A fullonica dating back to the 2nd century AD, along with mosaics and various artifacts, are part of the archaeological findings that have emerged from the recent excavations in Rome’s Piazza Pia. The discoveries were explained by the Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, the Mayor of Rome, the Special Superintendent of Rome, Daniela Porro, and the CEO of Anas, Aldo Isi.

It is essential to safeguard our history and wisely and judiciously find a balance between the needs of protection and the need to modernize the urban fabric, declared Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano.

A fullonica is an ancient laundry, and the term refers both to the art of washing, removing stains, and preparing clothes, as well as to the workshop or place where this was done. Togas were not easy to wash, fold, and iron at home, so many turned to this type of laundry, which existed in great numbers throughout the empire.

This is not the first fullonica discovered in Rome. The largest of all is that of M. Vesonio Primo, where the washing basins can still be seen, where clothes were submerged in water mixed with alkaline and purifying substances, nitrum, fullonica clay, and urine.

Detail of the fullonica uncovered in Piazza Pia, Rome
Detail of the fullonica uncovered in Piazza Pia, Rome. Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

Piazza Pia will be even more enriched. This is truly an emblematic case of how institutional collaboration and the correct understanding of the significance of protecting and valuing our cultural assets can lead to a doubly positive solution: thanks to the construction site, we have discovered this beautiful fullonica and other findings, which we will be able to publicize and value, but at the same time, we will also be able to complete the underground passage within the planned timeframe, said the Mayor of Rome Capitale, Roberto Gualtieri.

Emergency archaeology for the construction of the Piazza Pia underground passage must in any case protect the findings and discoveries, explained the Special Superintendent of Rome, Daniela Porro. In this case, the conservation of the artifacts through their relocation should also lead to their enhancement: the Superintendency has proposed relocating them to the Castel Sant’Angelo, in the ancient Mausoleum of Hadrian built in the Horti of Domitia, the context where the structures found were likely originally erected.

The rehabilitation and pedestrianization project of Piazza Pia, located between the Castel Sant’Angelo and Via della Conciliazione, is funded with 79.5 million euros from the Jubilee. The creation of this new large pedestrian plaza will indeed connect the area of Castel Sant’Angelo with Via della Conciliazione and, therefore, with St. Peter’s Basilica, ensuring safe pedestrian use of the area and improving vehicular traffic flow thanks to the creation of the underground passage that will connect with Lungotevere in Sassia.

Detail of one of the uncovered wash tubs
Detail of one of the uncovered wash tubs. Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma / ANAS

The works are being carried out by Anas thanks to an agreement with Roma Capitale. The work is expected to be completed by December 2024.

The archaeological investigations, under the scientific direction of the archaeologist of the Special Superintendency Alessio De Cristofaro, within the framework of the construction of the Underground Passage, have brought to light new discoveries that narrate previously unknown urban landscapes and fragments of the history of the Capital.

The research area was formerly occupied by some important suburban imperial residences (horti Agrippinæ, horti Domitiæ), which bordered the right bank of the Tiber, scenically overlooking the river with porticoes, promenades, and gardens.

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