27 April 2016
Lighthouses and towers, ships and planes, history is here
One of the typical elements of places that are devoted to the transport of people and goods is the presence of a “high” point for observation and signalling

One of the typical elements of places that are devoted to the transport of people and goods is the presence of ahighpoint for observation and signalling. There used to be a lighthouse in Claudius’ imperial harbour, and a control tower is present at “Leonardo da Vinci” airport. Both buildings are features of our land, although in different periods, and can nearly be considered its symbols.

The lighthouse of Claudius’ harbour, which was located in what now is the first airport of Italy's capital city, was of considerable size and looked like the one in Alexandria of Egypt: in the city and in the necropolis of Porto, at Sacred Island, various mosaics depict its shape.

It was built as three big cubes placed on top of each other, the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top. At the very top, a small tower was present, where a brazier was lit, to light up the harbour area, with a radius of more than 45 kilometres.

Back to the present day, at Fiumara Grande, at the estuary of the Tiber, a smaller lighthouse compared to its ancestor guards one of the two branches of the river, where its waters become salty as they encounter the Tyrrhenian Sea. The previous one, operating since 1913, was 63 metres tall and 4 metres wide on average.  The light, arising from a 2,700 “carcel” lantern that emitted an intermittent white beam every twenty seconds, signalled its presence to sailors from a distance of up to twenty miles.

As the seafarers of the time oriented themselves in the sea thanks to the strong light of the lighthouse, so do the airplane pilots rely on the “signals” originating from the control tower of Fiumicino airport. Managed by ENAV, it is 60 metres tall and for pilots it is a modern version of the ancient lighthouse: with its relentless activity, it regulates air traffic. 320,000 movements every year, between landing, take-off and taxi, around 900 a day, with peaks of 90 every hour.

Designed by architect Nervi and inaugurated in 1960, the Control tower was restructured in 1989 and has been declared a National monument by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage.
Around 25 years from this date, during 2015, it was renovated once more, and has gone back to overseeing the airport thanks to its unmistakable white and red colours.

Every epoch and civilisation has its technology, suited to its practical needs. The symbolic presence of these monoliths acts like a pivot around which an entire community revolves.