Ballet hails the return of water to Rome’s ancient Caracalla baths

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 11:49 AM

ROME (Reuters) – The return of water to Rome’s ancient baths of Caracalla after more than 1,000 years was greeted on Friday by ballet dancers performing on a platform over a newly installed pool.

One of the largest thermal complexes ever built, the baths were begun by Emperor Septimius Severus in 212 AD and completed four years later by his successor Caracalla. The ruins are now a popular tourist destination and host concerts and theatre.

This month local authorities unveiled a project to re-introduce water to the site, installing a large, shallow pool which reflects the towering walls of the ancient buildings.

The pool, dubbed the Specchio, or mirror in Italian, is a rectangular structure 42 metres by 32 metres and 10 cm deep, designed by architects Hannes Peer and Paolo Bornello.

It is meant to evoke the so-called Natatio, the largest of the several pools in ancient Roman baths, usually found at the centre.

“Water, an element that has been absent for more than 1,000 years, returns in a decisive yet respectful way to the ruins,” Mirella Serlorenzi, the site’s director, said.

The installation, which is fitted with submerged water jets and lighting effects, is part of a broader project by Rome’s cultural authorities to make the city’s ancient sites more similar to how they were originally conceived.

Friday’s opening show by Aterballetto, choreographed by Iratxe Ansa e Igor Bacovich, will be the first of a string of dance, theatre and classical music performances to be hosted in Caracalla this spring and summer.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti, Editing by Gavin Jones and Alison Williams)