Park of the Caffarella

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Caffarella Park (Parco della Caffarella) encompasses a vast park, located in the Caffarella Valley, it is bordered to the north by Via Latina and to the south by the Appian Way. The park spans from the western edge near the Aurelian Wall and the main Rome-Pisa railroad tracks to the east, where it reaches Via dell'Almone.

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It forms part of the Parco Regionale Appia Antica (Appian Way Regional Park). Within the park, there are various archaeological sites and a functional farm, and it is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including 78 bird species. The park is also of significant ecological importance. The Catacombs of Rome and the Colli Albani (Rome Metro) are located nearby.

During the Roman era, a significant portion of the region was taken up by a vast property called the Triopius. Herodes Atticus, a Greek who eventually became a senator in Rome, gained ownership of the land that stretched from Caffarella Park to the Appian Way through his marriage to Annia Regilla. In the park, two ancient structures have remained from that period: Annia Regilla's tomb and the Nympheum of Egeria. Also, some of the towers found in the park are from the medieval period and served as watchtowers.

The park currently bears the name of the Caffarelli family, who ran a farm in the region during the 16th century. Later, it came under the possession of the Pallavicini and Torlonias families. In the mid-twentieth century, there was a serious threat of utilizing the area for urban development. However, due to successful public movements advocating for its conservation, the park was safeguarded and later included as a part of the Appian Way park.

Notable Structures

circa 100 BCE - 100 CE

Tomb of Servili
The tomb of Servili (Sepolcro dei Servili), is a brick funerary-monument dating back to the end of the first century BCE or the beginning of the first century CE. The tomb structure is constructed on a quadrangular base in tufa blocks with an upper drum in which eight niches open, perhaps originally surmounted by an earthen cone. Probably of Augustan period, it was incorporated in to the enclosure wall and the quadriporticus of the Romulus Tomb (the dynastic tomb of Maxentius). Its ruins can be seen along the south-eastern wall near the southern corner. The tomb of Servili has a large, single, north-east facing entrance.

circa 30 BCE

Barn Cistern
The so-called barn cistern or barn reservoir is a perfect example of the leading characteristics of the history of the Caffarella Valley. It is a water rich agricultural estate, presented in both the set of the set of hydraulic structures and among the agricultural buildings.

The cistern has a rectangular layout measuing 14 meters by 5.5 meters and was built with usedbricks and modern materials. It is set up on the tank of a Roman hydraulic structure, made with opus caementicium with basalt lave chips. It belongs to a date between the Republican Rome and the first Imperial period.

In the Gregorian Cadastre (1816-1835 CE) the building is defined as "ruined house" in the area of the Caffarella estate. It was owned by the Duke Giovanni Torlonia. Between the end of the nineteenth century CE and beginning of the twentieth century CE, the building was converted in to a barn by the Torlonia family, during the restoration works on the Riserva Tarani, which the structure was part of.

Notable, theupper floor was built becoming a storage room for dry fodder. In the 1905 CE survey of the Caffarella estate, sotred in the Torlonia archives at the central state archives, the description of the construction as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century CE can be found, known as "Cascina Tarani".

"It covers an area of 74.50 meters. It is divided in to two floors, one room per floor. The ground floor has been built only recently, it is used for the storage of dry fodder. It is covered by a Marseilles double slope roof shows good robustness and unkepp. It has a storege capacity of approximately 100 quintals of hay."

After the 2011 CE collapse extensive restoration works were carried out.

circa 30-20 BCE

Tomb of Caecilia Metella
The tomb of Caecilia Metella (Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella) is the third largest mausoleum (funerary-monument) built in the ancient city of Rome. An inscription (inspect) on the side facing the Via Appia reveals that it is the tomb of a noblewoman, the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, a consul in 69 BCE and wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus who served under Julius Caesar, both of whom were illustrious figures in Roman public life.

The choice of location, the grandeur of the tomb and the elegance of its decoration lent itself perfectly to celebrating the glory of the powerful Metelli and Crassi families, to whom the deceased was related.

Architecturally, the tomb consists of a base in square plan, 100 Roman feet (29.57 meters) on each side, faced with blocks of travertine (now lost) upon which rested a cylindrical tower originally some eighteen meter high (of which only eleven meters remain today), faced with travertine slabs as well.

The burial chamber (inspect), which was reached from the outside through a corridor (inspect), was circular in plan, with a conical shaped roof. The interior of the round burial chamber was most likely decorated with fine stucco work.

circa 100 CE

Roman Cistern
Built approximately in 100 CE (either during the reign of emperor Marcus Cocceius Nerva or Caesar Trajan Augustus), this cistern was initially subterranean. It was revealed when excavations were conducted to build the adjacent Circus of Maxentius.

circa 100-150 CE

Monumental Cistern
The monumental cistern or reservoir is located near the end of the path that follows Bitinia street close to an ancient Roman villa. A large amount of pottery and building material has been found in the area, suggesting a probable presence of ancient structures underground.

