Museo Storico della Liberazione (Resistance Museum)
A museum in Rome
about the Italian resistance and the eventual liberation from Nazi German
rule towards the end of WWII
. It's a rather old-style museum but is housed in an authentic location used by the Germans as a prison and HQ of the security police.
More background info:
The official name of the museum translates as 'Historical Museum of the Liberation', but it is actually more about the resistance against the Nazis following Germany
's occupation of Rome
in 1943. Hence I am using the official name and simply “Resistance Museum” interchangeably here.
The building that the museum is housed in was constructed in the late 1930s and the German embassy used to occupy four floors of it.
was ousted and the new Italian government agreed an armistice with the Allies, who were already invading from the south/Sicily, Nazi Germany took full control of much of the not yet invaded territory of Italy
, including Rome
, in September 1943. The government fled and the Nazis
started their reign of terror in Rome (cf. Fosse Ardeatine
The building on Via Tasso now became a security police HQ and also had cells for political prisoners (and Jews), who were often subjected to torture during interrogations. The house became one of the most feared locations in the city.
When Rome was finally liberated in June 1944, the Nazis fled and left some prisoners behind locked in their cells (they were later let out by locals).
During the first few years after WWII
, the building was used to provide emergency accommodation to families who had lost their homes in the war. But in 1950 four apartments were set aside for a museum about the resistance and liberation.
The museum exhibition opened in the mid 1950s. And it hasn't changed much since, apart from a few minor later additions, and the museum shows its advanced age – see below:
What there is to see: The museum is on four floors, though the main parts are on the ground floor as well as the second and third floors, while the first floor is only for temporary exhibitions.
The ground-floor exhibition rooms have text-and-photo panels about WWII
, the Nazi occupation from September 1943 and the role that the building on Via Tasso played during the different phases of those times, including the names of the top-ranking Nazis
who worked here, as well as victims lists and a small section on torture.
The inner organization of the Italian Resistance is given much coverage too, but these parts remain rather obscure to visitors not familiar with the topic or able to read Italian.
The second and third floor are where the actual prison cells were – and parts of these have been preserved. Most notable is the windowless isolation cell where you can still see the graffiti that inmates left by scratchings in the wall. There are two in English, left by captured British
One room is devoted to the atrocity committed by the Nazis at the Ardeatine Caves
, and in another room you can see a loaf of bread into which a prisoner sentenced to death left a message to his mother: “coraggio mamma” ('courage mum').
Other remarkable artefacts include a few rusty specimens of the four-point nails used by the resistance to throw onto the road to pierce German cars' tyres, or the bloodstained clothes of one particular victim.
The rest of the exhibition here consists mostly of documents, propaganda and agitation material as well as newspapers from the time, which are all in Italian only (although there are a couple of leaflets that the Allies dropped from the air that are in German). So, much of these parts of the museum remains rather obscure to the foreign visitor. The flags and medals on display remain largely mysterious too.
On the third floor is the section about the deportation of Jews and Roma to concentration camps
, but again most of the texts and documents are in Italian only so you're left with just the photos.
Augmenting all the really old-fashioned exhibits there are also a few later additions, mostly works of art (paintings and sculptures) but also a couple of screens on which videos about particular episodes/themes can be shown if you request it (I didn't).
The museum has produced a leaflet with some information in (often rather broken) English about the museum, its contents and other memorial sites in Rome. You are given this on entry and it helps a little in understanding certain parts of the exhibition, but it doesn't go into much detail.
It also is a bit dated, hence they give you an extra sheet with addenda (mostly concerning works of art put in place since the publication of the leaflet), which also points out that the rooms on the first floor were undergoing a reworking with new exhibits about the battle of Rome in September 1943 as well as the Allied aerial bombardments of July 1943.
Overall, as interesting as the topic(s) of this museum may be, it still isn't really commodified
for foreign visitors, so many will leave a bit disappointed. The style of the exhibition is also mostly very old-fashioned. And rows and rows of old newspapers or photos of resistance fighters can quickly get quite boring. The style of the museum does have a certain endearing charm, but if you can't read Italian and want to learn something substantial about the Nazi era in Rome, resistance and liberation, you'll have to do that elsewhere.
The museum is still worth a look all the same if you have the time, but it is probably not top of the list of things a dark tourist in Rome
absolutely has to see.
to the east of the heart of central Rome
, at 145 Via Tasso,
Access and costs: a bit off the main tourist tracks, but not difficult to find; free.
Details: Getting to the museum is fairly easy. You can take a tram (line 3) or metro (line A) to “Manzoni”, from where it is a short walk. Via Tasso branches off Viale Manzoni one block west and then it's less than 200 yards south to the door of the museum. When I was there a very enthusiastic, older gentlemen was there to greet visitors and hand them leaflets in English, if required (but he didn't speak much English himself).
Admission free (but donations are welcome – as well as a signature in the guest book!)
Opening times: Tuesdays to Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays also from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; closed Mondays, on public holidays and all of August.
Time required: If you can read Italian and have a special interest in the museum's subject matter, then you could probably spend a couple of hours here, but for most foreign visitors about half an hour to 45 minutes will be enough.
Combinations with other dark destinations
: in general see under Rome
The one authentic site that is topically connected to the museums theme – and a must-see for any serious dark tourist in Rome in any case – are the Ardeatine Caves
in the far south of the city near the Via Appia.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
Close by, just a few steps to the south, is one of Rome's largest and grandest churches (outside the Vatican
), namely the Basilica S. Giovanni in Laterano with its giant stone statues on top of the front façade.
And just a short tram ride (or walk) to the west, there is the city's best known sight: the Colosseum
with the Forum Romanum just behind it.
- Resistance Museum 01 - Via Tasso
- Resistance Museum 02 - German occupation
- Resistance Museum 03 - flats converted into a prison
- Resistance Museum 04 - former kitchen
- Resistance Museum 05 - prison cells
- Resistance Museum 06 - isolation cell
- Resistance Museum 07 - British scratchings
- Resistance Museum 08 - old-fashioned exhibition
- Resistance Museum 09 - blood-stained shirt
- Resistance Museum 10 - artefacts salvaged from the Ardeatine caves
- Resistance Museum 11 - old newspapers
- Resistance Museum 12 - tyre-piercing nails
- Resistance Museum 13 - bread with mamma message
- Resistance Museum 14 - medals
- Resistance Museum 15 - more modern addition