UNESCO World Heritage Site
Outside Rome, a bit southwest of the town of Tivoli in Lazio Province, the monumental Roman ruins of Villa Adriana stand as a testament to the ambitions and fancies of Emperor Hadrian. Based upon the emperor’s design and built in the 2nd century A.D., the villa site presents a remarkable fusion of ostentatious architecture – a vast complex of buildings and thermal baths – cradled within hundreds of acres of green terrain.
In what remains of the Emperor’s extravagant retreat, once impeccable garden settings demonstrate the influences of Greek and Egyptian art, especially the preserved area of the Canopus; its name taken from an Egyptian city.
Set off by magnificent statuary and fountains, the central feature – a long reflecting pool, is watched over by caryatids – figures copied from the Athenian temple of Erechteion, and linked to the god Sarapis. Colonnades remind visitors of the Villa’s once glorious structures.
Travelers generally set aside a day to immerse themselves in the ancient history of Villa Adriana, reimagining the goings-on in the marvelous courtyards, together with time spent at the nearby Villa d’Este, commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. With the passing of many centuries, the deterioration of Hadrian’s magnificent architectural complex may be seen to follow the decline of the Roman Empire itself. Further adding to the ruin of Villa Adriana’s artifacts and architecture, Cardinal d’Este claimed many of the site’s superb marble elements and statues, placing them in his own ostentatious country estate.
A stone crocodile pays homage to Hadrian’s memories of the Nile.