The monumental reservoir has eight protruding columns on the valley side, that is also a support for the natural scrap. Realized digging in to the tuff rock face, the reservoir lays on a steep sloped terrain, from north towards south.

The building is approximately eight meters high and occupies an area of 37 x 12 meters approximately with a rectangle floor plan. It has two longitudinal naves with barrel vault ceiling, joined through five arch opening in the partitioning wall and two perpendicular aisles. Only the north nave and the orthogonal west space have the barrel vault entirely preserved.

Built in opus caementicium with basalt lava chips, the building is dated back to the early Roman Imperial Period.

It is a reseroir with parallel adjoining chambers that collect the water coming from the aqueduct. The colume of water it could retain was nearly 1500 cubit meters. The ancient structures on which Cartoni Vineyard farmhouse rests are probably part of the same complex. Over the centuries the structure piqued the interest of artists and scholars; in sixteenth century CE if was first drawn by Pirro Ligorio. It also appears in the Pietro Rosa's plan of the first segment of the Appian Way (circa 1853-54 CE), who defined it as an "ancient villa" and in Rodolfo Lanciani's sketch relative to the Pisani Vineyard. Even the archaeologist Thomas Ashby described the structure in 1907 CE during his research of the Ancient Latin Way topography.

During the 1960s, as pictured in professor Lorenzo Quilici's photographs, the reservoir was used as an agricultural storage space, with rural products added on the valley side. In 1978 CE, in the aftermathof an earthquake, part of the building collapsed, and it was later secured and restored by the City Government of Rome.

The renovation works and the uncovering of this and other hydraulic artefacts havebeen led by the Regional Park of the Appian Way, in collaboration with the Superintendency to Cultural Goods.

circa 110 CE

Columbrium of Constantine
The structure mistakenly known as the Constantinian Columbrium was neither meant to host the ashes of the dead nor the entombments. The tomb-structure does not even date back to the time of Constantine (circa first half of the fourth century CE).

Recent studies and the results of archaeological excavations have clarifiedthat the first plan of the tomb dates back to the period of emperor Trajan (circa beginning of the second century CE). The tomb, built in a the form of a temple, with yellow bricks used for structural elements and red ones for decoration, was located within a large necropolis during antiquity.

As it was customarily the case with similar buildings, the rectangular tomb (measuring approx. 5.4 x 7.8 meters) had been erected on a high podium accessed by means of a staircase locatedon the front side. The basement hosted a burial chamber (crypt) lighted through narrow loopholes.

The upper level, used to celebrate rituals featured a large arcosolium on the back wall, possibly hosting the main burial, and niches used to display the portraits of forefathers. Both rooms, the lower chamber and the upper room, were roofed with vaults. While the other buildings in the necropolis were razed to theground to reclaim the plot of land for agricultural purposes, during the mid-sixteenth century CE the tombwas turned in to a mill. Archaeological investigations have identified, besides the mill's hydraulic and mechanical elements (the mill stopped being used in the seventeenth century CE), also previous renovation works following which the chamber was used as a valca (fulling mill), fed by an underground conduit.

circa 140 CE

Curch of Saint Urban in Caffarella
The church (Chiesa di San Urbani alla Caffarella) was originally an ancient Roman era temple or tomb in the shape of a temple, which in the ninth century CE was converted in to an oratory dedicated to saint Urban, a bishop martyred during the time of Marcus Aurelius (circa 161-180 CE). The current appearance of the building is the result of a redical restoration carried out in 1634 CE under Pope Urban VIII Barberini, who, in order to improve the building's stability, had the spaces among the front portico's columns (pronaos) closed with bricks, and added buttresses in the corners. The original plan of the building was that of a small temple with four columns in the facade on a high podium entirely made of brick except for the columns and the marble lintel.

The monument is part of the triopius of Herodes Atticus, a vast agricultural estate located between the second and third mile of the Appian Way and the Almo river (Almone). After the death of his wife Annia Regilla, whose dowry included the estate, Herodes Atticus, the second century CE Greek philosopher and influential politian, converted in to a sort of sanctuary dedicated to his wife's memory, with temples and sacred enclosures.

The temple is probably the one dedicated by Herodes Atticus to Ceres and Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius (circa 138-161 CE) whom hedeified after her death; the temple has been dated to the end of the Hadrianic period and that of Antoninus Pius.

circa 150 CE

Nymphaeum of Egeria
The Nymphaeum of Egeria was part of the the aqueduct system that supplied water to the nearby villa of Herodes Atticus. This villa was called the triopion, extending from the Appian Way to the Almo river. During the Renaissance period, some scholars incorrectly identified the Nymphaeum as the Grotto of the Nymph Egeria, a location mentioned in ancient sources where Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, was said to have met with the nymph Egeria in a spring and sacred woods.

circa 160 CE

Tomb of Appia Annia Regilla
The area currently known as Casale dell'Ex Mulino was part of the Pagus Triopius of Herodes Atticus, an influential Roman aristocratic figure who lived during the period of Antonines (mid second century CE). The Pagus Triopius was a large agricultural estate, turned in to a sort of sanctuary and dedicated to the memory of Herodes Atticus' deceased wife Annia Regilla. This area was crossed by an ancient and important road, identified by some as the Via Asinaria.

The road, which crossed the valley diagonnaly, issued from the Aurelian wall,and after passing near the Via Latina, ran near the Tomb of Annia Regilla and then met with the Appian Way near the Mausoleum of Romulus, and then ran towards the Via Adreatina.

During the Middle Ages, one of the five towers guarding the crossings of the Almone river was to be found here.

The tower was adjacent to the Tomb of Annia Regilla; during the mid sixteenth century CE, the original building, which over the centuries underwent several changes, was a valca (i.e. a fulling mill used to was and full woolen cloth). Already in Eufrosino della Volpaia's map datin gback to 1547 CE, the facility was protrayed as consisting in a tower and a lower building.

circa 306 and 312 CE

Palace-Villa of Maxentius
The palatial Villa of Maxentius, an imperial villa remains of which are now located inside the Caffarella Park, was constructed by emperor Maxentius. Situated between the second and third miles of the ancient Appian Way, the complex comprises three primary structures: the palace, the circus of Maxentius, and the dynastic mausoleum. These three buildings were designed as an interconnected architectural unit to pay tribute to Maxentius.

The most famous structure within the complex is the Circus of Maxentius, which is the only Roman circus that remains well-preserved with all of its architectural elements intact. The dynastic mausoleum, also referred to as the Tomb of Romulus after Valerius Romulus, the young son of the emperor who was believed to have been interred there, is positioned within a four-sided portico that aligns with the ancient Appian Way. Visitors to the site also have the opportunity to visit the nearby Tomb of Caecilia Metella.

circa 306 and 312 CE

Circus of Maxentius
The Circus of Maxentius, also called the Circus of Romulus, a historic arena situated east of the Tomb of Romulus, was constructed in the early 4th century CE by Emperor Maxentius. It was one of the biggest and most impressive circuses in ancient Rome and was mainly utilized for chariot racing, although it also served as the venue for other events like athletic competitions and gladiatorial games. Positioned north of the Tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Appian Way, the circus had the capacity to hold up to 10,000 spectators. It had an elongated shape with a central spina, decorated with statues, obelisks, and other adornments, that ran along the length of the track and served as the focal point for the races. The track was around 513 meters in length and 83 meters in width, with tiered seating for the viewers. Presently, only some remnants of the Circus of Maxentius exist, including a section of the spina and some of the seating sections. Despite this, the remains still give an impression of the circus's grandeur and magnitude, which was once one of ancient Rome's most impressive structures.

circa 310 CE

Dynastic Mausoleum of Emperor Maxentius
The mausoleum, the circus and the palace constitue the monumental structures that still characterize the Maxentian complex on the ancien Appian Way. The mausoleum, which has a circular plan, stands at the center of an imposing quadriporticus overlooking the important consular road, probably with a now lost monumental entrance. The nucleus of the sepulchre, constructed with cement, mortar and chips of paving stones, is largely preserved without its original cladding of marble blocks. At the base of the structure a system of drains is still visible, covered by a row of bipedales (bricks measuring approx. 60 cm on each side). The monument was planned on two levels; the lower, the sunken level, was intended for the funerary crypt; the second, upper level (which was never constructed) should havehad the form of a small temple. During the Renaissance it was depicted by numerous architects. Palladio was the first artist to propose the reconstruction of the elevation in the form of a small pantheon. Only the base of the pronaos remains of the upper level. Already in the eighteenth century CE, a farm house was constructred on the south-western side of the circular mausoleum. This was part of the agricultural exploitation activity that was carried out in the area. This farm-house building was later transformed by the Torlonia family in to a residence for the landwoners.

On the side of the mausoleum opposite the ancient Appian Way (Via Appia antica) is the entrance to the recently restored sepulchre crypt. It presents a series of niches to hold sarcophagi along the wall of the ring corridor and on the central pillar. The flooring consists exclusively of a wreath of bipedales along the inner and outer perimeter of the chamber. The barrel vault is finishedwith undecorated plaster. From the ring corridor it is possible to enter a large rectangular vestibule, from which it would have been possible in antiquity to reach the upper floor by means of two helicoid stairs that no longer survive.

