Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli may well be the most famous one of all the villas that surround Rome. It is located about 6 kilometers (4 miles) outside the historical center of Tivoli and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Emperor Hadrian built his villa in order to replicate the many beautiful constructions he had seen during his travels.
Hadrian’s Villa Tivoli
Address, Opening Hours and Admission
The address of Hadrian’s Villa is Largo Marguerite Yourcenar, 1- 00019 Tivoli. Tel. +39 0774 530203 or 0774 382733 (ticket office). From the center of Rome you take a Cotral bus from the Ponte Mammolo stop on line B. You ask the driver where to get off (Hadrian’s Villa is Villa Adriana in Italian) and then take another bus or walk for one kilometer. Opening hours: Every day (including monday) from 9 AM until 30 minutes before sunset. Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25. Admission: 8 Euros; EU citizens ages 18-25: 4 Euros; ages 0-17: free. There is a surcharge of 3 Euros in case of special events.
The Villa Adriana has two museums, one inside and one outside its grounds, near the parking lot. The second one contains a visitors’ center.
History and description
The villa was created by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and is virtually a city in itself. The complex contains temples, baths, lakes and fountains as well as an impressive labyrinth of underground passages. The Emperor himself supervised construction, which lasted from 118 until 138 AD. It is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient roman architecture.
Hadrian was a well-traveled man and he used the villa to recreate the architectural marvels he had seen during his trips to the eastern provinces. He even made a copy of hell, though it is not clear where he got the inspiration for this feat.
The gardens are embellished with statues that placed amongst between the various canals, fountains, baths and theaters. Many of these are now on display in different museums in Rome. Others were stolen, as was anything else made of marble.
After the emperor’s death, the villa became property of his successors, who restored and embellished it even further.
The first one to steal works of art from the villa was the Emperor Constantine, who in the early 4th century AD brought many objects to Constantinople. Barbarians later partly demolished the complex and during the middle ages the inhabitants of Tivoli themselves plundered the villa in order to reuse the materials for their own constructions.
Many Renaissance artists visited the villa in order to get inspiration and often left their signatures on the villa’s walls.
Organized excavations did not start until the 19th century.
Highlights Villa Adriana Tivoli
Around the Pecile
The scale model near the entrance shows Hadrian’s Villa the way it is supposed to have been in the 2nd century.
The Pecile starts at the entrance and is a reproduction of the Athens Poikile, which was admired by the emperor. This enormous portico has a central garden with a tub and was used for long walks inside the villa. Only its north wall is still standing.
The north eastern corner of the Pecile lead to the Hall of the Philosophers (Sala dei Filosofi), which was probably used as a library.
The Villa dell’Isola (or Teatro Marittimo) is a round building with a portico with columns around it. The Villa stands on a small island, surrounded by a canal. It is thought to have been the spot where the emperor dedicated himself in private to his hobbies (painting, poetry and music).
The building to the south of the Teatro Marittimo is called the Eliocamino. It consists of a number of rooms with tubs of cold and lukewarm water and one big round room with a hot water tub. This last room has a heating system underneath the floor and five enormous windows to let the sun in. The tub was probably meant for steam- or mudbaths.
The courtyard to the east of the Pecile was a nymphaeum. Beyond the buildings framing this courtyard are two thermal complexes called the Piccole Terme and the Grandi Terme. These well-preserved buildings contain a gym, a number of locker rooms and hot and cold water tubs.
The Canopo is built in a long and narrow artificial valley and is a reconstruction of the Egyptian town of that name. There is a tub surrounded by columns in the middle of the valley. The semi-circular building at the end is the famous Temple of Serapis, which is decorated with Egyptian sculptures. There are also some statues representing Antinoo, the emperor’s favorite boy, who died under mysterious circumstances in Egypt.
Imperial Palace and beyond
From the Canopo one passes the Pretorio and the Caserma dei Vigili on the way to the Imperial Palace. The most important constructions forming this palace are the Piazza d’Oro, the Atrio Dorico, il Peristilio di Palazzo and the Cortile delle Biblioteche.
The Piazza d’Oro (“Golden Square”) consists of a huge courtyard, which is framed by a portico with columns and a number of rooms around a big octagonal hall. During the summer months this hall was probably used as a banquet hall.
The “Doric Atrium” is another big room, probably framed by a two floor portico. This hall gets its name from the Doric columns and capitals supporting architrave.
The Peristyle leads to the Courtyard of the Libraries, whis is framed by a portico with Corinthian columns. On one side of this courtyard is the Hospitalia, a number of guest rooms. The back is taken up by two rooms thought to be libraries, one Latin and one Greek.
From the libraries the Pavilion (Padiglione) and the Terrazza di Tempe can be reached. This imitation of the Valle di Tempe in Thessaly is a panoramic terrace looking out over the valley beneath.
Apath through a small wood leads to the Casino Fede, which in the 18th century was constructed on top of a nymphaeum. At the end is a small theatre with room for no more than 500 people, meant for the emperor’s private use.