Cisternone Romano

Useful Information

Location: Via della Torre, 04023 Formia LT.
(41.255591, 13.601127)
Open: .
Fee: .
Classification: SubterraneaCistern
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Ar=1,200 m², H=7.5 m, V=7,000 m³, L=64.90, W=25 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Cisternone Romano, Via della Torre, 04023 Formia LT, Tel: +39-800-141-407. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1860 explored by Pasquale Mattei.


The Cisternone Romano (Great Roman Cistern) was once the largest cistern of the world. It originates from the Roman era and was the main drinking water supply of the Roman city Formia. It was constructed by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (*80–70 BC to ✝15 BC) who was the most famous engineer for water supply. He is today simply known as Vitruvius, his only surviving work is De Architectura. The huge rectangular chamber is 65 m long, 25 m wide and 7.5 m high. The ceiling is supported by 53 pillars for three naves. Another 36 pillars were supporting the walls of the cistern.

In use for almost two millennia it was finally abandoned in the mid 19th century. It was almost forgotten and finally almost destroyed. In 1860, it was rediscovered by Pasquale Mattei, who also collected many testimonies of Castellone’s citizens who went in the Cistern.

The cistern was built underground, so the surrounding ground would stabilize the walls of the cistern against the pressure from the water inside. The enormous size was necessary, as the small city was home to the Roman fleet at that time. It was necessary to have enough water to supply a fleet of ships with drinking water in a short time.