The ancient Acquae Tauri
The “Statio di Algae”
After having passed the entrance to the “Terme Taurine
”, going back down the road towards Civitavecchia, on the right there is a road that leads to the ancient site of “Aquae Tauri”, which is situated in the locality of Ficoncella.
Here there is a thermal plant, run by the municipality of Civitavecchia, that exploits the hot sulfuric waters that have been known since ancient times: even as far back as in the Neolithic era, in that area there was a small community who were probably attracted by the extraordinary therapeutic properties of these thermal waters.
Here rose the Roman town of “Aquae Tauri” on top of an area previously inhabited by Etruscans; during the Imperial era the small Roman center, even if it had expanded, did not greatly develop since it was obstructed by the even more important center of Civitavecchia and from the more popular and well known thermal location of Aque Tarine, it too exploiting the same sulfuric waters.
For this reason, the “Terme Taurine” thermal baths have been confused by many with the “Aquae Tauri” location, while in fact, these are two distinct locations.
An ancient seaside villa
A built-up area and necropolis of Villanova:
Along the coast, between km 74,700 and km 75,600 of the Aurelia state road there is the locality of Mattonara
, where a series of explorations which too place in the 50’s uncovered an inhabited area of the Villanova age and a cremation necropolis which was violated in the Roman age. Various pieces belonging to the inhabitants were found along the banks – two nearby bases belonging to huts, one of elliptical shape and one round shaped and two quadrangular grave holes dug in the rock. Furthermore Bastianelli built the station of Algae near Mattonara; however what confirms the theory proposed by this scientist is above all the existence of a natural port and the ruins, buildings and graves discovered.
In front of the Molinari plant, at sea, there are visible remains of a fish tank, however on land there are no traces of any structure that could relate to this.
At km 76, the via Aurelia deviates and at the height of Monna Felice
it turns inland where, always according to Bastianelli, there should be a side lane that used to connect the location of Algae with the Aurelia.
Always on the Aurelia, slightly before km 77, in the locality of La Scalier, there is a fenced-in area with some tomb vaults; the necropolis was connected to an inhabited area still alive in the Roman era and identified as Statio di Algae, its name was maintained by the toponym Val d’Alga, Torre Valdaliga, according to the more convincing proposals made by Mengarelli.
Bastianelli however had a different opinion which placed the ancient Roman Statio in the area of Torre D’Orlando.
Etruscan Necropolis of Marangone
Going back towards the sea and leaving the Aurelia before km 76 to travel down the road that leads to the thermoelectric plant, one reaches that tract of coastline in where rises Torre Valdaliga
, built by Paul V in 1616 as a defense against pirates, the tower, which is surrounded by a wall, rises above the ruins of a Roman villa. Bastianelli established that this building dated back to the late republican era (1st century AC), because of the structure of its walls and the technique used for the floors. Therefore, the complex can be considered one of the most ancient seaside villas along the Civitavecchia coastline.
The remains of the structures that belonged to this grand and definitely rich building occupy an area, except for the fish tank, of approximately 4.500 sq. m. On the north and west sides, slow and implacable corrosion by the waves has uncovered a section of land containing ruins which provide an idea of the original planimetric and altimetric layout, as well as the techniques used when building the villa.
The fish tank as well, which was built for fish farming and dug out from the rocks, has maintained itself well and constitutes particular and almost unique evidence of the work done by ancient Romans to design a construction such as this, as evidenced also by various ancient writings.
To the north side there is a structure that represents the foundation walls made of large lime stones. Above the foundations there two octagonal walls decorated with “opus reticolatum
”, while the floors are in “opus signinum
”. Further on there are remains of a room that appears to have been accommodated during subsequent eras, an interesting features are the two sewer tunnels that were used to flow the sewage out to sea; a nearby room shows signs of a mosaic pavement with white and black chips. On the west side, out to sea, in front of the fish tank, there are visible signs of the ruins of a terrace build of large rectangular flake slabs laid out directly onto the rock bed that was leveled out to accommodate the overlaying structure.
This terrace was most probably built in two distinct phases in time, as evidenced also by the two overlaying pavements discovered at the walking level.
The fish tank appears to be of particular interest, since it is without doubt one of the greatest examples of its kind carved in the rock; building a fish tank inside a rocky level is, in fact, very difficult; the geological nature of the reef must be compact but also easy to dig. Currently, most of the fish tank is buried in the sand and underwater, with a wide and high step made of scale slabs. The central part is made up of a large rectangular tub (19 meters x 39 meters) dug into the rock with walls covered in masonry and divided into various sectors by intersecting walls.
