Rome is noted worldwide for its breathtaking museums, from Galleria Borghese to the Vatican Museums. However the Eternal City is also home to a range of offbeat and quirky museum destinations. Here are seven of Rome's most unusual museums.
Museum of the Souls of Purgatory, Lungotevere Prati 18.For a truly out-of-this-world experience, visit this museum at the neo-gothic Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage. Its walls contain the likeness of a human face which dates to a fire during the church's construction on 15 September 1897. The priest at the time, Fr Vittore Jouet, was convinced that the smudgy image was a soul in Purgatory trying to get in touch with the living. Fr Jouet began collecting relics and artefacts relating to Puragatory and the afterlife, assembling clothing, books and photographs that were allegedly "branded" by the souls of the dead. website.
Casina delle Civette, Via Nomentana 70.Hidden away in the grounds of Villa Torlonia is a building that seems to have fallen out of a fairytale. Known as the little house of the owls, this curious complex was designed originally as a "Swiss cabin" in 1840. However it was later transformed into a glorious homage to art nouveau, embellished with stained glass, mosaics, coloured ceramic tiles, mullioned windows and turrets. Expect to marvel at the romantic motifs of owls, swans and peacocks while the building's nooks and crannies are a delight to explore, particularly for kids. Tues-Sun 09.00-19.00. website.
Museo delle auto della polizia, Via dell'Arcadia 20, tel. 065141861.
This museum of police cars is centred around a black Ferrari 250 GTE which officer Armando Spatafora drove in the 1960s in hot pursuit of criminals around the city. The officer, who was trained specially by Ferrari test drivers, became synonymous with the car which could reach speeds of 240 km per hour. According to legend the car was even driven down the Spanish Steps. The museum also includes numerous other historic vehicles ranging from cars and motorcycles and even a snowcat. Visit by appointment. Mon-Sat 09.00-13.30. August closed. website.
Museum of Cribs, Chiesa di SS. Quirico e Giulitta, Via Tor de' Conti 31, tel. 066796146.This display of mangers and nativity scenes from around the world is housed in the basement of a church in Rome's Monti quarter. The private museum, whose official title is Museo tipologico internazionale del presepio, is based around the collection of Angelo Stefanucci (1905-1990) who began assembling cribs in the 1950s. In addition to mangers, the museum contains crib-related books, medals, posters and stamps. The museum can only be visited on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 17.00-19.30. website.
Video Game Museum, Via Sabotino 4.ViGaMuS, the Video Game Museum of Rome, is located in the Prati district of the capital and is the first Italian museum dedicated entirely to interactive games. Visitors have access to 36 different stations, whose playable games are updated on a weekly basis. There are arcade-style games, popular in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Space Invader and Street Fighter II. There are areas devoted to Sega Mega Drive and first-person shooter classics such as Doom. The museum hosts regular virtual-reality events and video game-themed exhibitions. Open daily 10.00-20.00 except Monday. website.
Centrale Montemartini, Via Ostiense 106.One of Rome's quirkiest but least-visited museums, Centrale Montemartini is a former industrial power plant housing over 400 pieces of ancient sculpture from the collection of the Capitoline Museums. This odd juxtaposition of classical goddesses with bygone boilers, engines and turbines makes for a unique visit, and chances are you will have the museum more or less to yourself. It also lends itself to eye-catching shots for Instagram. Visit by booking in advance. Tues-Sun 09.00-19.00. Mon closed. website.
Museo delle Cere, Piazza SS. Apostoli 68/A.Normally a wax museum wouldn't make a list of offbeat destinations. However Rome's wax museum is no ordinary wax museum. Due to the questionable quality of the wax models, visitors tend to leave the museum either scared, baffled or amused. Some complain of the positioning of Hitler in the world leaders section, others enjoy trying to guess who the waxwork figures are supposed to be. The museum is small and its residents range from Napoleon and Churchill to Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso. Look out too for Pope Francis, Francesco Totti and Brad Pitt. website.
Cover image: Casina delle Civette. Photo by Danilo Strino / Shutterstock.com.