The splendid Villa Adriana in Tivoli is one of the Italian sites included by Unesco in the World Heritage List. Built at the behest of the emperor Hadrian, it is a monumental housing complex that still today stages the splendor of the places of power of ancient Rome.
Wanted by the emperor Hadrian as his residence starting from 117 AD, the villa was built on the basis of a pre-existing building owned by his wife Vibia Sabina, who formed the first nucleus.
Built in the vicinity of the capital in the Tiburtini Mountains, about 28 km from Rome, it was reachable both by means of the via Tiburtina and via Prenestina, or by navigating the river Aniene.
The chosen area was rich in water and four of the ancient aqueducts that served Rome passed through it (Anio Vetus, Anio Novus, Aqua Marcia and Aqua Claudia). In its vicinity there is still the sulphurous water source of Acque Albule (the odious Bagni di Tivoli), known and much appreciated by the emperor.
The area that today we recognize as pertaining to the villa certainly occupies about 120 ha: it is a very vast extension of land for a private complex, albeit of imperial property . However, it is not certain that the current perimeter includes the entire surface of the Hadrian area.
After Hadrian’s death, the villa continued to be used, as shown by the brick stamps relevant to 3rd century restorations, but was subsequently gradually abandoned and during the Middle Ages reduced to agricultural land, except for being used as a quarry for valuable building materials ( marble, mosaics, decorations) for the houses of Tivoli, and as a stone reserve from which to extract lime.