A few years ago, Paris, Europe's self proclaimed cultural capital, instigated a number of measures to increase patronage of its cultural centres, particularly of its museums and galleries. One of the most influential of its initiatives, was its Nuit des Musees, in which a range of its public spaces were opened after hours into the night, turning the city into a living museum for a night.
Rome, Paris' southern sister city (or twin city as they are known here in Italy), soon appropriated the idea, (along with Paris' Nuit Blanc) and, began conducting the Italian incarnation of the initiative, appropriately entitled "La Notte Dei Musei". 2010's night in both Paris and Rome, was staged this past Saturday May 15th.
Despite an unseasonably wet spell currently being felt in Rome, Romans, and a great deal of the estimated average 100,000 visitors the city receives each week, came out in force to visit almost eighty institutions, large and small, who had opened up their collections and exhibitions for an evening of free entry.
Rome is well aware of the depths of the collections its institutions hold, and of its position as the home to the world's oldest museums, but across the board, as was probably expected, it was a series of blockbuster exhibitions across Rome that drew the biggest crowds; the current Caravaggio retrospective, billed as one of the best Caravaggio exhibitions staged yet; the visiting, more modestly sized Edward Hopper exhibition; and a Chirico exhibition were amongst those in which I spied literally hundreds of people queuing patiently in the rain, the lines snaking around the street blocks, where wait times of more than an hour not uncommon even when the shows were small enough to be appreciated with less than an hour's viewing time.
I on the other hand, was happy to soak up the atmosphere of the monster shows only by proximity. I chose to bypass them in favor of the smaller, lesser known places around Rome, but made sure to include them on the itinerary to see just how popular they were. My trek took me to eight places all around the centre of Rome, and past even more, such as the Roman Forum which was illuminated in a sensational way.
To my surprise, a lot of other people had the same idea to visit spaces as disparate as the Jewish Museum of Rome and the National Museum of Oriental Art; more than happy to stray from the beaten path of the Greco-Roman tradition.
Special events including jazz and classical performances at a selection of institutions proved an irresistable draw card for culture mad Romans, on whom the novelty of visiting galleries through to 2am was not lost.
A few individual posts to follow on some of the places I visited, which might not normally make it onto your list on a first visit to Rome, what with the other competition on hand, but might be of interest to repeat visitors to Rome.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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