Rome Tours

Hadrian’s Villa Tour

Your driver will be waiting at Rome’s Fiumicino airport “Leonardo da Vinci”, your hotel or other agreed starting point, to take you to Tivoli, one of the most popular resorts of the province of Rome, where you will visit the great archaeological complex of Villa Adriana.

On the way, if you wish, you can stop at a bar for a coffee break.

Villa Adriana was built between 118 to 134 AD by Emperor Hadrian as his imperial residence outside of Rome. It covers an area of 100 hectares, and is the largest and most important surviving Roman villa. Over the centuries many artists, including Andrea Palladio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Borrormini, Piranesi and Antonio Canova da Sangallo, visited the ruins of the Villa for inspiration, copying its forms and attempting to discover the technical secrets that made this ancient structure so durable. We know from reliable historical sources that it was the same Hadrian who chose the location and design of his villa between the Via Prenestina and Via Tiburtina on the vast plain of Tivoli, at the foot of the Tiburtini mountains, only 17 miles from Rome. The area had rich quarries, and still does, of materials such as travertine, pozzolana and tufo that were used in the construction of the Villa. In addition during that period four aqueducts (Anio Vetus Anio Novus, Aqua Marcia and Aqua Claudia) converged to provide sources of water for drinking, a sewage system and the baths of the Maritime Theatre. The Maritime Theater was one of the first buildings to be constructed near the villa and was particularly unique. One floor contained a portico, of which nothing remains today, but traces of mosaic floors can be seen at the threshold of the atrium. Inside is a circular portico with Ionic columns, which overlooks a canal and at whose center lies a small island of 45 meters in diameter which was accessible by a causeway.

The first archaeological excavations of Villa Adriana were ordered in the second half of the sixteenth century by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, lord and governor of the Tivoli Villa d’Este. This can be visited during another of our tours devoted entirely to the villa.

Slabs of marble from various locations of the Mediterranean, completely covered the floor and walls up to the ceiling of this magnificent Roman villa. Unfortunately, only a few traces remain today because many valuable decorations were removed over the centuries, especially during the Middle Ages, and later in the eighteenth century, when Villa Adriana was a favorite destination of the wealthy English nobles on the Grand Tour.

About 400 statues, mainly Roman copies of Greek originals, adorn the interiors and exteriors of this grand residence, and some are preserved today in the biggest museums of Rome and the world, such as the famous “Myron’s Discus Thrower” which can now be seen in the Vatican Museums. These beautiful sculptures, inspired by Greek and Egyptian originals, were reflected in the waters of the attractive basin known as Canopus. It ended with a semicircular architectural Ninfeo, which was used as the triclinium (dining room) during summer and was conceived as a cave-shaped shell, a wall divided into nine niches and originally covered by an enormous vault. At the heart of one of the long sides of the channel four Caryatids can be seen, copies of famous statues of the Erechtheion in Athens, along with two Sileni. The originals are now preserved in the adjacent museum, which contains a collection of sculptures found in this area, including copies of the Amazon of Fidia and the Amazon of Phidias Policleto as well as a copy of the fourth century BC Venus of Cnidus.

Several other interesting architectural remains can be seen inside the Villa Adriana. These include the Piccole Terme, decorated with great wealth and used by the imperial family, and, in addition, the Grande Terme used by the Villa’s staff. Villa Adriana was structured as a fortress, surrounded by high walls. It was divided into areas that were allocated to the various inhabitants of the building based on their social class. Using the large branching network of underground paths slaves could move from one building to another without being seen.

Of particular note is the large square known as Pecile, a reconstruction of the famous “painted porch” of the agora of Athens, a city loved by Hadrian. Indeed the emperor conceived the suburban residence of Tivoli as an exclusive collection of all the knowledge of art he had accumulated during his travels in the ancient world.

You will be pleasantly surprised by the exceptional nature of Villa Adriana and in and around the archaeological site you will find many restaurants where you can enjoy typical Roman culinary specialties.

After the tour our driver will return you to your hotel or the airport at Rome Fiumicino.

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