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64. Diving in Roman Genius: Villa Adriana

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole

As I wrote in my previous blog about Villa d'Este, 45 minutes away East of Rome, there are two amazing historic places, Villa D'Este and Villa Adriana. Today this blog is about Villa Adriana, a large Roman archaeological complex at the foot of the hill of Tivoli. Like Villa d'Este also the Hadrian's Villa is UNESCO World Heritage Site, property of Italy and, since December 2014, it is directed and run by the Polo Museale del Lazio.

The villa, built between 220 and 230 AD, at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli), was conceived to be the Roman Emperor Hadrian's retreat from Rome, a place to relax from his everyday life.

In the orientation small building inside the archeological area, one can see how the villa looked when it was built. It's a mind-boggling view: The whole complex sees the presence of over 30 buildings, covering an area of more than 250 acres. This amazing vast site, as big as a luxury self-sufficient modern gated community, is another outstanding example of the greatness and genius of ancient Rome in terms of architecture, urban planning, technology and organization. Containing many houses, pools, baths, fountains, small temples and even a theatre, it was obviously designed, in the classical Greek architecture, to offer to its owner the maximum comfort and peace of mind. It is no wonder that all the constructions, well spaced from one another, were graciously adorned with a mixture of landscaped gardens, wilderness areas and cultivated farmlands.

Hadrian chose this particular site due to the abundant waters and readily available aqueducts that passed through Rome (Anio Vetus, Anio Nobus, Aqua Marcia, and Aqua Claudia). All the water needed for personal use, fountains and swimming pools could be easily taken from them.

I believe that the most striking parts of the Villa is its wonderfully preserved pool, named Canopus and the artificial grotto at the end of it, named Serapeum. Even if both names have Egyptian references (a city named Canopus and a temple named Serapeum), the architecture of the swimming pool has a clear Greek influence, visible in in the Corinthian columns and the copies of famous Greek statues that surround the water.

So, if you are not in the mood to flock with other thousands people in the Forums downtown Rome, but you still want to admire the ancient Roman architecture and explore what remains of its wonders, let's go to Tivoli and in one day I'll guide you through both Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este, where you will also be mesmerized by the beauty of Baroque art.

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