THE FINDS DISCOVERED UNDERNEATH THE PALACE
A city whose life has never stopped preserves in its genetic make-up the legacy of centuries of history. Its subsoil is an archive that contains all the information needed to reconstruct the events that unfolded over thousands of years: a package of layers of earth that preserve, like a journal, the changes the city has undergone over time. The raising of the soil is often caused by the debris from older buildings. The transformation of the old always foretells the preparation of the new, which brings with it the idea and substance of its forerunners.
Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Piazza Venezia was completely transformed to house the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. This reconfiguration of the square, designed by the architect Giuseppe Sacconi, involved the demolition of all the buildings facing the south side of the square, with the sole exception of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Venezia. The monument dedicated to the king was erected on the slopes of the Capitoline Hill, while in the space adjacent to Trajan's Column, Architect Sacconi wanted to erect a building that should have ".. balanced masses, marked by that form of exquisite taste, clarity, elegance and simplicity that distinguishes the palazzo Venezia it faces." Assicurazioni Generali of Venice and Trieste bought this area in 1903 to build their Rome headquarters.
The exhibits in this room come from the archaeological survey conducted by Giuseppe Gatti during the excavation of the building's foundations, which began on August 14th, 1902 and ended on March 25th, 1904. Gatti recorded in his journals both these and the building structures discovered 7 meters below the road surface, which were deemed to belong to an insula, i.e. a multi-storey building consisting of a number of apartments, built between the late second and early third century AD.
The excavation work led to recovering columns, both whole and broken up, bases and capitals, fragments of frames and sculptures, including portraits and statuettes, tools and fire-damaged pottery. But among the finds are also numerous fragments of funerary inscriptions and sarcophagi, which are not generally common in urban areas, and were probably used to raise the floor level.
The discovered artefacts remained the property of Assicurazioni Generali, who have kept and preserved them for over one hundred years. Now, after a new restoration, the finds from the excavations are made available to the public in a permanent exhibition that, for the first time, displays them together with the other two groups of objects in Assicurazioni Generali's collection of antiquities: a body of finds that became part of Generali's collections through the acquisition of Palazzo Poli in Piazza di Spagna, and another one, consisting of the remaining items of an older and larger collection that had belonged to the Merolli family.