A museum to which few tourists find their way, the Centrale Montemartini is a renovated industrial space and home to one of the finest sculpture collections in Rome.
A unique museum experience, the Centrale Montemartini was Rome’s first electrical power station (opened in 1912), and as well as historic machinery still in-situ, now houses part of the Capitoline Museums’ fine collection of ancient sculptures. Gleaming classical statues stand amongst rows of machinery, and although the contrast is bizarre it is also memorable and effective. The museum’s habitual emptiness makes it all the more atmospheric.
The ground floor is devoted to the earliest part of the collection, and includes Etruscan temple decorations as well as examples of the day-to-day luxury of the wealthy.
The main gallery on the first floor is a lofty industrial space, dominated by two huge diesel motors constructed by the firm Tosi in 1933. Around these are lines of marble busts and statues as well as segments of temples and triumphal monuments.
Another large space is devoted to the Romans’ gardens. On the edge of the ancient city, or forming green spaces within it, the noble Roman families created sought-after gardens rich with marble decoration. One lavish pleasure ground belonging to the Caesars was located in Trastevere. Most of these gardens later passed into the hands of the emperors (who on occasion may have resorted to executing the owners in order to ‘inherit’ the property). Nowadays the sites of the gardens are mostly built-over, and the list of locations reads like an A-Z of the streets around Rome’s centre. The statues and carvings here give a good idea of just how grand these gardens would have been.
The Centrale Montemartini is located at Via Ostiense 106, a few bus stops down Via Ostiense from Piramide.
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