Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the spectacular scale model of the Eternal City’s glory days on exhibit at the Museum of Roman Civilization (Museo della Civilta Romana). In fact, it took 22 years.
It may seem strange to go to Rome, then go into a museum to see a model of the city, but archaeologist Italo Gismondi’s jaw-dropping creation — truly a magnum opus — is worthy of such a visit. Known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, it was commissioned by Mussolini in 1933 and completed in 1955. The intricately detailed, massive reconstruction — at a scale of 1:250 — depicts Rome during the reign of Constantine I in the 4th century AD.
Gismondi relied on deep-rooted sources to ensure the accuracy of his model, including the marble Forma Urbis (a large plan of Rome created in the early 3rd century AD during the reign of Septimius Severus), the archaeological remnants of the city, and various ancient texts and maps. It’s arguably the best tangible representation of the glorious city ever created.
The museum complex (a monumental creation in and of itself) is located in the Piazza Giovanni Agnelli, about 7 1/2 miles south of Ancient Rome’s main gate at the Piazza del Popolo. It houses 59 sections covering over 39,000 sq. ft. The first 14 rooms tell the complete story of the history of Rome from its origins to the 6th century AD. A section dedicated to the history of Christianity follows, and the rest of the museum documents the evolution of the rich Roman culture.