What it is and where it is
Centrale Montemartini is, we can say it, one of the most underrated Roman museums. Not everyone knows about it, but when you finally discover it, the surprise effect is assured. You are inside a large thermoelectric power plant built in the early 1900s to produce energy for the entire capital. A colossal and futuristic plant for the time, it is located on the Via Ostiense, in the center of a quadrant rich in industrial archaeology over which towers the gazometro, symbol of the neighborhood, and a few steps from the Tiber River.
Why it is special
The Centrale in all its blazing art deco beauty houses sculptures and artifacts from the Capitoline Museums. Silhouetted against dark boilers and cyclopean turbines are the white marbles of Roman archaeology from excavations throughout the city. The effect is alienating and sublime. First striking is the contrast and then the dialogue between human works of different epochs and functions, united by a sense of grandeur that also reflects Rome's role in time. All this is accompanied by great heights, evocative lighting and interesting explanatory signs.
Not to be missed
There are indeed many works not to be missed: the candid marble Venus from the 1st century B.C. against the backdrop of a large condenser by the Tosi company. The basanite statue of Agrippina, the enchanting statue of a seated maiden, the portrait of Cleopatra, the statue of Marsyas, the hunting mosaics, just to name a few. And then the huge and fascinating industrial machines full of details, gauges, pumps, pipes, which can be admired up close or from the top of the stairs as in an Escher painting. But not to be missed above all is the unique atmosphere of the place, in which to immerse yourself as if in a flow. Since its inception, the museum has gradually been enriched with works: in 2016 the Pius IX train room, a real gem, was inaugurated, and in 2017 the "From Myth to Miracle" section, which encloses Roman and Christian sarcophagi.
A bit of history
The Centrale Montemartini was inaugurated in 1912 by Mayor Ernesto Nathan and named after one of his aldermen who oversaw the work. After years of honored service, the power plant was closed in the 1960s and fell into oblivion until, almost thirty years later, it was renovated and in 1997 the exhibition "Machines and Gods" kicked off the museum as we know it now. The tour consists of two floors and four differently colored rooms that retain their original names: engine room, boiler room, column room, and boiler room 2. In addition, one area is dedicated to temporary exhibitions. Particularly engaging are the photos and accounts of the colossal construction and then operation of the Power Plant.
In the grave goods of Crepereia Tryphaena, a young maiden who died in the second century AD, there is a piece of fine craftsmanship. In the Hall of Columns, along with the many fine jewelry, combs and mirrors that were part of the trousseau found during the construction of the Palace of Justice in 1889, you can admire the beautiful and detailed ivory doll with articulated joints that the young girl had brought with her to the tomb. Some people saw a Barbie doll from ancient Rome in it.
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