First excavated in 1839, this house was identifiable from the name inscribed on a lead pipe, Iulia Augusta. In other words, it belonged to the notorious Livia that—according to Robert Graves's I, Claudius—made a career of dispatching half of the Roman imperial family. (There's actually very little evidence for such claims.) She was the wife of Rome's first, and possibly greatest, emperor, Augustus. He married Livia when she was six months pregnant by her previous husband, whom Augustus "encouraged" to get a divorce. As empress, Livia became a role model for Roman women, serving her husband faithfully, shunning excessive displays of wealth, and managing her household. But she also had real influence: As well as playing politics behind the scenes, she even had the rare honor (for a woman) of being in charge of her own finances. Here, atop the Palatine, is where she made her private retreat and living quarters. The delicate, delightful frescoes reflect the sophisticated taste of wealthy Romans, whose love of beauty and theatrical conception of nature were revived by their descendants in the Renaissance Age. While closed at the time of this writing, the House of Livia will sometimes open for brief periods, so check by phoning or online at www.coopculture.it.
Northwest crest of Palatino, Rome, Latium, 00184, Italy