Domus Aurea

Domus Aurea | Ruins of Ancient Rome

Domus Aurea, which translates to "Golden House" in Latin, was a grand palace constructed by Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome. It was built after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD and occupied an area of about 80 hectares. The palace was known for its opulence, and it was adorned with gold, jewels, and precious stones, making it one of the most extravagant palaces of its time. The Domus Aurea was a testament to Nero's grandeur, and it featured various entertainment facilities such as a large artificial lake, vineyards, and parks.

The palace also had beautifully painted rooms and halls, adorned with intricate frescoes and adorned with sculptures. After Nero's death, the palace was abandoned, and many of its features were destroyed or pillaged by subsequent emperors. The site was eventually buried by Emperor Trajan, who constructed a bath complex on top of it. Today, visitors can explore the remains of the domus in rome through guided tours. These tours provide an insight into the grandeur of the palace and the art and architecture of ancient Rome.

Why You Should Visit Domus Aurea?

  • Historical significance: The Domus Aurea was built by Emperor Nero and is a testament to the grandeur and opulence of ancient Rome. It is an important historical site and provides insight into the art, architecture, and lifestyle of ancient Rome.
  • Unique features: The palace was known for its unique features, such as the artificial lake, vineyards, and parks. The beautifully painted rooms and halls adorned with intricate frescoes and sculptures are also worth exploring.
  • Guided tours: Visitors can explore the remains of the palace through guided tours. These tours provide an in-depth understanding of the site and its historical significance.
  • Archaeological discoveries: The site is still being excavated, and new discoveries are being made regularly. Visitors can witness firsthand the ongoing archaeological work at the site.
  • Spectacular views: The palace is situated on a hill, providing spectacular views of the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Rome while exploring the remains of the palace.

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Architectural Highlights of Nero’s Golden House

West Wing

The West Wing is one of the main highlights of Nero's Golden House, a grand palace complex built during the Roman Empire. The wing consists of a large octagonal room with a domed ceiling, which was decorated with intricate frescoes and embellishments. The room also features a central pool, surrounded by columns and sculptures, and was designed to provide an immersive sensory experience. The West Wing is considered a masterpiece of Roman architecture, showcasing the skill and ingenuity of the empire's builders and artists. Today, visitors can tour the remains of the Golden House and admire the stunning West Wing, which provides a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of ancient Rome.

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Wall paintings (Frescoes)

The frescoes in Nero's Golden House were a highlight of the palace's interior decoration. They were executed in the Fourth Style of Roman wall painting, which combined elements of the earlier styles and featured complex architectural designs and illusionistic effects. The frescoes depicted a wide range of subjects, including mythological scenes, landscapes, still lifes, and architectural vistas. Some of the most famous examples include the Domus Aurea's Octagonal Room, which featured a ceiling painting of a coffered dome with the signs of the zodiac, and the Hall of the Golden Vault, which had a fresco of a garden with birds, animals, and flowers.

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Domus Transitoria

Domus Transitoria was a grand palace complex built by Emperor Nero before the construction of his more famous Golden House. It was located between the Palatine and Esquiline Hills and connected these two imperial residences. The palace featured ornate architecture and impressive artwork, including frescoes, stucco decorations, and mosaic floors. The palace complex also had a system of underground tunnels and baths, as well as gardens and artificial lakes. Though much of the palace was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, some parts have been excavated and can still be visited today, providing a glimpse into the opulence and extravagance of ancient Roman architecture.

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The Colossus Of Nero

The Colossus of Nero was a statue of the emperor himself that stood at the entrance of the Domus Aurea. It was a massive bronze statue, over 100 feet tall, that portrayed Nero in a heroic pose. The statue was designed by the Greek sculptor Zenodorus and was inspired by the famous statue of the Greek god Helios in Rhodes. The Colossus of Nero was one of the many examples of Nero's megalomania and extravagance, and it became a symbol of his tyranny. The statue was eventually destroyed during the reign of Vespasian, and its remains were used to build the Flavian Amphitheater, known today as the Colosseum.

