Domus Aurea Reopens to the Public. After years of being closed due to structural damage the Domus Aurea, Nero’s Golden House, reopened to the public on October 26. Visitors are allowed access with guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays until December 28, 2014. Hard hats must be worn as it is an active work site. Archaeologists are at work during the week.
Today the Domus Aurea is a complex underground structure which lies below the Colle Oppio Park. In 65AD the Emperor Nero seized the city center and built the most extravagant palace Rome would ever see. The Domus Aurea stretched across 210 acres – thirty times the size of the Colosseum. The Palatine Hill was the residential part of Nero’s House. What is now seen as underground was once open gardens. This entire area was laid out as a park with porticoes, pavilions, baths, and fountains. After Nero’s death all traces of him were destroyed or renovated. The Emperor Trajan covered the garden with earth and built his baths on top of it. The processes of filling in the area with soil actually lead to its preservation.
In 1488 excavations through tunnels revealed that the rooms had been stripped before being filled in and built over but the frescoes, mythological scenes and architectural illusions were still intact. The paintings at that time were not faded and worn as they are now. The colors were fully intact. Raffaello, Pinturicchio and other Renaissance artists descended through holes into the grottoes to obtain inspiration for their works – some which are practically copies of scenes seen in the Domus Aurea. Many artists marked their visit by scrawling their names on the walls.
Preserving the monument is the main goal of the current project. A new garden will be constructed on top of the Domus Aurea once the work is complete. But it will be one without trees to prevent the tree roots from causing another collapse. The flow of ground water into the complex must be prevented to keep the structure strong. Until the water can be stopped there is no point in restoring the frescoes. The progress of the restoration and new discoveries can be tracked on the project’s blog.
Domus Aurea Tours
Tours available in English, Spanish and Italian on Saturdays and Sundays until March 8, 2015. Tours run last about an hour and 15 minutes. Reservations required. Book online or by telephone: +39 06 39967700 (English speaking operators available).
Tip: The Domus Aurea is located at Via della Domus Aurea, a pedestrian path inside Colle Oppio Park. It can be difficult to find as there are no signs to help locate it. Enter the park from the gate where Via Labicana and Via Nicola Salvi meet (see map below). Make the first left to reach the entrance to the Domus Aurea.