The first thing to know about this stunning collection of antiquities is that you may not see it, as the museum was closed indefinitely in 2011 for a much-needed renovation. When it is open, the former convent of the Filippini, built around a lovely cloister, displays a head-spinning repository of artifacts from the island’s many inhabitants and invaders: Phoenicians, Greeks, Saracens, and Romans. You’ll find a visit here especially satisfying if you’ve been to Selinunte, because the museum’s most important treasures are metopes (temple friezes) from that once-great city on the southern coast. The sumptuous, detailed marbles that depict Perseus slaying Medusa, the Rape of Europa by Zeus, Actaeon being transformed into a stag, and other scenes bring these myths vividly to life and more than that, make the ancient belief in them palpable. Among a treasure trove of other artifacts—anchors from Punic warships, mirrors used by the Etruscans, and a joyful Roman statue of “Satyr Filling a Drinking Cup”—is a rare Egyptian find. The Pietra di Palermo (Palermo Stone), a black stone slab known as the Rosetta stone of Sicily, dates from 2700 b.c., was discovered in Egypt in the 19th century, and was in transit for the British Museum in London when it was shuffled off to the corners of a Palermo dock. The hieroglyphics reveal the inscriber’s attention to detail: a list of pharaohs, details of the delivery of 40 shiploads of cedarwood to Snefru, and flood levels of the Nile.
- Frommer's Staff