Hadrian was a Roman Emperor who built many of the most famous Roman fortifications (like Hadrian's Wall), monuments, and temples that survive today. But he didn't just build large walls and temples, he also built his own magnificent city-like villa. The villa was built around 120 AD just outside of Rome at Tivoli, and today it's open to the public.

There is so much to see and do while in Rome that it is impossible to do the ancient and modern city justice in a short visit. Try squeezing Hadrian's Villa into an essential weekend itinerary while in Rome. The villa is also not very expensive to visit and so is one of the more stunning attractions one can visit while on a budget in Rome.


The "Good" Emperor Hadrian

Hadrian is said to have not liked the Roman palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome and so decided to build himself an opulent retreat just out of the bustling city. It was normal for Roman emperors to build villa as treats from the taxing everyday life of running the empire in Rome. Some of these villas were so large and self-sufficient that they had their own farms that produced enough food for the villa.

In the later years of his reign, Hadrian did more than just relax there, he also governed the empire from his villa. By around 128 AD it was his official residence.

  • Edward Gibbon: Incudes Hadrian among the Empire's "Five Good Emperors", a "benevolent dictator"
  • Reigned: 117 To 138

Hadrian died at the age of 63 leaving the Empire in a stable and good shape for his successor Antoninus Pius.

After the great emperor Hadrian, the villa continued to be used on occasion by successor Roman Emperors like Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Septimius Severus, and Caracalla (extrapolating from their busts found at the villa).

Related: This Is The Most Scenic Neighborhood In Rome (And What To While Visiting)

The Enormity of the Hadrian Villa Complex

"(the Villa) combines the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an 'ideal city'" UNESCO

Governing the burgeoning Roman Empire was no simple feat and a large court also lived there permanently. Many visitors and bureaucrats also stayed and were entertained there. The villa would have looked much like an ancient Roman city.

The Hadrian Villa was a complex fit for an emperor. It covered a vast area with many pools, baths, fountains and plenty of classical Greek and Roman architecture. Hadrian was also a man who traveled, so he also included a number of Egyptian styled buildings and statues. In its day there would have been a mixture of landscaped gardens, cultivated farmlands, and wilderness areas.

In total the complex would have included over 30 buildings and even covered an area larger than that of the city of Pompeii! It covered around a square kilometer (250 acres). Understandably, much of it remains unexcavated today.

  • Number of Buildings: Over 30 Buildings

Hadrian included a number of structures from the many places he had visited in his life.

  • Nile River: The Complex Had A Small "Nile River"
  • Hades: There Was a Grotto Called Hades

One of the most eye-catching of the features of the villa was a huge garden surrounded by a swimming pool and an arcade. At first the pool had wall around it with colonnaded interior.

The villa had two levels. The upper floor was for the emperor's official use and would have been quiet and welcoming. The lower level would have been noisy and bustling filled with slaves.

  • Pool: 232 by 97 meters (761 by 318 ft)

Naturally being a Roman villa, it also had a library, heated baths, three suites with heated floors, an art gallery, a fountain, an island on a lake with wooden drawbridges, lounges, more smaller baths, an atrium, a triclinium, and more.

  • Included: Baths, temples, barracks, theaters, gardens, fountains and nymphaeums

Related: Beating Heart Of Rome: This Is What The Roman Forum Was Like

Hadrian's Villa Today

Today the massive villa has been partially excavated and is open to the public. It is a world Heritage Site (since 1999) and it is (theoretically) protected even in the case of war.

  • Size: 120 Hectares or 250-300 Acres (Of Which 40 Hectares Can Be Seen today)
  • Standard Ticket: 8 Euros ($9.00)
  • Address: Largo Marguerite Yourcenar, 1- 00019 Tivoli (RM)
  • Opening Hours: 9 am to 5-7 pm (Hours Vary Seasonally)

It is located just a short distance outside of Rome and is the perfect day trip while visiting the Eternal City. Learn more about visiting the villa on the Visit Trivoli website.