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Domus Aurea

Domus Aurea (13)

“Good! Now at last I can begin to live like a human being”. This is what Nero said the first time he set foot in the Domus Aurea. This building, constructed in the area destroyed by the fire of 64, was conceived as an enormous and luxurious palace. It was a complex of halls, gardens, courtyards and even a large artificial lake, the same lake over which later Emperor Vespasian would build the Colisseum. The emperors who followed also contributed to the gradual disappearance of the palace: Titus and Trajan built complexes of spas and temples over it, and Hadrian sited the Temple of Venus and Rome in the vestibule.

However, these efforts to erase Nero’s work meant that, over time, they created the very conditions necessary for the correct conservation of the Domus Aurea.

Despite this fact, visiting the spot is complicated and the palace has been open and closed to the public on several occasions for reasons of safety. If you are curious about this residence of Nero, remember that you should make a prior booking to see it. 

Once inside, you will be able to appreciate a unique palace, about which Roman writers of the time wrote extensively. Suetonius, in his biography of Nero, describes the Domus Aurea as a place with the walls covered in gold and mother-of-pearl, and which from the ceiling were hung flowers and the baths contained aquamarine. Tacitus wrote of the lavish parties that were given in the gardens, with great feasts and prostitutes who belonged to the aristocracy.

It was during the Renaissance when the collapse of part of the spas built on top enabled the Domus to be rediscovered, and for artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael to visit its grottoes and examine its decorations.  

Over time, archaeologists have identified as many as 150 rooms, of which only 30 are open to the public. However, if you can, it is worth visiting the fresco paintings with fantasy-filled motifs, dragons and winged creatures, the Golden Vault room, considered Nero’s throne room, and the areas dedicated to Polyphemus and Ulysses.

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