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Water returns to Baths of Caracalla after 1,500 years

Ancient bath site installs a new reflecting pool.

Rome's Baths of Caracalla has unveiled a pool whose waters reflect the ruins of the ancient bath complex 1,800 years after its construction in the second century.

The large rectangular pool, whose title Lo Specchio translates as "The Mirror", is intended to highlight a harmonious interplay between the ancient and the contemporary.

The pool was the idea of the site's director Mirella Serlorenzi, who describes the return of water as "decisive but respectful of the ruins", and the project was overseen by Rome's special superintendent Daniela Porro.

The installation features 20 submerged water jets and spotlights which combine to create a play of light and evoke the steam of the ancient baths.

"The return of water is not only a wonder for its own sake, a joy for the eyes and the spirit, but is meant to be a concrete symbol of reconnection with the ancient world," said Porro, adding that the pool reinforces "the role of the Baths of Caracalla as a centre promoting culture and art".

Designed by Milan-based architect Hannes Peer in collaboration with architect Paolo Bornello, the 42 x 32 metre pool has a stage over the water for hosting classical music concerts or theatre and dance performances.

Lo Specchio will be inaugurated on 13 April with the Rome premiere of a new ballet set to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

Baths of Caracalla

The sprawling complex of Roman public baths or thermae is believed to have been built between 212 and 216 AD, during the reigns of emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

The baths remained in operation until the sixth century before falling into disuse and suffering major damage in the earthquake of 847.

The site contains a maze of underground areas including a gymnasium, changing rooms, frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium, whose ruins can be visited today.

The Baths of Caracalla site stages open-air opera, dance and concerts as part of the summer programme of Rome's opera house, as well as hosting exhibitions and contemporary art installations.

Photos Fabio Caricchia e Leandro Lentini

General Info

Address Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

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Water returns to Baths of Caracalla after 1,500 years

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

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