the garden of the Roman Aquarium

Little visual evidence has survived on the original appearance of the garden, designed, as was the building, by Ettore Bernich. To form an idea of what was done with this relatively small plot of land, reference must be made to images from the period, as well as the scene painted on the left wall of the lobby at the entrance of the building. Visitors entered the garden from the Via Cattaneo side, on an axis with the front of the Aquarium. The entrance was set apart by a small construction in the style of a monument, complete with a portico, later demolished. A number of side trails made it possible to walk amidst the hedges and the branches of the pond, while the main route, on an axis with the fašade of the building, was marked by a lane and two small rustic bridges that took visitors above the small body of water. The main portion of the pond also surrounded the remains of the Servian wall, as well as a portion of a Roman ruin with a square floor plan, based on a motif typical of the taste of the age, with the architectural ruin used as a monumental element of decoration to highlight the intended romantic and picturesque nature of the small zone of greenery. On the front of the building, beneath the two flights of stairs, one can still see a portion of the original fountain, designed as a grotto. A small stream, meant to be used for raising fish, ran along the side and rear portions of the building, and was probably connected with the underground facilities that held a number of large tanks, also used for hatching fish.

L'ingresso principale al giardino ("L'illustrazione Italiana", 5 giugno 1887)

Excavation work is currently underway on the grounds, promoted by the Office of Ancient Monuments and Digs of the Municipal Superintendent's Office. The effort has brought to light the remains of a building of the imperial age set against the Servian Wall. The discovery constitutes a key contribution to knowledge of the Esquiline area in ancient times. A project entailing landscaping of the entire green area is to be carried out, with an eye towards showcasing the portion of the archaeological heritage recovered.

Entire generations of Esquiline residents felt the allure of this vague, chaotic space during their childhoods, fascinated by the mysterious, manmade reality of the small, disordered garden, the pond, the stony mass of the Servian wall and the bizarre, incomprehensible bulk of a building entitled - though who knew why - the Roman Aquarium. The memory of its fantastical reality still lives today, together with that of the garden of the Piazza Vittorio.


contents and images are taken from the web site of Comune di Roma

la Casa dell'Architettura


about us

   . history
   . the garden
   . building's exterior
   . atrium
   . central hall
   . the restoration
   . images

scientific committee

program 2005-2007

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versione in italiano