Thursday, 19 November 2015

Villa Adriana: Ogling Beardo's House

Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Italy (Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italia)
As we had foolishly neglected to visit the villa of the Roman Emperor Hadrian on our 2013 trip, we now excitedly made our way there. Located in Tivoli, it's just a half hour drive from central Rome. Back in the day, Tivoli was a popular area for the ancient Roman "rich and famous" to build their villas - alongside Hadrian, the Emperor Augustus and the poet Horace also had residences there. 
Now it is very much a ruin, which made the map of the villa extremely confusing as it showed how it looked in Hadrian's time. I loved how much greenery was around, with rosemary and olive trees dotted around all over the place. The turtles must have liked it too - a dozen of them were paddling in the shallow pool and dozing in the shade. 
Before I go on, I should probably give you a little background as to why I am so enamoured with Hadrian. On our 2013 trip (the above photo is me and a bust of the Emperor from that adventure) I hadn't known much about him, but as we explored Europe we kept stumbling across great buildings and momuments he had erected. This was especially true in Greece, as Hadrian had a particular fondness for Greek culture (me too, bro, me too!), and was even nicknamed 'Greekling'. When being clean shaven was the norm in Rome, he sported a stylish beard as that's how the Greeks liked their facial hair. He also loved domes and wanted one on every building. Just look at the Pantheon, with the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world! What a guy. 
The majority of buildings on the site were either baths or triclinia (dining rooms) with an attached arcade. These arcades usually had gardens in the middle with mosaics around the sides where a pathway would be covered to protect amblers from sun and rain. The building above is a bath house, with Hadrian's signature dome sitting atop. 
Adjacent to one triclinium was what is believed to be a kitchen. It was blocked off by a metal fence, but I squeezed my face in as far as it would go to have a look. The skylights gave it such a magical atmosphere. 
Quite a bit of the ground was still covered in mosaic tiles. One day when I am a homeowner (as if! too grown up) I want mosaic floors in my house, so I threw off my jandals to have a feel and see what it would be like to walk around on all day. Not bad! In the Hospitalier, where members of the guard resided, the mosaics were incredibly intact and showed various vegetal and geometric patterns. 
We had brought sandwich supplies and ate in a grassy area shaded by olive trees. It's a great place for a picnic, as the grounds are extensive and even on a busy day you could probably find a quiet spot somewhere. It was very quiet when we went, though we were bombarded by a tour group at one stage and watched a few of them doing cartwheels, undoubtedly for their Instagram feed #liveauthentic (Do be aware that it is forbidden to bring easels onto the villa's grounds, which is ridiculous! Why would you not allow people to paint the surroundings?)
More baths! (Spot the Necia to get a sense of scale.) Hadrian kept adding to his existing villa, seemingly to entertain more and more visitors. What do the people of Ancient Rome need? Baths and banquet halls, clearly. 
Much of the marble and decorative items had been stolen over the centuries since the decline of the Roman Empire, but replicas have been added where possible. Overall I greatly enjoyed walking around in Hadrian's footsteps and imagining how it may have been nearly two thousand years ago. One huge disappointment was that his personal chambers were closed to the public (there were a lot of hammering and whizzing noises beyond the chain link fence). From the audio guide, it sounded hands down like the best part of the villa, as an interior moat of water separated the exterior walls from his room, with little bridges across. 
Now for a practicality: if you intend to visit Villa Adriana, don't pay €3 to park in the adjoining carpark. Instead, park on Via della Rosolina and walk an easy 400 meters to the site. It's free! 

Today's post was almost called: The Texture of History - A Footal Investigation