Monday, July 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Musei

I often use this blog to share ideas for what to do with kids in Finland, but for the past week or so we've been abroad in Italy so I wanted to share a quick rant about what to not do with children in Lucca, Tuscany. 

Do not go to the National Museum at Villa Gunigi (Museo Nazionale di Villa Gunigi) with kids. 

It's a lovely museum, nicely done up with a chronological flow so you can see how Lucca developed through the ages, but it is not welcoming or child-friendly. 

Our kids are exuberant, they're loud, they're nosy, but they know pretty much how to behave in museums. They love archaeology and history so we were hoping to learn about about both. I did try and research the museum to see if it was worth our time, but couldn't find anything helpful. As parents, we are over-attentive to make sure the kids don't overstep any boundaries when we are in places to be respected like museums, but we were made to feel very unwelcomed at the Museo Nazionale. 

The ladies at the ticket sales were very nice, gave us brochures, pointed out where to go, but when we got inside it was different. There were two guys hanging about the first few rooms, we thought they were visitors. Turns out they were volunteers or staff of the Museo and we were their only victims. At first they gently told the kids to stay with us, they have a tendency to run ahead a bit and need to be called back to see things, so they run around a lot, but just with excitement. 

Then they started to tell us which way to go through the museum and then tell off the kids if they got too close to things, like 2 small mosaics on the floor that Foo and I were leaning over and looking. Foo touched one, but we thought it was ok because there were no barriers, no signs. Turns out there are none and many of the exhibits are in the open. So a big child problem right away, our kids are used to signs saying 'Don't Touch' either with words or a picture of a red hand or stop light. Or barriers to keep them away. So we misunderstood, but after that the two guys just seemed annoyed with us and kept telling the kids no. 

We moved upstairs and it was mainly religious art, so both adults and kids were kind of bored. The guy who followed us up pretty much left us alone, but was lurking near by so we never felt we could relax. The whole museum was  not air conditioned and it was over 30C. We were all hot and just wanted to meander, but felt stalked. 

We left after the Renaissance section, barely noticing anything except we were out of water. It was really an unpleasant experience. We've had museum staff ask us to not touch things before, but this was a whole new level. 

Especially compared to the previous place we had visited - Domus Romana. This is a small archaeological site turned museum in the city centre. In a palazzo they had found Roman, medieval and Renaissance remains, so they left them exposed (but protected), made a wee movie, put out a few other artifacts and opened it to the public. 

But they made it child-friendly. It seems they do school tours, so were prepared for us. The movie was in Italian, but had English text we could read to the kids. Things they didn't want us to touch were behind glass, other things were left out for you to look at. You could buy a 'Roman' coin with your ticket. There was a wax tablet to write on and mosaics to make. Very simple, but kept the kids busy for a half hour and was worth the 3 euro entry fee for the adults. It's 4 euros for the National Museum, kids go free to both. 

I was hoping to see more ruins at the Domus as the website shows pots left in place etc, but it's just a few walls and some artefacts in cases. There was enough info in the movie and in the museum to start us on an interesting chat about Roman Lucca that we tried to continue at the Museo Nazionale. 

Foo has a coin and Bump and Mouse made mosaics. 

In my mind the Domus Romana was a much more enjoyable experience. The girl at the ticket desk spoke English and answered questions, she let us try things without hovering or reprimanding. It was a small stop, nothing I would usually write about, but the difference between the two museums was just too glaringly obvious to ignore. 

I'll have plenty more to say about our trip to Italy, but until then Ciao!
But not if you're a kid at the Museo Nazionale. 

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