National Archaeological Museum – Naples, Campania, Italy
A Fallen Empire’s Spoils
If you wondered where all the precious sculpture and artifacts excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum wound up, they’re here. One of the richest treasure troves of Greco-Roman antiquities in the world fills this large 16th-century cavalry barracks.
An invaluable collection of antiquities amassed by Pope Paul III of the Farnese family during the excavations of Roman ruins are exhibited on the ground floor; Heracles is here, 10 feet tall, with an anatomy that would have made Michelangelo cry.
The section dedicated to mosaics excavated from Pompeii reveals fascinating, intimate vignettes of life in that thriving, sophisticated city before it was extinguished forever by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The museum’s Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Gallery) opened to much fanfare in 1999. Contained in two rooms are more than 200 frescoes, mosaics, and statues whose erotic attributes explain why they were never before made available to the public.