Jewish Catacombs of Villa Torlonia Restoration Underway in 2017

Construction notice outside of work area, identifying "works of extreme urgency for securing the site."

The Jewish catacombs located below the Villa Torlonia on the via Nomentana in Rome are being structurally reinforced and secured by the construction engineering firm Imar srl in anticipation of a possible public opening of the ancient burial site. The company was awarded the government contract in 2013, but administrative issues within Italy's Fine Arts Ministry, delays in government funding, and unresolved questions about the site's static condition pushed back the start of the project until 2017. This preliminary phase of a larger project to study and restore the Jewish cemetery has opened a long-closed entrance first excavated in 1973-1974 that leads to a series of painted tombs most likely dating to the mid-fourth century CE. Other air shafts and the staircase to the site's lower levels also are being examined and reinforced to meet safety codes and air quality controls. The work is being supervised by a regional inspector for the Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio, Dr. Daniela Rossi, who has directed work in other historic Jewish cemeteries in Rome, most recently the Medieval Campus Judaeorum near Porta Portese in Trastevere, and a conservator for the same commission, Dr. Ines Arletti, with assistance from professional archaeologists and other technicians. The Union of Italian Jewish Communities and Jewish Community of Rome also play an active role as consultants and contributors to the project to ensure that the tomb restoration does not violate Halakha and contributes positively toward the survival of a uniquely  Jewish and national cultural treasure. Future work with financing from the Fine Arts Ministry is expected to clean the wall paintings and analyze in greater detail all site artifacts, including inscriptions still in situ. No announcement has been made regarding possible tours of the catacombs, but it is not to be excluded that an opening event will coincide with the centenary of the Jewish site's discovery in  foundations for a new carriage house in 1918-1919. (Jessica Dello Russo, November 6, 2017)