Meanwhile, the towns of Nemi and Genzano overlook the nearby Lake of Nemi. It intrigued archeologists for decades, as locals told stories about giant, elaborately decorated, phantasm ships. Occasionally, fishermen dragged pieces of semi-precious metal or marble to the surface, corroborating the legends that circulated. In the end, after lengthy investigation, archeologists identified two ships dating to Emperor Caligula’s reign (circa 40 A.D.).
To resurrect the ships from their watery grave, the lake was partially drained in the early 1900s. The two nearly intact boats were salvaged! And, in keeping with the legends that described them, they were indeed sumptuously decorated with marble, gems, and precious metal. They were also fit out with incredible plumbing and luxurious baths, making them the celebrity yachts of almost 2000 years ago. They were subsequently displayed in a museum, which was built near the lake for the occasion.
Tragically, the museum (together with its contents) caught fire at the end of World War II. Some say that retreating German troops burned the museum as a form of retaliation. Others claim that locals set fire to it to cash in on the ruined metal, which could be sold at high prices at the end of the war. Whatever the case, some of the ancient material was salvaged. (Again!) And, Nemi’s museum has reopened to the public.