The discovery was made in a busy street on the Esquiline Hill, one of the seven fabled hills on which the ancient imperial capital was built Photo: Sotterranei di Roma. A routine operation to repair gas pipes beneath a cobbled street in Rome has revealed the remains of what experts believe is a 2,000-year-old villa, complete with frescoed walls.
Road workers using a mechanical digger to reach the old pipes uncovered a small opening and called in caving experts from a group called Underground Rome, which combines speleological skills with the exploration of ancient ruins.
Wearing hard hats, they were lowered about 12ft down into the passage at the end of a rope and found that it led to the remains of a Roman villa dating back to the first century AD.
The walls are decorated with frescoes and flower motifs painted in a range of colours, including red, green and purple.
There is speculation that the 20ft-long room was part of a villa owned by a wealthy family. The discovery was made in a busy street on the Esquiline Hill, one of the seven fabled hills on which the ancient imperial capital was built.
It is close to the site of the ancient Horti Lamiani or Lamian Gardens, where the Emperor Caligula was briefly buried.
“It’s too early to make a definitive judgment about what it is,” Mirella Serolorenzi, an official from the city’s archaeology department, told the Italian press.
The site has been fenced off and archaeologists hope to widen the excavated area in the hope of making more discoveries.
Maintaining Rome’s roads, sewers and metro tunnels often brings archaeological discoveries to light. Work can be delayed for years by the more important finds, especially those relating to the city’s ancient Roman past.