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A Brief History of Domus Aurea

Emperor Nero
Domus Transitoria to Domus Aurea
Damnatio Memoriae
  • The Domus in rome was built by the Roman emperor Nero in the first century AD.
  • Nero was known for his extravagant lifestyle and love of art and architecture, and he commissioned the palace as a symbol of his wealth and power.
  • The palace covered over 200 acres and featured elaborate gardens, fountains, and even an artificial lake.
  • The palace was decorated with intricate frescoes, sculptures, and precious materials, including gold leaf and rare marbles.
  • After Nero's death, his successor ordered the demolition of the palace as part of a program of "damnatio memoriae," or the erasure of Nero's memory.
  • Despite the destruction, the Domus Aurea remains a remarkable testament to the opulence and artistic sophistication of Nero's reign

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  • Before the construction of the Domus Aurea, Nero built an earlier palace known as the Domus Transitoria.
  • The Domus Transitoria was heavily damaged in a fire in 64 AD, and Nero used the opportunity to expand the palace and create the larger and more opulent Domus Aurea.
  • The palace was built on the site of a lake that Nero had drained, allowing for the construction of a massive complex of interconnected rooms, courtyards, and gardens.
  • The palace was designed to showcase Nero's wealth and artistic tastes, with lavish decorations and artwork throughout.
  • Despite its short-lived existence, the Domus Aurea had a profound impact on Roman art and architecture, inspiring future generations of artists and architects with its innovative design and opulent decoration.

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  • The construction of the Domus Aurea began in 64 AD after a fire damaged Nero's earlier palace, the Domus Transitoria.
  • The palace was built on a grand scale, covering over 200 acres and incorporating elaborate gardens, courtyards, and pavilions.
  • The palace's innovative design included underground chambers and vaulted ceilings, as well as complex water features, such as the famous Octagonal Room with its rotating ceiling.
  • The palace was decorated with stunning frescoes, intricate stucco work, and lavish materials, such as gold leaf and rare marbles.
  • The palace was completed in a relatively short time, with some estimates suggesting that it was finished within five years of the fire that destroyed the Domus Transitoria.

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  • After Nero's death in 68 AD, his successor, Emperor Vespasian, ordered the demolition of the Domus Aurea.
  • The palace was seen as a symbol of Nero's excess and tyranny, and Vespasian wanted to erase his predecessor's memory and restore a more austere image of the imperial palace.
  • The demolition of the palace was a massive undertaking, with much of the building's material being reused in other structures throughout Rome.
  • The site of the palace was covered over, and new buildings, including the Baths of Trajan, were constructed on top of it.
  • Despite the efforts to erase Nero's memory, the ruins of the Domus Aurea were rediscovered in the 15th century and have since become a source of inspiration for artists and architects.

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Domus Aurea Rediscovery And Reconstruction

The story of Domus Aurea’s rediscovery dates back to a young Roman in the 15th century who falls into a cleft in Esquiline Hill and ends up in a cave-like structure filled with painted figures. Soon, many young artists flocked to this area and had themselves let down into the cave with ropes tied around them. The Fourth Style frescoes, from the ancient Roman mural paintings, were discovered here and had an electrifying influence on the early Renaissance that had just started in Rome as well as on the Neoclassicism movement of the 18th century. Although these paintings are faded now, they became a revelation of true antiquity. 

The pavilion’s discovery induced the slow albeit inevitable process of decay and degeneration as it let moisture into the structure. Heavy rains, humidity and the trees in the parks above the discovery site are adding to the damage as the roots are slowly sinking into the ceilings, walls and frescoes. The excavation of the Golden House properly began only in the 18th century. Another room with frescoes was found in the 19th century which was decorated with a sphinx, centaurs and even panthers. 

