Hadrian's Villa

Tivoli, Italy

The Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) is an exceptional complex of classical buildings created in the 2nd century A.D. by the Roman emperor Hadrian. It combines the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an 'ideal city'.

The villa was constructed at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) as a retreat from Rome for Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second and third decades of the 2nd century AD. The picturesque landscape around Tibur had made the area a popular choice for villas and rural retreats.

During the later years of his reign, Hadrian actually governed the empire from the villa. Hadrian started using the Villa as his official residence around AD 128. A large court therefore lived there permanently and large numbers of visitors and bureaucrats would have to have been entertained and temporarily housed on site.

It isn't known if Hadrian's wife lived at the villa either on a temporary or permanent basis - his relations with her were apparently rather strained or distant, possibly due to his ambiguous sexuality. Hadrian's parents had died when he was young and he and his sister were adopted by Trajan. It is possible that Hadrian's court at the villa was predominately male but it's likely that his childhood nurse Germana, whom he had formed a deep attachment to, was probably accommodated there (she actually outlived him).

After Hadrian, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors (busts of Antoninus Pius (138-161), Marcus Aurelius (161-180), Lucius Verus (161-169), Septimius Severus and Caracalla have been found on the premises). Zenobia, the deposed queen of Palmyra, possibly lived here in the 270s.

During the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, the villa gradually fell into disuse and was partially ruined as valuable statues and marble were taken away. The facility was used as a warehouse by both sides during the destructive Gothic War (535-554) between the Ostrogoths and Byzantines. Remains of lime kilns have been found, where marble from the complex was burned to extract lime for building material.

In the 16th century, Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este had much of the remaining marble and statues in Hadrian's Villa removed to decorate his own Villa d'Este located nearby. Since that period excavations have sporadically turned up more fragments and sculptures some of which have been kept in situ or housed on site in the display buildings.

Architecture

Hadrian's Villa is a vast area of land with many pools, baths, fountains and classical Greek architecture set in what would have been a mixture of landscaped gardens, wilderness areas and cultivated farmlands.

One of the most striking and best preserved parts of the Villa consists of a pool named Canopus and an artificial grotto named Serapeum. The pool measured 119 by 18 meters. Each column surrounding the pool was connected to each other with marble.

Many beautiful artifacts have been unearthed and restored at the Villa, such as marble statues of Antinous, Hadrian's deified lover, accidentally drowned in Egypt, and mosaics from the theatre and baths.

Today

Hadrian's Villa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and important cultural and archaeological site. It is also a major tourist destination along with the nearby Villa d'Este and the town of Tivoli. The Academy of the villa was placed on the 100 Most Endangered Sites 2006 list of the World Monuments Watch because of the rapid deterioration of the ruins.

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Details

Founded: c. 128 AD
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lenka Csandová (7 months ago)
Amazing and huge area. I liked it better than ruins in Rome. It's also much quieter, there is less people. We spent 2.5 hours there and had to rush in the end, so I recommend having 3 hours. I also recommend taking the audio guide. Transport is a bit more difficult on Sunday, there was a bus to Tivoli, but to Rome we had to find a bus in the town.
Aivars Zvīdris (8 months ago)
Masterpiece of roman history. 2000 years, but still stands. Unbelievable big villa, to be honest - town. Very interesting to visit and see. Will spent a lot of hours. I liked it.
Cynthia Casey (9 months ago)
Unfortunately it rained during our tour. But the tour guide was very knowledgeable. This place is a huge compound and would have been amazing in it's day. Because of the size be prepared to walk. I was amazed that it was pet and kid friendly too
Grueffelo Grueffelo (2 years ago)
My third time here. When I entered, I thought "Not stones again!" When I left, I thought "Wow, I would have liked to live here!" Walk through the whole complex. Especially see all the buildings with sinks. My children loved it, too.
Alessandro Gadotti (2 years ago)
Beautiful ruins of the ancient emperor's villa. Amazing place to walk around imagining how it just have been gloriously splendid 2000 years ago. Worth a visit even as a day trip from Rome.
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