The Water Clock of Villa Borghese

Tue, 01/04/2022 - 03:11
clock at Villa Borghese

Among the many marvels of Villa Borghese in Rome is a water clock few may be aware of. 

To admire it in all its beauty and engineering prowess, you have to look for it, surrounded as it is by thick vegetation. Placed in a small turret on an islet within one of the many ponds that dot Rome’s most famous park, the clock is located along the aptly-named Viale dell’Orologio, not far from the panoramic terrace of the Pincio, with its stunning view over Piazza del Popolo below. 

After years of neglect, the extraordinary water clock hidden among the luxuriant nature of Villa Borghese returned to mark the time last summer.

The water clock is precisely a hydro-chronometer built according to the design of Dominican friar Giovanni Battista Embriaco in 1867 and installed in 1873, as part of a fountain designed by architect Gioacchino Ersoch. 

A prototype of the invention was even sent to Paris for the 1867 Universal Exposition, but the clock ended up not being removed from its original packaging, due to the fear of breaking it.

The clock is set in motion by water. The pendulum that marks the time is activated by the flow of water below, while the bell is set in motion by the alternating filling of two pans.

It is the only hydro-chronometer in Italy inside a public park. 

Besides being an engineering masterpiece, the many artistic and decorative elements make the clock even more precious.

The clock was in a state of neglect for years until the restoration carried out by the Vocational Training School of the ELIS Center, which has brought it back into operation.

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