Domus Aurea Today:

Presently, Domus Aurea is one of the most exciting underground attractions in Rome. However, visits are only possible in small groups. The West Wing is a highly visited place where you can tour the Octagonal Room, the Golden Vault and see the remains of frescoes and paintings on the ceilings. Visits to the Domus Aurea are now made even more interesting with VR headsets with narration that can show you reconstructions of how the place actually looked like in ancient Rome.

Continuous efforts of excavation and restoration are going on to this day in the Domus Aurea site due to which visitors are allowed only at the weekends and are required to wear helmets for safety purposes.

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Essential Information

Opening Hours: Thursday 

Two visits: 4.00 pm and 5.30 pm

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: 9:15 am - 5:00 pm

Visits are held every 15 minutes

Location: Via Della Domus Aurea, 00184 Roma RM, Italy.

How To Reach:

By Metro: The nearest metro station is Colosseo, and it's just a short 5-minute walk from there to reach the Domus Aurea.

By bus: Buses 51, 85, and 87 will take you to Colosseo, and from there, it's a 5-minute uphill walk to reach the Domus Aurea.

By taxi: Taking a taxi directly to the park entrance will get you to the attraction quickly, and it's only a 2-minute walk to the main door of the Domus Aurea.

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What is Domus Aurea?

Domus Aurea is a palace built by Emperor Nero in the 1st century AD, known for its extravagant design and decoration, including frescoes, stucco work, and complex water features.

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Are visitors allowed inside Domus Aurea?

Yes, visitors can visit the Domus Aurea, but only on guided tours. The number of visitors is limited, and advance reservations are required.

What are the timings of Domus Aurea?

The Domus Aurea is open for guided tours from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 AM to 6:45 PM. The tours last approximately 80 minutes, and advance reservations are required.

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What is Domus Aurea famous for?

Domus in rome is famous for its luxurious design and decoration, including elaborate frescoes, stucco work, and innovative water features. It is considered a masterpiece of ancient Roman architecture and a testament to Nero's opulent reign.

What can I see in Domus Aurea?

Visitors can expect to see the remains of Nero's palace, including the West Wing, the Octagonal Room, the Hall of the Colossal Statue, and stunning frescoes and stucco work depicting mythological scenes and landscapes.

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Is Domus Aurea near the Colosseum?

The Domus Aurea is located directly opposite the Colosseum. Interestingly, the Colosseum was constructed on the grounds of an artificial lake that was once a part of the expansive landscape of the Domus Aurea. These two iconic structures share a historical connection, with the former repurposing elements of the latter's grand design.

Who built Domus Aurea?

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus, the fifth Roman emperor, commissioned the Domus Aurea as his extravagant pleasure palace. History depicts him as a despotic, self-indulgent, and controversial ruler, earning disdain from the aristocrats while enjoying popularity among the lower classes. The construction of the Domus Aurea stands as a testament to Nero's opulent and grandiose lifestyle, despite the mixed feelings his reign evoked among the Roman populace.

What happened to Domus Aurea?

Following Nero's death, the Domus Aurea suffered a fate of decline, losing its former splendor, and was ultimately abandoned. The intention behind this was to wipe away all traces and memories of the infamous emperor. The once opulent and extravagant palace fell into neglect, marking the end of an era and a dramatic shift in the perception of Nero's legacy.

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Is there a dress code to enter Domus Aurea?

There is no specific dress code for visiting the Domus Aurea. However, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes or sandals for walking. Additionally, carrying a sweater or jacket is advisable, as the temperature inside the Domus can drop as low as 10 degrees Celsius. Being prepared with appropriate footwear and clothing will ensure a pleasant and enjoyable experience during your visit.

What can I expect to see in Domus Aurea?

At present, the Domus Aurea offers tours of its pavilion situated on the Oppian Hill. During these tours, visitors can marvel at the Nymphaeum, the Octagonal Hall, the convivium room, and the Golden Vault. The experience includes strolling through the vast corridors and gazing up at the beautifully adorned frescoes and mosaics on the ceilings. These guided tours provide a captivating journey into the opulence and artistry of this ancient palace, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its rich history and architectural marvels.


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