (Terme di Diocleziano) Built around 300 AD, these baths were the largest in ancient Rome, and could hold 3,000 people, with a caldarium (hot room), tepidarium (warm room), frigidarium (cold room), and gigantic swimming pool.
|To get a sense of the monumental scale of the baths, pop into Hall VIII, where kids can imagine a 4000 square meter swimming pool, covered in marble with niches, columns and decorations, such as the black and white mosaic with peacocks and flowers. Also, go (outside the museum) to the Octagonal Hall, another frigidarium, with an intact domed ceiling and sculptures from Roman baths.
|On display in the Epigraphic Museum are artifacts of ancient Roman daily life, some quite old, 5th - 4th century BC. On the ground floor, don't miss the bronze helmet, breastplate, axe, sword and spears of a military commander buried in 475 BC, and life-size terra cotta votive figures, particularly the woman holding a pig offering. On the first floor, are objects of ancient Roman religions, such as reliefs and statues of Mithras, and collection of amulets, clay lamps and magic boxes for protection and good luck.
|Head out to Michelangelo's Cloister (so named as Michelangelo did the preliminary designs), with long covered passageways and 100 columns. In the center is a garden, fountain and colossal animal heads bull, ram, horse, camel, rhinoceros, elephant. (The bull, ram, horse, camel heads came from Trajan's Forum.)
|In front of the entrance to the Baths is a peaceful garden, with bubbling fountain, shade and flowering wisteria, and funerary monuments 2000 years old.
|Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli The entrance to the basilica looks impressive because the monumental frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian was converted into a church in the mid 16th century. Pope Pius IV had Michelangelo to do the initial designs for this church, dedicated to "Our Lady of the Angels" (Santa Maria degli Angeli).
|Inside the church, notice a bronze line with numbers, running diagonally from a wall on the southeast side to the northwest side of the basilica. This is a meredian line, a sundial type clock (sunlight enters through a hole in the wall), used to accurately calibrate clocks in Rome from 1702 (when line was made) until 1846. On each sides of the line are seasonal signs of the zodiac inlaid in marble.
|Tip: Use the Archaeologica Card for Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and Baths of Diocletian.