I have never been a big fan of the Museo Egizio in Turin, I have to admit it.
Unlike many other kids in elementary school, I was not fascinated by Egyptian ancient history and culture, so the mandatory visit at the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) was a bit boring for me. I could say that my teacher was not good at sparking my interest in the topic, while at the museum, but probably I was just not paying attention and only thinking about what we would do next.
I have never developed a passion for Egyptian history, not even growing up, so the Museo Egizio in Turin remained in my mind as a boring dark place with a lot of overly decorated coffins and display cases full of meaningless objects (I was really bad, I know).
the entrance of the museum
This is why, when Jo-in Tour Operator asked me if I was interested in trying one of their guided tours of the museum, my first thought was “oh no, not again”. Then I gave it a second thought and I realized that, if it wasn’t interesting for me, it could have been interesting for you, my dear readers. So I accepted the offer and I am glad I did because I loved the Museo Egizio!
In case you haven’t read my post about tasting vermouth in Turin and don’t know anything about Jo-in Tour Operator, let me just tell you that it’s a group of young people who are super passionate about their work and their region and work hard to promote tourism in Piedmont through unique experiences and events.
the magnificent statue of Ramses II
If you don’t know what to see in Turin or what to do to enjoy the city in a special way, I highly recommend you to check their website or even to contact them directly. You know that I hardly ever sponsor tour operators, so believe me, I sincerely think that they are really great at what they do.
The experience I was offered at the Museo Egizio was a guided tour of the museum with a professional tour guide. This is one of the reasons why I accepted the invitation: I thought that having someone explain what you are seeing can make you learn and enjoy the experience more – and she was really great, believe me, as she completely changed my thoughts on the museum!
a stele depicting two archers
So, if you are spending some time in Piedmont and are considering what to see in Turin, the Museo Egizio is definitely recommended, even if you are not that much into Egyptian art and history. It may sound strange to visit a museum about Egypt while you are in Italy, but it is really worth your time.
First of all, it is the oldest museum in the world devoted entirely to ancient Egyptian culture. Founded in 1824, it was created to exhibit the collection of Berardino Drovetti, an important Egyptian antiquities collector, purchased by King Carlo Felice. The museum was first opened to the public in 1832 and was significantly enlarged and restored in 1908 and then 1924, to host the 30,000 artifacts brought to Turin by archaeologists Ernesto Schiaparelli and Giulio Farina.
the statue of a God protecting the household
From then on, the museum was constantly renovated and reorganized to accommodate new artifacts and give visitors a better experience. In 2006, for the Winter Olympics in Turin, the statuary was rearranged by the set designer Dante Ferretti in a very magnificent way, and in 2015 the whole museum itinerary and exhibition facilities were refurbished in a modern and innovative way.
Actually, this combination of ancient history and a modern approach to displaying it is something I really liked. But there were many things I truly enjoyed. The guide walked us through the museum and the artifacts in a chronological way, which helped us better understand the development of ancient Egyptian culture.
a papyrus showing the weighing of the heart ceremony
I was incredibly moved by one of the papyri on display (the museum holds one of the world’s most significant papyrus collections, with nearly 700 whole or reassembled manuscripts and over 17,000 papyrus fragments): it was a Book of the Dead papyrus and it showed the weighing of the heart ceremony. Thinking that such a precious and incredibly old artifact can still be enjoyed at the present time, in very good conditions, really blows my mind.
Another thing I really liked was the display of all personal belongings found into tombs, something that I had found so boring when I visited the museum when I was a kid. Seeing all those very personal things, most of which must have been very important for the deceased person, was again a very moving thing, something that can tell history better than a book.
the Gallery of Kings
And it was really amazing to be able to walk inside the rock temple from Ellesiya, which was donated by the Egyptian government in recognition of Italy’s aid in rescuing the Nubian temples threatened by the waters of the Aswan dam. It was cut into 66 blocks, brought to Turin, and reconstructed inside the museum.
And is there a way to describe the emotion when you enter the Gallery of the Kings? The display and the majesty of the statues there is really breathtaking. The statues are huge: the one of Sethi II, for example, weighs more than 5 tons. It took a whole ship to carry it from Alexandria to Leghorn, there it waited for five years before being sent to Genoa and then to Turin, carried through the Apennines on an artillery carriage drawn by sixteen horses since nothing else could have borne such a weight. Can you imagine the effort?
the huge statue of Sethi II
These were just a few of the things that I liked during my visit but the list of amazing things there is endless. Moreover, it is the whole experience that is incredible because it is a journey in time: when you enter the museum, it is like entering a new dimension and going back to a very ancient past. I really loved it!