This astonishingly grand 2nd-century villa was an emperor's theme park: an exclusive retreat below the ancient settlement of Tibur where the marvels of the classical world were reproduced for a ruler's pleasure. Hadrian, who succeeded Trajan as emperor in AD 117, was a man of genius and intellectual curiosity, fascinated by the accomplishments of the Hellenistic world. From AD 125 to 134, architects, laborers, and artists worked on the villa, periodically spurred on by
the emperor himself when he returned from another voyage full of ideas for even more daring constructions (he also gets credit for Rome's Pantheon). After his death in AD 138 the fortunes of his villa declined as it was sacked by barbarians and Romans alike. Many of his statues and decorations ended up in the Vatican Museums, but the expansive ruins are nonetheless compelling. It's not the single elements but the delightful effect of the whole that makes Hadrian's Villa so great. Oleanders, pines, and cypresses growing among the ruins heighten the visual impact. To help you get your bearings, get a map, which is issued free with the audio guides (€5). A visit here takes at least two hours. In summer visit early to take advantage of cool mornings.
Bivio di Villa Adriana off Via Tiburtina, 6 km (4 mi) southwest of Tivoli, Tivoli, 00019, Italy