I come here just to gaze at the wonder of Ritratto di un Uomo Ignoto (Portrait of an Unknown Man), the 1465 work of Antonello da Messina. Unfortunately, the painting is badly framed and a velvet rope requires you to keep your distance. Still, this is clearly a masterpiece by the great Renaissance artist from Messina.

After being dazzled by Antonello, you may find the rest of the exhibitions disappointing. Baron Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca (1809-64) seemed to have randomly purchased anything that caught his fancy, including coins and medals, artifacts unearthed at digs at Lipari, and even such esoteric items as a Chinese puzzle in ivory. After searching for something intriguing, I did come upon a 4th-century-B.C. vase, depicting a fish vendor and a customer in heated argument. After that, you must face a barrage of 20,000 shells.