Italy: An innovative "do touch" archaeological museum

Courtesy MAV
A projection of Pompeii's Forum shifts from day to night and from bustling city center to crumbling ruins

Channel your inner Indiana Jones at the interactive Museo Archeologico Virtuale, which opened last summer just south of Naples. Instead of encased artifacts, MAV has 70-plus multimedia installations that recreate nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum in their heyday, before Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

You do the discovering here: Your footsteps scatter virtual dust along the floor to expose intricate mosaics from Pompeii's House of the Faun, and your fingertips wipe away a misted glass to reveal a woman bathing after a visit to the caldarium.

The walls of a central room, CAVE, surround you with projections of a Roman home, from the kitchens to the gardens, as if you're a guest. Dangling in the air of another room are holograms of lavish jewels that villa owners had grabbed when fleeing the eruption. (The actual jewels, now in a Naples museum, were found on the beach of Herculaneum.)

Voices of such ancient inhabitants greet you with their stories, and the museum experience ends with a giant projection of Pompeii's Forum that gradually shifts from day to night, pre- and post-eruption.

"Kids have come back here three or four times," museum director Walter Ferrara told me. "It's more fun than seeing the excavations." Via IV Novembre 44, Ercolano, $9, open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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