Milan’s beautifully curated archaeology museum is no dusty old relic but a vibrant, fascinating exhibition housed among the cloisters, towers, and courtyards of the 8th-century convent of Monastero Maggiore of San Maurizio in a series of airy galleries. The museum is subdivided into eight themed exhibitions, including Ancient Milanese, Greek, and Etruscan displays and built around remains of a villa and a section of the 4th-century Roman walls that once fortified Milan. Roman Milan was known as Mediolanum; this area of the city is particularly rich in ruins dating back to the time when it was capital of the Western Roman Empire. Most of the treasures exhibited were excavated locally.
The museum also incorporates a glimpse inside a third-century defense tower, which has traces of medieval frescoes on its rounded walls; these portray Jesus showing his stigmata to St. Francis. Highlights of the collections include the 1st-century b.c. mosaic pavement unearthed nearby in 1913; the stunning, gleaming 4th-century Trivulzio Diattreta Cup, made of the finest hand-blown glass; and the busts of various emperors from Caesar onwards.