Day tripping in Rome; The Domus Aurea


The ruins of Emperor Nero’s legendary “Golden House,” which in its day took up one-third of the city of Rome, were finally reopened to the public in 1999 after 25 years of restoration work. The Domus Aurea remains one of the most unique and impressive sites in Rome . Nero may have been demented, but he sure knew about the good life!

This building was once one of the most extravagant in Rome in it’s day; the stuccoed ceilings were applied with semi-precious stones and veneers of ivory while the walls were frescoed, coordinating the decoration into different themes in each major group of rooms covered from head to toe in gold leaf, today only 20 percent of the palace survives (and what’s left is completely underground).

The Golden House was a party villa, as shown by the presence of 300 rooms without any sleeping quarters. However, if you are planing to stay in Rome during your Rome holiday you should probably look for Rome accommodation in order that you aren’t left without any sleeping quarters!
Rooms sheathed in dazzling polished white marble were given richly varied floor plans, shaped with niches that concentrated or dispersed the daylight. There were pools in the floors and fountains splashing in the corridors. Nero took great interest in every detail of the project, according to “Tacitus’ Annals”, and oversaw the engineer-architects, Celer and Severus, who were also responsible for the attempted navigable canal with which Nero hoped to link Misenum with Lake Avernus.

Some of the extravagances of the Domus Aurea had repercussions for the future. The architects designed two of the principal dining rooms to flank an octagonal court, surmounted by a dome with a giant central oculus to let in light. One innovation was destined to have an enormous influence on the art of the future: Nero placed mosaics, previously restricted to floors, in the vaulted ceilings. Only fragments have survived, but that technique was to be copied extensively, eventually ending up as a fundamental feature of Christian art: the apse mosaics that decorate so many churches in Rome, Ravenna, Sicily and Constantinople.

Celer and Severus also created an ingenious mechanism, cranked by slaves, that made the ceiling underneath the dome revolve like the heavens, while perfume was sprayed and rose petals were dropped on the assembled diners.

If you are staying in a Rome apartment or Rome hotel in the city centre, getting to the Domus Aurea couldn’t be easer. In order to get to this ancient palace, take the Metro Line B: Colosseo or bus 87,85,175,271,571,TRAM 3. It is on Via Labicana 136 open Mon-Sun 9am-7:45pm.

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