Rome is one of the world's top travel destinations, and for good reason: its history, culture, and food are all to die for. On the other hand, the crowds of tourists in the eternal city might make you feel a little like you want to die, especially if you plan your trip for the busy summer months. In case you need a break from the hordes of ugly Americans, here are our recommendations for amazing museums a little off the beaten path. Get out of the sun, enjoy some much-needed breathing room, and take in Rome’s fascinating history all at the same time.
1. National Etruscan Museum
Located in the stunning Villa Giulia, which was built in the 16th century by Pope Julius III, the National Etruscan Museum is like a breath of fresh air. You may very well be the only visitor as you stroll through the museum's lush gardens and galleries, which contain many of the most important known artifacts created by Italy's pre-Roman Etruscan civilization.
2. Centrale Montemartini
Located inside a former electricity plant, the Centrale Montemartini is one of Rome's most unique—and under-appreciated—museums. The stark industrial feel of the building provides an intriguing backdrop for the elegant marble Roman statues on display.
3. Museo Criminologico
Definitely one of Rome's quirkier attractions, the Museo Criminologico—or Museum of Criminology—is housed inside an old prison. Inside, visitors can explore the city's macabre and lurid side. Exhibits include gruesome dioramas of medieval torture methods, antique murder weapons, and quite a lot of skeletons (and parts thereof).
4. Basilica of San Clemente
Less a museum than it is an indoor archaeological site/time travel portal, the Basilica of San Clemente is one of Rome's most mind-blowing spots. When you walk in the door, you're in a lovely medieval church, built using repurposed ancient materials. Head down a staircase and you're suddenly inside another church—this one dating back from the 4th century C.E. You're not done yet: hidden below this early Christian church is an entire 1st- or 2nd-century C.E. city block, including a cult space known as a Mithraeum.
5. Galleria Colonna
As a TripAdvisor user put it, the 17th-century Galleria Colonna is like "the Sistine Chapel on steroids with a dozen crystal chandeliers thrown in to boot." Because it's only open to the general public on Saturdays, the museum can get a bit crowded (sorry)—but you can schedule your own private tour any day of the week.