The Getty Villa

What makes this museum stand out, even from many museums in Rome itself, is the quality of the restorations and mix of media shown, far more than just marble.

One room of glass artifacts felt like it came straight out of a contemporary art museum, and the gardens in particular bring the past to life.

An anonymous piece of wall painting is here brought to life as a window on the past. In Italy, this would be a forgotten shard in a storeroom. For various reasons, political will, lack of money, and sheer vastness of stuff they have, there isn’t much restoration that goes on in Rome on classical art. Restoration of pottery may be an exception.

Almost all Roman artifacts were once painted in beautiful colors. The austere statues we see today speak to a black and white society, when in fact Rome was a vibrant land of color. The artifacts from Pompeii and neighboring towns are unique for still having some of that color, albeit faded and damaged by heat.

Here, more than any other classical museum that color is brought back. But what is devastating to me is that despite the color, there isn’t much of a story being told. The collection feels too much like what it is, the random collection of a rich person. Here, you can look at the past better than most anywhere, but yet you cannot feel that past at all.

Having some reenactors here would have brought this place to life far better. As it is, I feel very much like I am still in California, not on the ancient shores of the Mediterranean.

One tour guide in particular was disappointing, whose knowledge of Roman history seemed built more on movies than historical fact. There did appear to be more knowledgeably guides, but they were monopolized by student groups. Since most guests seem to be there more for selfies than history, perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Not that selfies are bad, it is really a beautiful place for a photo.

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