Villa Adriana information
Lonely Planet review
Some 5km outside Tivoli proper, Emperor Hadrian's sumptuous summer residence set new standards of luxury when it was built between AD 118 and 134 – a remarkable feat given the excesses of the Roman Empire. More like a small town than a villa, it's vast – a model near the entrance gives an idea of the scale of the original complex – and you'll need several hours to explore it. Consider hiring an audioguide (€5), which gives a helpful overview.
Hadrian was a great traveller and enthusiastic architect and he personally designed much of the complex, taking inspiration from buildings he'd seen around the world. The pecile , a large porticoed pool area where the emperor used to stroll after lunch, was a reproduction of a building in Athens. Similarly, the canopo is a copy of the sanctuary of Serapis in the Egyptian town of Canopus, with a long canal of water enclosed by a colonnade. The Serapaeum , which provides a backdrop for the pool, was an outdoor summer dining room, where Hadrian held banquets.
To the east of the pecile is another highlight, the Teatro Marittimo , Hadrian's private retreat. Built on an island in an artificial pool, it was originally a mini-villa accessible only by swing bridges, which the emperor would have raised when he felt like a dip. Nearby, the fish pond is encircled by an underground gallery where Hadrian liked to wander.
There are also several magnificent bath complexes , temples , barracks , and a museum (often closed) with the latest discoveries from ongoing excavations.