Museo Criminologico – The Oddest Museum in Rome, Italy

Escape into the unknown at the Criminology Museum in Rome, Italy. Situated at number 29 Via del Gonfalone, this museum is what I call the epitome of ‘hidden Rome’, so to speak.

The Criminology Museum was first conceived in 1930 and prior to its opening it was a prison. In fact, the museum was initially only open to government officials. However, in 1994 it opened to the general public and is currently operated by the country’s federal prison.

Museo Criminologico

Museo Criminologico is by far the oddest museum I visited during my three-month stint living in Rome at the start of 2013. Nowhere in Rome do you see the realities of this city’s history as when visiting Museo Criminologico.

The museum contains exhibit after exhibit of fascinating, yet shocking torture objects – everything from the smallest plastic ‘flex-cufs’ / handcuffs to guns, guillotines, balaclavas and larger full-body torture equipment.

Museo Criminologico

Museo Criminologico

Museo Criminologico

Exhibitions follow a chronological journey – artifacts stem from judicial torture techniques prior to the 19th century right up to the 20th century torture tactics of notorious Italian criminals and Mafiosi.

Although predominantly in Italian, some displays have been translated (albeit poorly). Nevertheless, the artifacts speak for themselves so exhibition descriptions are not completely necessary. Plus, you can always rely on trusty old Google to find more details of the history surrounding each piece.

Museo Criminologico

Museo Criminologico

What struck me the most about the museum is the diversity of objects on display and also the attention to detail and intricate nature of some of the torture equipment. This is no doubt a very macabre site for those with an interest in torture and suffering in Rome.

Museo Criminologico

Perhaps it is the bloodstained clothes and artifacts belonging to Giovanni Battista Bugatti who was Rome’s state executioner for the pope (1796 to 1865) that causes such a stir? Or perhaps it is the smaller, somewhat easily hidden torture objects used by notorious Italian gangsters throughout the decades? Nonetheless, this is a museum that demonstrates human suffering and the advancement of technology to inflict pain on others.

Museo Criminologico

There is a definite rawness to the displays – things are arranged in a minimalist way and the objects speak for themselves.

Museo Criminologico

Museo Criminologico

All-in-all, Museo Criminologico is a real eye-opener – a fascinating journey of torture through the decades tucked away down a narrow side street and somewhat hidden from the average tourist – which makes it a true blessing during peak season in Rome of course.

Please note that Museo Criminologico is only open at very select hours during the week, so be sure to check the Museo Criminologico website prior to your visit.

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Elizabeth Joss

Elizabeth Joss is the founder and main writer at The Museum Times. She works as a university lecturer by day and is an avid travel blogger and arts and culture enthusiast by night. Elizabeth started The Museum Times out of the need to give smaller, lesser-known museums more exposure.

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