Travel Tips

Mad About Museums in Rome

Locations in this article:  Rome, Italy

crazy manFirst there was the National Museum of Pasta, then there was the International Museum of Film & Entertainment (though a better Italian translation might be Cinema & Show Business). And don’t forget the Roman Aqueduct Museum (not actually in Rome).

And just in case you thought there weren’t enough weird specialty museums in Italy to amuse and instruct even the most jaded been-there-done-that traveler, now you can add an insanity museum to the list.

Known as The Mind’s Museum, or the Museo Della Mente in Italian, this Roman museum is actually not new, but was re-opened recently after a long renovation project.

Located in a former psychiatric hospital that was shut down in 1978, the museum aims to challenge visitors’ preconceptions about mental illness and offers an interactive experience that actually requires visitor participation and records their impressions.

Rather than explore the relationship between art and the treatment of mental illness (ground that is covered by other European mental health museums), the Mind’s Museum’s mission is more focused on public health.

Dr. Pompeo Martelli, the director of the museum, is in the process of preserving case histories of more than 250,000 patients who were treated in the hospital during its 130-year lifespan.

The exhibits are intended to inspire empathy without judgment by putting visitors inside the heads of the mentally ill. One installation tries to replicate the experience of hearing unseen voices by having visitors sit at a desk and hold their hands over their ears while whispering voices are projected all around them.

In another exhibit a photograph of the visitor is projected into wall alongside photos of former patients, while a recording recounts their sad, often tragic, life stories.

Related links: New York Times, Museo Della Mente, Rome Travel Guide

By Karen Elowitt for

Planning on whirlwind museum tour of Rome? Check out these museum passes that can get your entrance into several sites on your next trip: Find out: Are Tourist Discount City Cards a Good Value?

And don’t forget our Off the Brochure Travel Guide to Rome, Italy for some of the city’s great hidden spots.

Want some cool museums closer to home? Check these out: