I did not know what to expect – somehow it sounds similar to the Villa Romana del Casale on Sicily. But in reality it is much different. The Villa Adriana covers and enormous area, 120ha. It was built as an ‘ideal city’, planned by Emperor Hadrian to entertain himself and his guests. 900 servants lived on the premises. In addition to its size, it is also remarkable how much of it still stands. Or stands again, as several buildings display clear signs of concrete or brick reconstruction.
In the middle of summer this will be an excruciating hot site to visit – it’s all open land without shade, dusty, and the main monuments need quite a hike to get there. Signage is scarce, and there’s nowhere to buy a drink. During my visit in early September it was cloudy but still about 25 degrees. I did my best to find all interesting sights, but must admit that it was exhausting. The problem with the site is that there are no clear highlights: there are some mosaics, a few marble columns, plus the remains of many Roman structures built to enjoy and relax. None of them really stand out however, there's almost no decoration left and I found it all very bland.
Tom Livesey (United Kingdom):
I went to Tivoli in April 2015. Making efficient use of the four day Easter weekend involved flying to Rome Fiumicino early on Good Friday, where we met up with some friends fresh from the centre of Rome. We hired a car and drove straight to Tivoli, where we would spend a night and visit two WHSs.
The Villa Adriana is really more of a small town, created in large part by the emperor Hadrian, who was a keen amateur architect, in the second century AD. He decided that an out-of-town retreat would be just the thing he needed after he made himself less than universally popular in Rome by having several senators put to death. The site is a bit of a mishmash of buildings of various purposes, which include a grand villa, temples, a large bath house and the water feature known as the Canopus.
Around the Canopus Hadrian placed statues that he particularly wanted to show off to his visitors, such as a row of ‘Caryatids’ designed to imitate the female-form columns of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis. Hadrian was a philhellene, or an admirer of all things Greek, so he had numerous statues brought over or copied. He was possibly the first Roman emperor to sport a beard – not, as was cruelly suggested, to conceal acute acne, but because his heroes the Greek philosophers were similarly hirsute.
On the other side of the site we found the atmospheric Temple of Venus. This area has some of the best views of the Tiburtine Hills. There have been some significant finds at the Villa over the years that have ended up in major national collections across Europe, such as one of the best Roman copies of the lost Greek Discobolus statue, which you can see nowadays in the British Museum.
Date posted: August 2015 Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
Villa Adriana, the summer residence of Emperior Hadrian (used when he didn't travel across his vast empire and had walls built along its borders to protect it), is located a few kilometres outside of Tivoli proper, and can be easily reached by bus from that town (the stop is actually quite close to Villa d'Este). It is a vast archaeological park (the largest palace ever built by a Roman emperor) with many different buildings in various states of preservation - some look like new, some are in ruins, and some look like they have been under renovations for many, many years (e.g. the Teatro Marittimo). A leisurely walk takes at least 2-3 hours, and in some places, away from the crowds of schoolkids, it is easy to imagine yourself in Hadrian's footsteps. He was fond of Greek and Egyptian architecture, and you can easily recognize these influences in many of the buildings, e.g. in the Canopus pond with its Greek statues. The site definitely needs better maintenance (i.e. more funds), but it still gives a fascinating insight into ancient history.
Date posted: May 2015 Clyde (Malta):
I visited this great WHS in March 2014. I visited Rome several times but this time round I decided to drive to Tivoli for a day trip. Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are quite close to each other by car and it is feasible to visit both in 1 day. Hadrian’s villa is huge and 2-3 hours to be able to scrape the surface and understand its importance. The highlight of my visit was the Canopus with the replica statue of Mars. There are several thermal baths, columns, mosaics, etc to keep you busy exploring. It's definitely one of Italy’s top WHS.
Date posted: March 2014 Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
After paying the ticket I stopped in an office where there was a wooden reproduction in miniature of Villa Adriana when it was erected (during the second century) and then I went to explore the site, which took me about one and a half hour.
Although the remains are much destroyed, it gave me an idea of the splendor of the villa during Adriano times. I saw statues and the remains of the baths, the theater, plus a well preserved fragment of the wall. The surface of Villa Adriana covers almost one square kilometer.
It was in this place where Cesar Adriano spent the last years of his life. He was born near Sevilla, in Spain, which is a pride for me.
Date posted: January 2014 john booth (New Zealand):
After visiting Villa d'Este I returned to Tivoli's Piazza Garibaldi and caught a #4 bus to Villa Adriana, 6 kms away. Although the villa is in ruins I was surprised to find remnants of buildings standing up to three storeys high. It was not hard to envisage the extent and grandeur of this villa and its surroundings.
Date posted: September 2011 Robin (USA): Villa Adriana is the most amazing serene place you could ever imagine! You unfortunately have to take a train to the town, two different shuttles which are very inconsistant, but it is worth it! It took five hours just to run around the 40% of the site which was open. Definately take a guide with you so that you know what you are looking at. It is quite a maze to figure out where you are in some spots but that is what makes it so special. When you enter there is an excavation site on your right, go past it and turn right before the modern building and there will be a beautiful path to a building which overlooks Tivoli... so amazing! Bring a bottle of wine, and a sandwhich from the market in tivoli, your camera, and enjoy!!! Date posted: November 2005
Have you been to Villa Adriana (Tivoli)? Share your experiences!