National Etruscan Museum of Rome

This 16th-century papal palace shelters a priceless collection of art and artifacts from the mysterious Etruscans, who predated the Romans. Known for their sophisticated art and design, they left a legacy of sarcophagi, bronze sculptures, terra-cotta vases, and jewelry, among other items. If you have time for only the masterpieces, head for room no. 7, with a remarkable 6th-century B.C. Apollo from Veio (clothed, for a change). The other two widely acclaimed statues here are Dea con Bambino (Goddess with a Baby) and a greatly mutilated but still powerful Hercules with a stag. In room no. 8, you'll see the lions' sarcophagus from the mid-6th century B.C., which was excavated at Cerveteri, north of Rome.

Finally, one of the world's most important Etruscan art treasures is the bride and bridegroom coffin from the 6th century B.C., also dug out of the tombs of Cerveteri (in room no. 9). Near the end of your tour, another masterpiece of Etruscan art awaits you in room no. 33: the Cista Ficoroni, a bronze urn with paw feet, mounted by three figures, dating from the 4th century B.C.