TO SEE | TOWN
The historical town of Nîmes welcomes a new highlight as of summer 2018: La Musée de la Romanité. This hard-to-be-missed museum rises right opposite the two-thousand-year-old arena and hosts an interesting Roman archaeological collection. It aims to show how Nîmes’ identity is rooted in its Roman past. My first impression is that they succeeded well!
On his last day of holiday, I take oldest with me to Nîmes. Being a teenager, he is not too keen on visiting “a bunch of old rocks”. Clearly, my adolescent isn’t into history… But when we arrive at the centre, we both get attracted to the edgy, contemporary building that pops up right behind the ancient Roman arena. Being one of the biggest contemporary architectural projects in France, the Museum of Romanity got designed by Elizabeth de Portzamparc. She wanted the museum to be like a folded glass toga in a contemporary response to its antique neighbour.
La Musée de la Romanité is as beautiful from the inside as from the outside. As we arrive around lunchtime, our first stop is the rooftop restaurant La Table du 2 (you can read my review here). A good start! After lunch, we go downstairs to the entrance of the museum and via the monumental stairway we dive into Roman history. The interior design is striking: modern but serene and light, highlighting each and every piece of the collection.
And the permanent collection is impressive: no less than 5,000 pieces and 65 multimedia devices help you to understand more of 22 centuries of Roman history. We get directed through four periods of time: from pre-Roman Gaul, the Roman period, the Middle Ages to classical Rome. The museum really wants to bring history alive, also for children. Therefore they developed a mystery Scola Romana booklet for kids, which is available both in French and English. Next to that, they run several temporary exhibitions per year.
The last stop of our visit is the planted rooftop, where you get a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of Nîmes. Perfect opportunity to take great pictures of the amphitheatre. I even spot the Tour Magne! From above, I admire the dialogue between the two remarkable buildings: the museum and the Arena. Even though La Musée de la Romanité is a big, square building, its architecture is kept light by using almost 7,000 glass tiles that are draped on an undulating stainless steel framing. Even oldest has to admit he is impressed by this history museum. Although he wished he had paid a little more attention, as the new school year started with a project for Latin class: building a scale model of a Roman villa!