In UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites in Lazio we find the splendid Villa Adriana, built in the 2nd century AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and situated in the lovely town of Tivoli, about 30 km from Rome. To imagine the majesty of this imperial residence, it is enough to know that with its 120 hectares, of which 40 can be visited, it covered an area greater than the entire city of Pompeii.
The statues that are exhibited today in the Villa’s Antiquarium, in the Capitoline Museums, in the Vatican Museums, and in many other museums in Europe, are evidence of how Emperor Hadrian expressed, in the construction of his country residence on the slopes of the Tiburtine Mountains, all his own cultural heritage, so influenced by Greek culture that still today this place expresses his complex and fascinating personality. Moreover, there Hadrian wanted to evoke the places and monuments that had most fascinated him during his travels through the provinces of the Empire, above all Egypt.
Within Hadrian’s Villa there is also a small island, with a diameter of 24.5 metres and connected to the surrounding land by two wooden swivel bridges, which allowed the emperor to spend a few hours in total isolation and tranquillity.
The remains of the aqueducts reveal the great quantity of water that flowed from the Aniene river to supply the fountains, the thermal baths and the artificial lakes, the Cento Camerelle capable of hosting more than 1,500 people, testimony that the structure was highly frequented by guests, as well as by slaves, servants and administrators.
In the heart of the complex was the imperial residence, including the buildings intended for the emperor’s private life, built on the traditional Roman domus scheme, as well as service or representation rooms and structures: from the Praetorium Pavilion to the Cryptoporticus, from the Fishpond to the Guard Barracks, from the Canopus to the Academy.
Hadrian’s Villa is the largest Roman villa to have ever belonged to an emperor and is still today testimony to the extraordinary level of mastery achieved in the field of architecture.