The Machines and The Gods: The Revolutionary Museum Centrale Montemartini

Andrew Kingsford-Smith

The meeting ground of two opposing worlds, The Centrale Montemartini in Rome is a unique museum that places classical art in an industrial setting. Discover the history of this time bending institution which became a permanent part of the Museio Capitolini in 2005.

The Museio Capitolini, or the Capitoline Museums, are an assemblage of art and archaeology museums located on Capitoline Hill in Rome. Thought to be one of the oldest public art collections in the world, Museio Capitolini has a history dating back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of bronze statues to the people of Rome. The main three buildings of the museum are the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the Palazzo Nuovo and the Palazzo Senatorio, the latter being the oldest dating back to the 12th century. Adapting to its increasing collection size, these buildings have had many structural changes and renovations over the years, from design updates by Michelangelo through to the more recent addition of the tunnels of the Galleria di Congiunzione which connect the three buildings together. It was during one of these renovations that a side venue was created, almost by accident, and the museum’s centuries-long history met the industrial revolution.

Loved by over 40s

In the 1990s, complex renovations were required on the Museio Capitolini as problems of water seepage and rising dampness levels were discovered. Forcing the closure of the Junction Gallery, the Museo Nuovo and the New Wing of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, a temporary space was needed to display the art works while restructuring was underway over the next eight years. The chosen destination for this long-term yet temporary exhibition was an old electricity plant owned by Acea close to Garbatella metro station. Leaving the aged steam turbines and diesel engines in their place, the exhibition was opened in 1997 with the name The Machines and the Gods, and brought together two seemly conflicting worlds: classical art and industrial archaeology. Stunning statues from the Republican era to the late Imperial age were set with a background of early 19th century machinery, offering a unique vision of time defying anthropology. Interestingly, the timeline of the old electricity plant correlates with the dates that the museum’s archaeological artefacts were found (from the late 18th century to the 1930s), representing a mutual date of rebirth for both aspects of the museum. The exhibition treated both the machinery and the artworks as part of the exhibition, with educational information being available for both. In 2005, the refurbishments on the Museio Capitolini were finished and it was scheduled that the sculptures should be returned to their original home. However, with the popularity of The Machines and the Gods, it was decided that the old power plant would become a permanent exhibition place.

The main collection of the The Centrale Montemartini consists of the most recent acquisitions of the Museio Capitolini, while temporary exhibition also take place. Curated throughout the space with the disused machines, visitors cannot help but contemplate the relationships between all the displayed objects. The image of an ancient warrior in front of a diesel engine or a statue of Pothos, symbolising nostalgia as she stares at the old brickwork of the building: new meanings and notions are created through this alternate form of curation, allowing for revelations and unintentional insight. Through continually experimenting with possible display methods, the museum interrogates art and allows for questions to rise about potential future curatorial combinations. Not only pushing the boundaries in terms of curation, Museio Capitolini have recently undergone a project in collaboration with Google, allowing members of the public to walk through the rooms of the museums in Google’s Street View. First delivering art to an industrial setting, and now to the 21st century through the internet, only time will tell where the next revolutionary project will take the museum. By Andrew Kingsford-Smith

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.