As of 15.00 Friday 21 April until 21.00 Romans and tourists can visit the restored Ara Pacis monument free of charge following the official inauguration Friday morning of its smart new home designed by American Architect Richard Meier. The finishing touches still have to be put to the museum pavilion in Piazza Augusto Imperatore; but the scaffolding has now been taken down to reveal a slim, white linear structure that looks more like an architectural model than the building in concrete, glass and travertine marble that it really is.

The sculpted altar built by Emperor Augustus between 13 and 9 BC to celebrate the establishment of peace in the Roman empire stands at the centre of a large, bright space giving on to the adjacent square on one side and the busy Lungotevere in Augusta on the other. Behind it, at the Via di Ripetta end of the complex, is a small auditorium which is still under construction and should be ready in a few months, according to Gianni Borgna, head of the city councils culture department. Entry is by way of a flight of steps leading up from Via di Ripetta onto a long, narrow terrace, which gives a good view of the surroundings.

Commissioned by Romes former mayor Francesco Rutelli to replace the original pavilion in 1996, the Ara Pacis museum has been beset by controversy and long delays. In demonstration of the fact that some people are still unhappy about the project journalists arriving at todays opening were greeted by a small group of demonstrators belonging to the far right-wing party Fiamma Tricolore. Now, after a long wait, the Roman public can finally decide for itself.

Opening times: Tues-Sun 09.00-19.00, euro 6.50, reduced euro 3. For information tel. 0682059127 or see

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