Hadrian’s Villa | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Hadrian’s Villa

Tivoli, Lazio, Italy

Lucy Davidson

20 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign.

History of Hadrian’s Villa

One of the best kept and most visited archaeological sites in Italy, Hadrian’s Villa is located in the town of Tivoli, outside Rome. Built by Emperor Hadrian, the site attests to the lavishness and enormous power of Ancient Rome.

Its location was chosen due to its abundant waters and the availability of four aqueducts that passed through to Rome: Anio Vetus, Anio Nobus, Aqua Marcia, and Aqua Claudia.

Hadrian’s Villa covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest. The site includes the remains of a large colonnaded swimming pool, libraries, the Palestra, barracks, gardens, fountains, nymphaeums, and the famous Maritime Theatre. Most intriguing of all are the remains of Hadrian’s small island retreat – including his personal toilet – which served as the Emperor’s private escape from the stress of Imperial life.

Not the easiest site to access, and not among the most famous of Rome’s attractions, Hadrian’s Villa is nevertheless a startling tribute to the power of the Roman Empire and the magnificence that could be brought to bear by its leaders.

The site has been UNESCO World Heritage Listed since 1999. In February 2021, archaeologists announced that they had discovered Hadrian’s breakfast room at the site.

Hadrian’s Villa Today

Today, it is only possible to see 40 hectares of the site. This space does, however, attest to the magnificence and significance of the complex.

These include The Vestibule, which connect the Great and Small Baths, The Canopus, which is made up of a long canal lined by columns of caryatids in homage to the ancient Egyptian city of the same name, The Maritime Theatre, a portico which contained a round pool representing the sea, the Great and Small Baths, and the Greek Theatre, Greek Library, and Latin Library.

A full exploration of Hadrian’s Villa takes at least three hours and can be physically strenuous in the summer heat. Equally, for the most in-depth experience, it’s worth booking the villa as part of a tour which departs from Cavour metro station, one stop away from Termini.

Getting to Hadrian’s Villa

From the centre of Rome, Hadrian’s Villa is reachable in around 35 minutes via the A24 road. From the centre of Tivoli, the site is reachable in around 10 minutes via the SR5 road, or is an hour’s walk by the same route.

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