Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) in Tivoli
The town of Tivoli, just outside Rome, is rich with history and culture. All it takes is a stroll around town to realise just how strong a mark was left by the Ancient Romans in Tivoli: one look at the Roman Villas, the Spas, the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor) takes us back centuries to life in the 2nd century AD. It is not by chance that UNESCO recognised two places within the town of Tivoli as World Heritage Sites: Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este. Today, we are going to discover Villa Adriana in Tivoli!
Villa Adriana is an Imperial Roman Villa par excellence. Commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian as his summer residence, its construction was a gradual affair: beginning around 118 AD, work on Villa Adriana took over 20 years to be completed. Its size is suitably impressive: 120 hectares of parkland, water fountains and buildings including theatres, libraries and spas.
Is Villa Adriana really so amazing?
Yes, it is. It is because Villa Adriana is, first and foremost, a wonder to behold: the ruins, the coloured marble, the internal gardens, the Imperial Palace, the Maritime Theatre, the Large and Small Spas. And the feeling of walking around a private residence only enhances its charm; not a celebratory monument, but a personal project, and you really get a sense of the life that has passed through the Villa’s walls and gardens.
And the wonder only increases still further if you take the time to learn its history and the reasons behind its existence. Because Villa Adriana in Tivoli is the only example of late Hellenistic art in the world. The coloured mosaics, the decorative stucco, the harmonious contours of the statues. And that’s not all. If it is true that Villa Adriana is the result of Roman architectural genius, it is equally true that the architectural inspiration that you can see within her lines is that of Hadrian: theatrical constructions, irregular symmetries and a desire to reinterpret in Roman style all those works and buildings that had so impressed him during his travels in the provinces of Imperial Rome: Greece and Egypt above all, whose influences are evident in the Greek Theatre and in the Canopo, an artificial valley that recreates the Egyptian city of the same name.
It is therefore not surprising that the greatest artists in history were captivated by what they saw at Villa Adriana and by the feelings she aroused in them.
A few names? Michelangelo. Leonardo. Raphael. Borromini. Piranesi. Canova.
For its strategic position: the residence of Augustus had to be built somewhere that was easily reached from Rome, for obvious practical reasons for the Emperor, and for representative requirements.
Tivoli is not just only 28 km from Rome, but it is also easily reached:
- by land, following via Tiburtina Valeria and via Prenestina. Indeed, Villa Adriana is located right on via Tiburtina and extends as far as the foot of Monte Ripoli, on which stands the town of Tivoli.
- by river, by crossing the River Aniene, which in Roman times was navigable by ship and ended by gently embracing the Villa that stood on Monti Tiburtini.
Ancient and recent history is not about the timely understanding of the importance of past works of architecture. Villa Adriana is no exception. After the death of Hadrian in 138 AD followed a period of abandonment during which the Villa was stripped of precious objects.
During the Middle Ages, a large proportion of the surrounding countryside was used for agriculture and grazing. Other areas became quarries for the extraction of stone and other important materials, such as marble and mosaics.
For the whole of the Risorgimento and up to 1800, there was a period of widespread dispersion of the works that had been protected within the Villa: excavations uncovered more than 300 items, including portraits, statues, reliefs, sculptures and mosaics, which found their way into European private collections and museums.
The turning point in the recovery of Villa Adriana came about in 1870. The State expropriated the lands of Hadrian from the Braschi family and began excavations. The unearthing of such a masterpiece caused reverberations throughout the world and Villa Adriana finally began to enjoy the treatment she deserved, culminating in her recognition as a World Heritage Site.
Today, whoever wishes to admire this wonder of man and nature can find all the necessary information, opening hours and ticket prices in order to visit Villa Adriana in Tivoli simply by clicking HERE.
If you aren’t yet convinced by our words and images… take a look at this video!