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Hadrian's Villa

Secluded in the valley of Tivoli, Hadrian's Villa is the former magnificent palace of one of Rome's greatest emperors.

TravelCurious Tip

You can feed the ducks and swans swimming in the large pool of the Pecile today, but be careful not to get too close - those swans can be a bit temperamental.

Alone in the valley

One of the best spots for a daytrip from Rome is the ancient hilltop town of Tivoli. Among other sights, Tivoli is home to the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa. The Emperor Hadrian was apparently not fond of the imperial palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome, and was also known to enjoy his solitude, a hard thing to find in the metropolis. He fancied that he could build himself a better home elsewhere – and he certainly did. 

Hadrian chose the valley below Tivoli as the spot, and built his elaborate palatial estate with a wide range of inspirations from Greek and Egyptian architecture in the design. The result was an enormous site of about 30 buildings, including temples, baths, private rooms, guest quarters, dining halls, libraries and a huge underground network of tunnels and rooms where his retinue of slaves lived and managed the Villa behind the scenes. These remarkable underground slave quarters were called the Cryptoporticus.

Upon entering the site the first remains you will see are of the Pecile, a courtyard once surrounded by colonnades intended to resemble the Painted Porch of Athens, the debate hall of the stoic philosophers. From here the Philosopher’s Hall leads to the Maritime Theatre, Hadrian’s private bath and exercise space surrounded by a moat. Close by are the Stadio, where Hadrian enjoyed athletic games and entertainment, and the larger shared thermae (heated baths).

An eclectic legacy

Some of the most beautiful ruins on the site are the Canopus gardens. The Canopus, named and modelled after the famous canal in Alexandria, is one of the best examples of the Alexandrian garden left to us, with its pool of green water surrounded by columns and copies of Greek and Egyptian sculptures. The Serapeum, an adjacent artificial grotto (named after the Egyptian goddess Serapis) contains a raised platform that may have functioned as an extravagant dining area. After the discovery of new archaeological remains in 1998, it has been suggested that Hadrian had the tomb of his cherished lover Antinous brought back to his Villa after he mysteriously drowned in the Nile, but this remains unproven.

The Villa was occasionally used by some of Hadrian’s successors, but fell into ruin after the fall of the Empire. Much of its remaining marble and sculpture was pillaged by Cardinal d’Este for his own lavish villa nearby in 1550. Many important sculptures found here can now be seen in the Capitoline and Vatican Museums. Only approximately one third of this magnificent space, which is a World Heritage Site, is visible today, emerging from the olive groves and fields which have engulfed it. While the ruins are impressive enough in themselves, one can imagine the huge splendour of the Villa in its heyday; gilded and full of colourful mosaic, paintings, statues, and furniture, and home to one of the most learned and versatile leaders in Rome’s history.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Catacombs
An underground network of ancient Christian burial grounds.
National Museum of Rome
The Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi and Baths of Diocletian - plenty to see here.
Appian Way
This ancient Roman road goes outside the city walls and is crammed with fascinating sights.
Villa d'Este
A fine home featuring an incredible Italian Renaissance garden, complete with some very impressive fountains.
Archbasilica of St. John in the Lateran
Said to be the oldest in the world, this is the mother of all Christian churches.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
This spectacular Baroque church is one of the four most important in Rome.

Related Tours

Escape To Tivoli Private Tour inc Transportation: Villa D'Este and Hadrian's Villa
Jump into your private car and cruise towards Tivoli, a day of tranquil escape. 

  • Visit the monumental Hadrian's Villa - so large it was once thought to be a city in itself.
  • Jump 1500 years forward in time to the Villa d'Este, one of the most beautiful villas in Italy.
  • Walk through the world-famous Villa d'Este gardens.
  • Learn all about Roman history from past to present.
  • Travel with your own private car and guide out to Tivoli.
First stop on this private tour from Rome to Tivoli is Hadrian’s villa, a place where natural beauty, architectural creativity, art and history come together with a magic that has no equal in all of Europe. Boasting an intriguing mix of Greek and Egyptian monuments, the villa represents  the aesthetic sensibility of Hadrian and the artists of the period, subsequently influencing many artists from the Renaissance onwards.

Strolling from the huge arcades of the entrance through to the Throne Room, you will visit the Greater Baths, the Vestibule, the Academy, the Palestra, the Greek Theatre, the Private Library, the Maritime Theatre and the famous Canopy - a valley with a canal surrounded by arcades and statues. With your expert guide, you will learn about the intelligent Hadrian, youthful Antinous, and their tragic love story. 

Your experience will fast-forward in time nearly 1,500 years as you reach the Villa d’Este, one of the most beautiful palaces and gardens in Italy. Uncover the intriguing and controversial history of this infamous family with your guide.  After a refreshing walk through the gardens and fountains of the villa you will be driven back to your hotel, where you can relax and think about the wonderful treasures that you have just seen and on this special Rome private tour.
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