Domus Aurea Rome (Nero’s Golden House)

Domus Aurea Rome

The Domus Aurea (or the Emperor Nero‘s “Golden House”) is located in the Colle Oppio Park in Rome. Fears that the building might collapse kept the monument closed for a very long time, but since 2015 it can be visited again, albeit only during the weekend.

Domus Aurea Rome (Nero’s Golden House)

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Viale del Domus Aurea, 1 – Rome. Tel. +39 06 39967700. District: Monti (rione I). Public transport: . Opening hours: The Domus Aurea can only be visited on Saturdays and Sundays and only as part of a guided tour, which has to be booked beforehand. There are tours in Italian (12 times a day), English (6 times), Spanish (4) and French (2). Admission: 14 Euros (plus 2 Euros for the mandatory reservation). Free for children below the age of 6. The Domus Aurea is only partially accessible for people in wheelchairs. It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes.

History and Description

Domus Aurea Rome
A fresco in the Domus Aurea

The Domus Aurea was built by the Emperor Nero and was sometimes nicknamed “Nero’s Folly”. The emperor had had it built on a huge piece of land that he had confiscated after a fire had completely destroyed the buildings on it. The fire was rumored to have been started by Nero himself. Construction took four years, from 64 to 68 AD.

A big part of the Domus Aurea was destroyed by later emperors, who feared that so much unashamed flouting of wealth might anger the people, and the Baths of Trajan were even built on top of the monument.

According to the historians of the time the Domus Aurea complex was of extraordinary beauty, with extravagant features like a constantly revolving dining room and movable ceilings that allowed for fragrant flowers to rain down on the Emperor’s guests. Gardens and even woods with non-native animals were created and Nero also had an artificial lake designed and dug at the spot where nowadays the Colosseum stands. Copious meals were eaten on the big boats floating around the lake. An enormous (colossal) statue of the emperor, made entirely of gold, stood by the lake and ended up giving the Anfiteatro Flavio the name by which it was the be rendered famous: Colosseum.

Unfortunately for Nero, not too long after the hall was finished, he was forced to leave the city and ended up committing suicide in his country villa outside Rome.

What is left of the Golden House?

There are only some rooms left of the Domus Aurea, located underneath the Terme di Traiano. It is rather ironic that it is the construction of other buildings on top of the Golden House that stopped humidity from damaging its frescoes. These were discovered by chance during the Middle Ages when a young Roman tumbled into one of the grottoes. Famous artists and other VIPs (Pinturicchio, Raphael and Michelangelo but also people like the Marquis the Sade and Casanova) have carved their names into the walls.

In 1999, after a lengthy (15 years) restoration, the Golden House was reopened. However, its condition was so precarious that it only remained open for a couple of years. At the moment the monument is visitable on Saturdays and Sundays only (see above).

Originally the monument had 150 rooms, only some of which can be seen during the tour. The reason the Domus Aurea is only open during weekends is that there are still excavations taking place. The expectation is that in the future a bigger part of the Golden House will be open to the public.

Highlights

The most impressive highlight is the octagonal dining hall, the ceiling of which was ddecorated with stars and moons.

The Sala di Ettore e Andromaca is ornamented with scenes from HomerusIlyad.

The Sala di Achille is characterized by a shell-shaped decoration.

There used to be a real waterfall inside the Sala del Ninfeo.

The Sala della Volta Dorata “Room of the Gilded Vault” shows a fresco of Cupid on a chariot pulled by panthers. There are also some satyrs having their ways with nymphs.

The corridors (cryptoportici), some of which have a length of more than 60 meters, are decorated with frescoes depicting flowers.

Viale Domus Aurea, 1 – Rome

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