Nemi is a beautiful village on the edge of an ancient volcano that gave origin to one of the most evocative lakes of Lazio that is today part of the Castelli Romani Park.
The area of Lake Nemi was inhabited even before Rome and was considered sacred so much that at the time of the Romans its woods were placed under the protection of the goddess Diana, goddess of the woods and fertility. For this on the edge of the lake there was a large temple dedicated to her.
Between the sacred and the profane, the Nemi area has hosted particularly luxurious imperial Roman villas such as that of Emperor Caligula who had a floating villa built on the lake. The villa was built on two or perhaps three ships, which were then recovered in the last century and sheltered in a museum. Unfortunately, during WW2 a fire destroyed the museum and today only a few scale reproductions are visible.
The two boats were dedicated to Diana and Isis and therefore were sacred, and their use was purely for the party-goer. The emperor Caligula, raised in Egypt and devoted to the goddess Isis (personification of the Moon, just like Diana), used to go to the lake to perform rites of the goddess, organizing festivities in honour of the deities.
Caligula is famous for having named his horse Incitatus a senator in contempt of the role of politics. This extreme fact is significant of the struggles between the senate and the empire that ended with the death and the ‘damnatio memoriae’ of Caligula, that is a perennial condemnation of his memory and his oblivion by the Roman aristocracy. This ‘mortification’ consisted in destroying everything that brought back the name of the emperor and for this the ships that would have reminded people were sunk.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, in the Middle Ages the population chose to live on the ridge, and around the lake formed a flourishing agricultural community, called Massa Nemus, which essentially produced fruit and wine. In the IX century the lords of this place were the Tuscolo Counts who started the construction of their castle, then used for some years by the Cistercian monks.
We must remember that Nemi has always been part of the Papal State that assigned the fiefdom to some noble families such as: Frangipane, Teblano Annibaldi, Colonna, d’Estouteville, Borgia, Cesarini, Piccolomini, Cenci, Braschi and finally the Orsini. The last family to own it and to make works of arrangement was that of the Ruspoli.
Starting from the fifteenth century several attempts were made to recover the submerged boats, but it was only between 1929 and 1932 that the archaeological expedition was set up which brought the two ships out of the water.
Nemi has always been famous for the cultivation of wild strawberries that, combined with the pleasure of a trip to the lake, has remained one of the towns most portrayed by the artists of the Grand Tour of the 19th century and a destination for the famous ‘out-of-town’ trips by the Romans .
Today its economy is still linked to agricultural products, its beauty and a joy of life that attracts many tourists.