Nook of Naples: Boasting one of the largest collections of ancient Roman artifacts, the National Archeological Museum can be visited over and over again. But what to look for and not get overwhelmed? Here are my top five picks:
1) La Villa dei Papiri displays fantastic bronze sculptures (look for the Bust of Seneca) as well as a few papyrus scrolls. These items were discovered in Herculaneum in a villa believed to have been owned by the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. The largest part of the papyrus scroll collection can be found at the National Library, but here you'll see the rudimentary gadgets initially used to unroll the scrolls.
2) The Secret Cabinet is an ongoing favorite. Displaying erotic statues such as Pirapus and sexually explicit frescoes from Pompeii, the area is off-limits to children.
3) The Battle of Alexander: The largest and oldest villa in Pompeii -- the House of the Faun -- once had a mammoth floor mosaic displaying Alexander the Great's victory over the Persian emperor Darius. The mosaic is now housed in the museum.
4) Farnese Hercules is a Roman copy (3rd century A.D.) of a lost Greek sculpture made by the Greek sculpting master, Lysippus, in the 4th century B.C.
5) Paquius Proculus and His Wife is the original 1st century A.D. painting from Pompeii that is famously seen in reproduction. You'll recognize it when you see it:
There's much more to explore. The museum also has the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts and re-creates the Temple of Isis. The Farnese collection includes the largest collection of Roman copies of classical Greek sculptures -- the only surviving indications of those lost works. And finally, if you take my Phlegraean Fields and Villas tours, you'll then find a bevy of artifacts from those sites, including Baia, Boscoreale, Stabia, and Cuma.
Getting There: Take the metro to Piazza Cavour. When you exit the station, the museum is up toward your left. Address: