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Rome is building an eight-story underground museum, but treasures keep getting in the way

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This week construction began on the main Metro C hub in Piazza Venezia, in the center of Rome.


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Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. And nowhere is this more evident than on the state-of-the-art Metro Line C, an ambitious project aimed at helping alleviate the Italian capital’s famous traffic hell and celebrating its rich archaeological history with a unique underground museum.

The 700 million euro ($757.7 million) line was originally conceived for the Catholic Jubilee of 2000 as a vital link between Rome’s San Giovanni Cathedral and Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica, facilitating Visiting pilgrims collecting indulgences by walking through the churches. holy doors The major basilicas of Rome open their holy doors only during the Jubilee years, allowing Catholics from around the world to make pilgrimages to the city to pass through them, symbolizing an openness to receive mercy and reconciliation.

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Pope Francis opens the “Holy Doors” in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

But the dream of the year 2000 never came true, thanks to a series of problems ranging from a corruption scandal in the city government and the large number of archaeological objects: 40,000 in total, from petrified peach pits to pottery and vases and even the walls and mosaics of the Emperor. Hadrian’s 2,000-year-old military barracks, found with every spade full of earth during initial preparations.

Now the hope is to have the line’s Piazza Venezia stop, which features an eight-story underground museum, ready within 10 years, according to engineer Andrea Sciotti, who is in charge of the subway museum complex. This will allow them to open around the Jubilee of 2033, which will mark the 2,000 years since the death of Jesus Christ.

“It’s true, 10 years seems like a long time, but we’re not just dealing with engineering issues,” Sciotti told CNN inside the construction site. “This station will be considered the most beautiful in the world… we don’t have to rely on museum items being brought in, the museum station is in its original context in ancient Rome.”

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Emperor Hadrian’s barracks was discovered in 2016.

During the initial phases of work carried out over the past five years, Sciotti said all artifacts were removed from the site for restoration. Each will be placed exactly where it was found inside the subway museum, which is being excavated about 85 meters (280 feet) deep, spanning eight floors beneath the modern city of Rome.

Over the millennia, the modern city has been built on covered ruins. Only about 10% of ancient Rome has been excavated and the rest is still buried about nine meters (30 feet) beneath the current city, according to Rome’s tourist office. The city dates back to the Stone Age and construction work is notably hampered by the discovery of ruins that are too abundant to even excavate and are often reburied to preserve. Even simple infrastructure jobs, such as sewage repair, must be attended to by archaeologists who have the power to stop work if something is found.

There will be 27 escalators, six elevators and 66,000 square meters of archaeological exhibition space. The ancient walls found during the excavations will be placed “in situ” in the modern station and on the ancient Via Flaminia that ran through the ancient city to the nearby Roman Forum and the Colosseum.

The station’s three main entrances will connect the three museums around the square: the Vittoriano, the Palazzo Venezia and the open-air ruins of the Roman Forum anchored by the Colosseum at the other end, which has its own metro station that will also feature with museums and exhibitions. space.

Several of the archaeological sites will have access points from inside the subway museum, meaning commuters and tourists alike will be able to exit the station by strolling past historically important ruins such as Hadrian’s Auditorium, which was discovered when the initial archaeological investigation of the project and was intended to be the location of the station entrance. They have since moved the site and excavated the ruins, which are currently only visible by looking down from street level.

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Artifacts from the excavation exhibited in 2018 at San Giovanni station.

To secure the site while they excavate, engineers are using a “top-down” excavation system, which has never been used in Italy but was an integral part of the Jubilee line in London. Cross walls and diaphragms are being buried deep into the ground to form the perimeter of the underground complex, and the mined soil is being recycled and upgraded for use in construction materials, Sciotti said.

The train tunnels themselves are not the problem as they will be over 100 feet underground.

“It’s getting to that level where we have to get through the artifacts that are causing the delays,” he said, noting that they are going through the medieval and Renaissance eras.

The Venice station museum stop is not the only treasure of the new line. In 2016, archaeologists working at the Porta Metronia station site (previously known as Ambra Aradam) found a 39-room complex spanning more than 9,700 square feet that was incorporated into the underground station, which is due to open in late 2024. In 2025, the new Colosseo-Fori station, complete with a four-level underground museum to display artifacts, including 25 archaic wells unearthed when it was built, will also open after activation tests are completed, which will begin in October.

The entire 26-kilometre C line will be Italy’s first fully automated driverless metro system and will reduce road traffic by 400,000 vehicles a day, meaning CO2 emissions will be reduced by around 310,000 tonnes a year, according to the WeBuild group, which is the main contractor for the project.

The original 2000 Jubilee plans were modified to eliminate several stations in the historic center that would simply have been too difficult to excavate.

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