“Drugstore Necropolis” on the via Portuense Open Weekends

Beginning Saturday, April 8, 2017, the so-called "Drugstore Portuense" necropolis will reopen to the public for free on weekends (excluding major holidays), from 10:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.  This program follows a "series of unfortunate (and criminal) events" in the site since its mid-20th century discovery, culminating with a recent arson attempt in 2015.  The non-profit Associazione InUrbe Cultura 3.0, in collaboration with the Soprintendente per l’Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, arranges the visits the Roman-era remains of tombs and service structures near the ancient via Portuense (and the new display space will house older artifacts from this suburban area of Rome, such as the grave goods from a warrior's tomb dating between 3700 and 2300 BCE). To reserve a Necropolis Portuense tour, contact InUrbe Cultura 3.0 at 329.5342684 or by email: inurbe.cultura3.0@gmail.com.  The itinerary takes groups through the "Drugstore Gallery", a piece of a more extensive burial grounds of the first to fifth centuries CE, uncovered in the 1960's during construction of a commercial-residential complex in the shadow of the oil refinery "La Purfina".  The most striking funerary monuments are the chambers carved into the tuff with brick facades.  Although for the most part the ceilings and upper wall areas of these structures are missing, there are still conspicuous traces of decoration in paint, stucco, and mosaic, as well as evidence of incineration burials in clay or marble containers, and inhumation burials in trenches or wall recesses, or in clay or marble sarcophagi (some examples in situ).  The appearance of this roadside area was also impacted significantly in Antiquity by quarrying of a reddish tuff, a key ingredient in Roman concrete and known as "tufo lionato," or "tufo di Monteverde," which was extracted with both "open" or "tunnel" excavation techniques. The necropolis, in fact, was constructed on the fringes of this industrial site, close to the fork in the road which provided two routes for reaching the coast (via Portuense and the older via Campana, or "Salt Route").  Chamber tombs of the same era and style, found in a separate excavation of the via Portuense Necropolis in the site of the "Pozzo Pantaleone," so-called for the presence of a large cistern, are now on display in the Museo Nazionale Romano delle Terme di Diocleziano, and even more of the burial grounds has been detected below the via Belluzzo, via Ravizza and the historic Vigna Pia, as well as the grounds of the San Camillo hospital, where epigraphic evidence points to cemetery plots in use into the Middle Ages.  

Address: via Portuense, 317, Rome (11th municipal region).  

Photographs of the Necropolis Portuense in the Italian dailies La Repubblica (including niche with what looks like sausages and a rosetta bun!) and Il Messaggero.

Photo credit: SITAR (Sistema Informativo Territoriale Archeologico Roma).