Lake Nemi is a volcanic lake that lies between Nemi and Genzano of Rome, in the territory of the Roman Castles and covers about 1.60 square kilometers. The lake is part of the area known as the Alban Hills volcanic complex. Lake Nemi and the area around it is a beautiful natural environment: you can walk in the countryside and forest surrounded by dense vegetation, oak and chestnut trees, vines and stones carved out of volcanic rock. From the ancient village of Nemi, perched on a ridge above the lake, you can take a steep trail that winds through the vineyards below. There are also some hidden archaeological treasures such as the remains of the Temple of Diana from which there is a spectacular view of the lake. We suggest you follow these trails on foot as it is a truly unique experience. And finally, we suggest a romantic dinner in one of the restaurants on the banks of Nemi Lake, where you can enjoy delicious dishes in a magical atmosphere!
HISTORY OF THE LAKE
In ancient times, Lake Nemi was considered a favorite holiday spot for Romans, who often came to the banks and shores of the lake the excellent summer climate. For this reason, a forest and a place of worship dedicated to the goddess Diana was located around the lake, who’s name "Nemi" comes from Nemus Dianae, sacred grove dedicated to the goddess.
During the Roman Era, the passage way of Lake Nemi was built. It is a very special archaeological structure and is quite unique in terms of archeology in Italy, and also in Europe. The passage way dates back to the sixth century BC and was constructed by experienced cavers. Recent efforts have been dedicated to its recovery. The passage way consists of an underground route of about 1600 meters and can be visited today walking along the excavated path.
THE LEGEND OF THE SHIPS IN NEMI
Legend says that there are two gigantic Roman ships buried in the depths of Lake Nemi since ancient times. Elaborate in their construction and decoration and perhaps containing treasure, it is believed that the two ships were built by emperor Caligula, in honor of the Egyptian goddess Isis and the goddess Diana, the local patron of the hunt. The story continued to circulate throughout the Middle Ages until there were some actual occasional discoveries of strange artifacts by local fisherman. It is said that the two vessels, 70 meters long and more than 25 wide, were used by Caligula as floating palaces on the lake, to stay in while visiting Nemi or to simulate naval battles. But after his death in 41 AD, the Roman Senate wished to erase all memory of Caligula and destroyed everything connected with him including the Nemi ships that were sunk to the bottom of the lake. Soon after, some recovery efforts were undertaken by Leon Battista Alberti. With the help of a raft and some swimmers, a Genoese fistulas lead was recovered that allowed a more precise dating of the construction of the ships. A century later, another major restoration work was commissioned to Francesco De Marchi, who with the help of a bell pulley brought to the surface a large number of planks and lumber. Work continued and the floor pieces of porphyry and serpentine, enamels, mosaics, fragments of metal columns, nails, bricks and clay pipes were also raised from the depths. On October 3, 1895 an experienced diver found a ship and retrieved a beautiful bronze lion head.
The recovery of the real ship, which took place at the behest of the fascist government was a mammoth undertaking which required almost 5 years of work and the draining the lake using a number of pumps. On the night of May 31 a fire broke out and destroyed the two ships and most of the artifacts that were kept within them. It was suspected that the Germans had started the fire as they had placed a battery of guns only 150 yards from the museum that contained the vessels.
THINGS TO SEE
The Museum of Roman Ships: is still an interesting site to visit thanks to the many archaeological pieces that were preserved. The ships are represented in model size (1:5 scale) along with many items saved from the fire: including the well-known bronze coating of the beams, the lion heads, a wolf, a panther, jellyfish, iron anchor, a large bronze faucet, pumps, the helm, a rudder, and much more. The museum also includes a documentary section on Roman naval and maritime organizations.
Address: Via del Tempio di Diana 13, Rome
Hours: From Monday to Saturday 9.00am-7:30pm, Sunday 9:00am-1:00pm
Phone Numbers: 069419665
Temple of Diana: is an ancient architectural complex containing the apartments, the temple, the baths and the theater, where the Vestal priestesses lived during the period of the birth of Rome
The Cave of St Michael: is a natural cave that was used by early Christians to escape persecution and to celebrate various rituals in safety. This cave is situated just below the Castello Ruspoli, the present Palazzo Ruspoli.