Tivoli’s Riches: Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana)

Poppies in the ruins

After our visit to Villa d’Este (see yesterday’s post), we drove down the mountain four miles to Hadrian’s Villa, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t walk this from Tivoli. Although it’s only four miles, it’s way too steep, and there are no sidewalks. In fact, we recommend driving to Tivoli, because you can control your day much better and you are not at the mercy of public transportation. At Villa Adriana be prepared for a long, dusty walk before you even reach the villa from the entrance to the park, wear comfortable shoes, and bring lots of sunscreen.

Garden at Hotel Adriano at the entrance to Villa Adriana

We were hot and tired when we arrived at Hadrian’s Villa. We had decided to eat at Hotel Adriano, a small inn near the entrance to the villa. When we first saw it, we weren’t too sure we’d made the right decision, but we were looking at the coffee shop. Behind the coffee shop is a cool, shady garden that is part of the inn’s restaurant. The garden has a few tables set up for lunch or dinner. It was sublime to sit there, have a good (but not remarkable) lunch and a bottle of wine, and chill for a couple of hours. We recommend this place, which wasn’t very busy (but neither was the villa at that moment).

Detail of one of the statues at the Canopus

Hadrian became emperor in 117 AD, and Villa Adriana was built as his summer palace from 125 to 134 AD because he didn’t like the palace on Palatine Hill in Rome. Much of the villa is in disrepair now, but in its prime, the enormous villa spread over 250 acres and its more than 30 buildings included a theater, a stadium, libraries, thermal baths, servants quarters, several pools and fountains, and underground supply tunnels. After Hadrian’s death in 138 AD, many of his artifacts and statues ended up in the Vatican Museums, and it is rumored that Cardinal Ippolito d’Este took a few statues for his Villa d’Este up the hill. In Rome, pieces of one building were often used to construct other buildings, including St. Peter’s, so pillaging was a common practice.

As I did with Villa d’Este, I’ll let our photos tell the story. We were fascinated by Hadrian’s Villa and thoroughly enjoyed our tour. A cold bottle of water back at the coffee shop was one of the best treats of a wonderful day!


P.S., Although Hadrian wasn’t a popular ruler, I like him because he rebuilt the Pantheon, one of my favorite places in Rome, and he built Castel Sant’Angelo, another favorite, as his mausoleum.

Exit from the Golden Square into an olive grove. Olive trees, many of them very old, surrounded the villa.

Baths with heliocaminus

I think this is the baths with the heliocaminus. The map was awful, so we often couldn’t decide where we were.

I don’t know what this is, but it was near the stadium. It might have been the stadium!

Large baths – among the best preserved of the buildings

Large baths

Large baths – these were reserved for the men. The small baths were reserved for the women.

Large baths

Large baths – the amazing remains of the roof. I was a little afraid to stand underneath it to take a photo (Michael took this one).

Canopus – huge dinner parties were held here

Canopus – south end, opposite of Hadrian’s seat. Guests were arrayed down the pool according to their importance, with the most important seated near Hadrian.


Canopus – view from Hadrian’s seat. On Saturday, the ponds were full of fish, turtles, and tadpoles.

Unknown building near the Imperial Palace (which exists no longer)

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One Response to Tivoli’s Riches: Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana)

  1. Charlie Gehringer says:

    Very good Sue, great pictures. Thanks Charlie and Trudy

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