Small Personal Museums – Mediterranean

For part 3 in our series of articles inspired by Orhan Pamuk’s novel, The Museum of Innocence, we look at the small museums the author described in Italy, Spain and France.

The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, Milan, Italy

Aristocratic brothers Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, born in the mid-19th century, restored their family home and used it to display their collection of 15th– and 16th-century paintings and decorative arts. “It was not intended to create a museum, or a collection,” said Guiseppe, “rather to reconstruct the dwelling of a princely inhabitation around the middle of the 16th century in which one found objects of the 15th and 16th centuries of the most varied kind: paintings, tapestries, rugs, furniture, arms, ceramics, bronzes, glass, jewels, iron and domestic objects of all kinds, all collected with studious care and returned to their original use.”

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Civico Museo del Mare, Trieste, Italy

The history of seafaring in Trieste is housed in an old prison, with rooms devoted to characters and special events, including the Marconi room, where the model of the first telegraphic message called Electra left without wires, and Ressel, dedicated to the inventor of the propeller.

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Museu Frederic Marès, Barcelona, Spain

This museum in the old Royal Palace of the counts of Barcelona preserves the sculpture collections of sculptor Frederic Marès, as well as his own work. There is also a Collector’s Cabinet displaying tens of thousands of objects from the 19th century (fans, pipes, clocks, jewelry, photographs, toys, keys and pharmacy bottles), presented in an intimate atmosphere evoking Marès’ private universe.

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Musée International de la Parfumerie, Grasse, France

This fragrant museum is located in Grasse, the birthplace of luxury perfumes – and claims to be the only one of its kind in the world, taking an anthropological approach to the history of fragrances, looking at everything from raw materials to design.

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Casa Museo Mario Praz, Rome, Italy

Writer and arts critic Mario Praz lived in this flat from 1969 to 1982, and it houses his collection of neoclassical and Biedermaier objets d’art. For those interested in the relationship between novels and museums, his book La casa della Vita is a detailed room-by-room description of the house and works of art.

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Luigi Pirandello’s House, Agrigento, Sicily

This late-18th-century house is the birth home of playwright Luigi Pirandello and contains a vast collection of photographs, early reviews, autographed editions of his early works, and posters of his major plays. His ashes rest in an urn in the garden.

For part 4 in our series of Small Personal Museums, click here.

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