In the recent decades, scholars have identified the monument as the dynastic tomb of Maxentius, in which Romulus, the prematurely deceased son of the emperor (circa 309 CE) was almost certainly buried, and they have proposed recognizing in this building the ideal and symbolic nucleus of the entire complex. A passageway, blocked in antiquity, that is visible in the masonry of the quadriporticus represents in fact the ideal/physical junction between the mausoleum and the imperial palace.

circa 1250 CE

Valca Tower
According to the scholars and historians the tower known as "Valca" can be dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century CE, at the time when the Caetani family, having siezed the tomb of Cecilia Metella (end of thirteenth century CE) and the surrounding land in the wake of the Counts of Tuscalum who previously owned both, fortified the area with watch-towers in order to protect the newly acquired estate. The tower's location in this portion of the valley appears to be related to the fact that, probably, one of the roads connecting the Appian Way to the Via Latina, crossed the river here. Indeed, near the twer on the Almo banks few remains of a bridge presumably older than the tower it self have been discovered.

Originally the building, which over time underwent extensive renovations, was quadrangular in plan with several storeys separated by wooden floors, as inferred from the holes housing the beams still visible on the walls. The lack of marks of staircases on the walls means that the various floors were probably accessed by resorting to mobilt wooden elements (ladders). Walls are lined with small Peperino blocks, alternating with yellow tufa blocks. On the north, wast and south sides rectangular sighting windows are located. The entrance, on the westernside, opposite the river, is surmounted by a brick archedlintel covering the entire facade.

Outside the building a large water pipe with a flow rate similar to that of an aqueduct was probably connected to a canal whose remains were fount south of the tower. The latter, therefore, despite continuing to be mainly used for defence purposes, at an unknown period was placed at an unknown period was placed within a complex canalsystem that continued to be used until the Renaissance.

The presence of twosmall tubs, theremains of a canal connecting them, and a series of heaps of discarded materials point to the presence of a sort of workshop. According to historical sources, around the year 1000 CE the Caffarella valley bosted numerous calche (a word deriving from gualchiera, i.e. fulling the mill; these buildings equipped with tubsused to wash and press cloths) the said remains, belonging to a facility which to operate made use of water, may therefore be considered to be the infrastructure of a valca.

circa 1300 CE

Castle of the Caetani
Between 1302-1303 the Caetani famiy acquired control over Capo di Bove (a lerge area known as the "bull's head" during the Middle Ages). The area, in a dominant position close to Rome and on a major road, was well-suited for the construction of an aristocratic estate.

The Roman Mausoleum, built in 30 BCE, and still well preserved, became the fortification system's main tower; the cylinderical structure was elevated with crenellations and structures for defence and attack. The construction of the whole complex with its wall circuit, a church and the aristocratic residence, whilst incorporating pre-existing structures, should be considered a single project, designed and developed by the Caetani family to display the power attained at the beginning of the XIV century CE.

The palace has the characteristics ofboth an aristocratic residence and of a fortification, in close connection with the mausoleum-tower.

The wall circuit, forming an irregular rectangle (length 241/228 meters width 96/98 meters) with 19 turrets punctuating the wall protecting the complex, also incorporated a stretch of the Appian Way, closed with two arched gates. Along the perimeter of the wall circuit, which has survived virtually intact (today state-owned by mostly on private proterties), the walkway for the guards ran beneath the crenellations.

circa 1303 CE

Church of Saint Nicholas
The church, consecrated on May 12, 1303 CE, dedicatedto Saint Nicholas of Bari, lies inside the castrum facing the palace; it was used by the aristocratic owners of the palace and the inhabitants of the castle. The building has a single hall with a semi-circular apse at the back of the palace and a bell-gable on the facade, preserved only in part, with two apertures for the bells. The entrance from the Via Appia is marked by a portal with a simple marble frame, above which is an oculus.

The church's wall structures, like those of the palace, are made of tufa blocks which were originally covered in plaster, some traces of which survive.

The exterior has eight buttresses on each side, alternating with single-light windows with marble grames that were partially restored in the twentieth century CE. The interior has six windows on each side between which are twelve corbels in peperino marble decorated with a cup and leaf motif; these support the ribs of the ogival arches dividing the space in to seven bays. All that survives of the wooden pitched roof supported by the system of arches are thedepressions on the inside wall of the main facade.

No trace of the original floor survives. The light entering from the windows created the illusion of a much wider space than in reality. The church, refined but sober in style, reminiscent of the Cistercian Abbeys of Europe, is the only example of Gothic Cistercian architecture in Rome. The church remained in privated hands unti 1859 CE when the papal states acquired the Caetani church and the surrounding area from Sig. Jannetti. In 1870 CE it became the property of the Italian State.

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