Legend has it that Nero famously fiddled while Rome burned. Fancying himself a great actor and poet, he played, as it turns out, his harp to accompany his recital of "The Destruction of Troy" while gazing at the flames of Rome's catastrophic fire of AD 64. Anti-Neronian historians propagandized that Nero, in fact, had set the Great Fire to clear out a vast tract of the city center to build his new palace. Today's historians discount this as historical folderol (going so
far as to point to the fact that there was a full moon on the evening of July 19, hardly the propitious occasion to commit arson). But legend or not, Nero did get to build his new palace, the extravagant Domus Aurea (Golden House)—a vast "suburban villa" that was inspired by the emperor's pleasure palace at Baia on the Bay of Naples. His new digs were huge and sumptuous, with a facade of pure gold, seawater piped into the baths, decorations of mother-of-pearl, fretted ivory, and other precious materials, and vast gardens. It was said that after completing this gigantic house, Nero exclaimed, "Now I can live like a human being!" Unfortunately, following damage due to flooding in December 2008, the Domus is closed for restorations once again.
Via della Domus Aurea, Rome, 00184, Italy
06-39967700-information about possible future openings
May 17, 2004
This was the last place we visited in Rome and it was absolutely fascinating. Most of the walls and roofs are intact from Nero's time. I definitely recommend using the audio guide as there is not much in the way of information inside the Domus Aurea. Booking is a must as they only have two visits per hour with space for 20 or so people. Also bring a jacket as it is cold even on a hot day.