Centrale Montemartini ☆☆

The Sala Caldai, Centrale Montemartini, Rome, Italy (Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
The Sala Caldai

Ancient sculptures arranged throughout an industrial-era power plant: the Centrale Montemartini is hands-down one of the coolest museums in Rome

The Acea Art Center is a bona fide deus ex macchina experience.

They've prettied up the old Montemartini power plant to house more than 400 gorgeous ancient Roman sculptures from the Capitoline Museums collections that haven't been seen by the public in decades.

They’re displayed evocatively against a backdrop of the power plant's inky black iron machinery, much of it so massive and muscularly mechanical that it looks more like a metaphor of early industry than actual working devices, like it came from a Fritz Lang movie set.

Past the ticket desk is an excellent Roman replica of a rather sexy 5th-century BC Greek Aphrodite, posing in front of a wood-burning kiln in a filmy dress she's carelessly let slip off to expose one breast.

The first rooms, devoted mainly to art that once decorated public areas, contain fragments of terra-cotta pediments and friezes, marvelous small bronzes, marble busts, and statues—many from the Roman Forum area—as well as remains of a litter and sofa, and fishy mosaics from the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.

Look for the the well-preserved Togato Barberini. This be-robed patrician hails from the 90s BC and is carrying what appear to be two heads. In Republican Rome, prominent citizens kept hollow wax portrait busts of their illustrious ancestors—in this case, grandpa in the left hand and pop in the right—and wore them during important occasions and ceremonies so as to serve as symbolic stand ins for their deceased progenitors.

In the macchine (machines) room upstairs are preserved two enormous diesel engines around which are arranged late Republican statues, excellent Roman copies of Greek originals, and the arm, head, and feet of what was a 26-foot-tall colossal goddess statue (101 BC) from the Temple of Fortuna in Largo di Teatro Argentina.

In the caldai (boiler) room up the next set of steps (part of which is pictured at the top of this page) is the collection of pieces that once decorated private Roman homes.

These range from a delicate early Hellenistic Niobe's Son about to get shot by Apollo and Artemis' arrows and the early Imperial Esquiline Venus, to a floor mosaic of a hunting scene.

My favorite is the copy of 2nd-century BC Muse, or Polimnia, carved with a fluidity and symbolist touch that looks almost modern.

 
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Photo gallery
  • The Sala Caldai, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
  • Statue of a Muse (Polyhymnia?), Found in via Terni inside an ancient underground passage in the area of the Horti Variani, 2nd century BC, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • The Engine Room, Imperial portraits (plus Hadrian
  • Group of a panther and a wild boar, from the erea between Porta San Lorenzo and Porta Maggiore, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Funerary relief with three brothers, 1st century AD, from the Villa Casali, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Statue of a Muse (Polyhymnia?), Found in via Terni inside an ancient underground passage in the area of the Horti Variani, 2nd century BC, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
  • Statue of one of Niobe
  • Scenes showing various aspects of the life of the deceased: from left to right, a religious procession, the deceased with military cloak and breastplate, his wedding; fragment of a sarcophagus. Parian marble, Roman artwork, middle of the 2nd century AD. F, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)
  • Mosaic with hunting scenes, from the Horti Liciniani, early 4th century AD, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Statue of Aphrodite, a Roman copy of the Greek original by Callimaque from the late 5C BC, found on the Esquiline Hill, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
  • A deeply carved relief showing four heads, from via Biberatica, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Mark Ahsmann)
  • Military trophy, from the early AD 1C, from the Horti Sallustiani, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)
  • Statue of a Muse (Polyhymnia?), Found in via Terni inside an ancient underground passage in the area of the Horti Variani, 2nd century BC, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Marble group of two cows, from a monumental fountain dating back to the Augustan Age, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Statue of Aphrodite (of the Venus of Arles type), a Roman copy from the Greek original by Praxiteles, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by MM)
  • Satyrs raping a nymph, a Roman copy after a Hellenistic original by the Pergamene school, found in Trastevere, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)
  • Statue of Athena, copy after bronze original of the late 5th century BC, the head is a plaster cast of the statue found in Velletri (now in the Louvre), Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • The Engine Room, Centrale Montemartini, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
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Tips

Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Centrale Montemartini for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does Centrale Montemartini take?

You can see it in about an hour, but I'd spend 90 minutes to two hours inside. Figure in another 40 minutes to get down here and back, as it's well south of the historic center.

How to get to Art Center Acea-Centrale Montemartini
  • Take Metro B to "Piramide" then bus 23, 271, 769, or 770 down Via Ostiense (ask the driver to let you know when to get off)
  • Or take Metro B to Garbatella and walk west through the ex-Mercati Generali complex
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).