On the north side, which is also marked by a series of rooms for collecting water, there was a series a vaults which held up the veranda and terrace of the residential compound. A series of input canals, at the entrance of which there were sleuth gates made of thin flake slabs, permitted the continuous circulation of water rich in oxygen and microorganisms, while it prevented the larger fish from escaping. Furthermore, the these canal were arranged depending on the direction of the wind: those to the south would receive the waves lifted by the south-east wind, while the other to the south-west were fed by the wave movements created by the south-west wind.; lastly, the large canal facing the north-west was irrigated by violent waves raised by the north-west wind.
The entire complex was therefore arranged in such a way as to permit continuous water circulation from all four sides, thereby eliminating the problem of stagnant water and consequential death of the fish raised there, many of which were wrasse, rainbow wrasse and blacktails.
On the land side, where a few pieces of the villa still remain, a notable quantity of plaster chips with traces of floral decorations, stuccos and ceramic materials were found that enables the complex to be dated back to the 1st century AC.
Two hundred meters after Torre Valdaliga, along the coastline to the north, near two prefabricated buildings there are numerous ceramic fragments scattered over the land, while a little further on, in an area facing the sea, there are numerous remains of pavements in “opus signinum” that belonged to some of the buildings lined up along the coastline, partially covered in dry seaweed and debris, which date back to the 1st century AC.
Surely these scattered findings are not be considered isolated and outside of the Torre Valdaliga complex, but must be seen as connected with the rich republican villa.
To the north of the asphalt road that comes from the railway bridge, along a vast extension of flat terrain which is crossed by a stream called “La Frasca
”, there are various Roman ruins which have been attributed to the villa.
In fact, there are various walls, built in “opus listatum”, that emerge for approximately one meter above the surface of the ground.
There are also small white and gray mosaic chips, fragments of status in bronze, fragments of ceramics, roof tiles, large bronze nails, and numerous coins which date back between the 1st and 3rd century BC, with many specimens that date back as far as the 3rd century AC. From the quantity and nature of the objects found in this location it is believed that the territory of Civitavecchia was involved in trafficking which at first was limited to the Western Mediterranean area and which, in the 3rd and 4th century AC., then extended also to the East. This therefore refers to an urban area that functioned also as a port: in fact, under the surface of the water, in the rocky landing held a large canal that enabled boats to easily reach land.
Submersions by scuba divers have made it possible to identify various jugs and ceramic fragments laying on the sea bed next to traces of relict.
To the south of Civitavecchia, near the stream of Marangone, there once prospered another Etruscan center that was more important than that of Scaglia. The inhabited area occupied the top of the hill and the name of "Castellina
" by which it is known today recalls the ancient Etruscan castle or "pagus".
This isolated location, embellished by the age old olive trees, is very suggestive. All of a sudden, from amongst the vegetation one can see the remains of the strong walls that surrounded the entire hill, for an overall 700 meters.
Two ancient roads can still be recognized, one to the east and one to the west, that lead to the ancient city and still serve to reach the top of the hill. The necropolis extends on all sides; the graves, laid out in groups, occupy a large surface area of approximately 200 acres.
The structure of the burial area differs from that of Scaglia; here in fact most tombs generally have a funeral room in the center; the rooms, most of which are now destroyed, were generally buried close to the surface and made of large slabs that were admirable connected and reproduced the usual tomb-like structure with a roof covering; the entrance was closed off by thick stone slabs with a "dromos" to enter.
Stone slabs were arranged in a circle to mark the tomb area and form the basement; everything was covered with lots of earth that was brought there artificially and made these monuments resemble small hills. The size of the tombs varies between 8 and 10 meters, but there are also others that are even bigger, like the one found near the railroad bridge that measures 45 meters.
Going back down the Via Aurelia, just before km 77, in the location of "La Scaglia" various tomb chambers can be seen in a fenced off area;
these tombs were recently cleaned and restored by the Superintendent for Archeology of Southern Etruria. The tombs at "La Scaglia" are underground chambers with a roof and a slope on each side or ogives, and benches placed along the main wall on which to layout clothing. The chambers are preceded by a short "dromos" (entrance corridor) with steps to facilitate going down into the burial room.
The chronology of these tombs dates back to the VI and V century BC for all of the tombs.