Nov. 10th: Hadrian’s Villa

Ciao Blog followers!

This morning we woke up early to a grey and cloudy sky with the first hint of fall in the air and a slight breeze. As the bus pulled up to take us on our final road trip, we were exited to see Carlo, from our first road trip, behind the wheel of the bus! We hastily threw our bags into the trunk and shouted our hellos to Carlo as we claimed our seats and headed to Tivoli to visit Hadrian’s Villa. I was very excited to visit the Villa because in my previous experiences Hadrianic structures always seemed to get thrown off the itinerary at the last minute. For example, we were in England but didn’t have time for the wall. Next, we were in Rome but didn’t have time for the Villa. This time, however, Hadrian’s Villa was going to be explored … or else.

As we stepped off the bus at the Villa (constructed from 118-138 CE), we discovered that the grey clouds we thought we had left behind in Rome had also made their way to Tivoli. Despite the weather, we excitedly made our way into the ruins of the Villa to explore. However, before our exploration could begin, Professor Ulrich finally decided to give us the pop quiz that we had been preparing for all week. As we struggled to determine which Emperor ruled almost 1000 years after the foundation of Rome (if you’re interested it’s Caracalla), we all began to feel as if we had left the Classics realm and were sitting in a class that could count as a QDS distrib. Our spirits slightly dampened, we headed into the entrance to the Villa in which a model of the complex had been set up and began our lecture. Professor Ulrich quickly wasted no time in showing us that in fact the Villa is roughly the same size as Dartmouth’s campus but was then told off by a very grumpy guard for talking for too long in front of the model. Outside the entrance, we were greeted with a magnificent view of what has been referred to as the Maritime Theater. This island-like structure is surrounded by a moat and has a large ionic colonnade of brickwork and concrete around the structure. However, as we stood around the Maritime Theater, our luck with the weather had run out as it started to rain. We quickly opened our umbrellas and headed to another part of the complex – the cubicula. These rooms were decorated with black and white mosaics on the floors much like we had seen in Ostia. The arrangement of these mosaics was interesting because the decorated parts of the mosaic were in the central panel and were surrounded by a white border on which would have been placed three separate couches. These rooms would have been used as sleeping quarters for guests of the Villa to which Teddy proclaimed – Let it be known that these rooms were designed for slumber parties.

After the cubicula, we headed to other parts of the Villa and at one point were instructed by Professor Ulrich to “take out your plans even though I know they’ve already been crumpled up or perhaps even used to relieve yourselves” … thankfully no one had attempted the latter. After orienting ourselves on the plan, we saw our first example of the so-called pumpkin vaulting that was used throughout the Villa. As Cara explained to us, because this was the private residence of Hadrian, he was able to use more experimental and innovative architectural designs within the structure. After admiring this very interesting vault, we made our way to the main attraction of the complex — the Canopus (constructed 133-138 CE). After we enjoyed a quick lunch break, Cara began her preliminary comments about the structure itself. In her wonderfully prepared presentation, she discussed the symbolism of the statuary from different parts of the Empire as well as the importance of movement throughout the complex. Like we saw at the House of the Faun in Pompeii, the vertical axis could not be directly accessed but instead was reached by moving around the complex. The main axis terminated in a large exedra-like structure that was also a great example of pumpkin vaulting in which the Emperor and his guests would have dined. This Triclinium aestivum complete with a large stibadium was richly decorated with mosaics and statuary as well as running water and was connected to the aqueduct. Our visit concluded with a quick stop at two of the main bath complexes of the Villa (much to my satisfaction) and then we were off to Assisi for the night.

By the time we pulled into Assisi, it was already pitch black and the rain had steadily increased. Much to our dissatisfaction, we were unable to be dropped off right at the hotel and had to make our way through the dark, rainy streets in search of our final destination. After much grumbling we were relieved to find the hotel and were able to take hot showers (which the girls were absolutely ecstatic about) before having dinner within the dry, somewhat warm hotel. Tomorrow we look forward to exploring this wonderful town and are hoping for some better weather. We’ll see ….

Until next time!


Photos brought to you by Brett:

The group tries to comprehend the model of the Villa before the grumpy guard kicks us out for “standing too long.”

The Stoa Poikile. So tranquil.

The so-called Maritime Theater.
Mosaics in the “hotel” of the villa.
Strange archaeological features. Strange boy. What a pair.
Trying to block out the wind and rain is no easy feat.
Hadrian made some interesting choices in the design of his villa…
Welcome to the Canopus.

Nice abs.

Cara, our fearless leader, helps the group interpret the layout and function of the Canopus.
Never smile at a crocodile.

The pumpkin dome of the imperial dining room. Huh.

Umbrella buddies!

More umbrella buddies!


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