The palace was built on the site once occupied by the Villa Montalto-Peretti, named after Pope Sixtus V, who had been born Francesco Peretti. The present building was commissioned by Prince Massimiliano Massimo, so as to give a seat to the Jesuit Collegio Romano, originally within the convent of the church of Sant’Ignazio. In 1871, the Collegio had been ousted from the convent by the State which converted it into the Liceo Visconti, the first public secular high school of Italy. Erected between 1883 and 1887 by the architect Camillo Pistrucci in aneo-cinquecentesco style, it was one of the most prestigious schools of Rome until 1960. During World War II, it was partially used as a military hospital, but it then returned to scholastic functions until the 60s, when it was moved to a newer seat in the EUR quarter.
In 1981, lying in a state of neglect, the Italian State acquired it for 19 billion lire and granted it to the National Roman Museum. Its restoration and adaptation began in 1983. and completed in 1998, eventually becoming the main seat of the Museum as well as the headquarters of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (Agency of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities of Italy in charge for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome). The museum houses the Ancient Art (Sculpture, Painting, Mosaic Work and Goldsmith’s Craft from the Republican Age to the Late Anquity) as well as the Numismatic Collection, housed in the “Medagliere”, i.e. the Coin Cabinet.
Ground floor and first floor
One room is also devoted to the mummy that was found in 1964 on the Via Cassia, inside a richly decorated sarcophagus with several artefacts in amber and pieces of jewellery also on display. Sculptures of the period between the late Roman Republic and the early imperial period (2nd century BC to 1st century AD), include
Frescoes, stucci and mosaics, including those from the villa of Livia, wife of Augustus, at Prima Porta on the Via Flaminia. It begins with the summer triclinium of Livia’s Villa “ad Gallinas Albas”. The frescoes, discovered in 1863 and dating back to the 1st century BC, show a luscious garden with ornamental plants and pomegranate trees.
The Museum’s numismatic collection is the largest in Italy. Among the coins on exhibit are Theodoric’s medallion, the four ducats of Pope Paul II with the navicella of St Peter, and the silver piastre of the Pontifical State with views of the city of Rome.