the domus aurea rome
The rich decorations of Nero's palace, the magnificent domus aurea.
Emperor Nero’s gilded house: the domus between pageantry and innovation.
What is the domus aurea?
In 64 A.D. a great fire ravaged Rome and destroyed the residence of the Roman emperor Nero (domus transitoria). This tragic event caused some 80 hectares of land to be expropriated in order to build a new structure on the site, an urban villa that would become the home of Emperor Nero. The area stretched between the Palatine, the Caelian, and the Esquiline. Nero’s new residence took the name “domus aurea,” literally “house of gold.” Later it will not be difficult to understand why.
Built of brick and not marble as we sometimes tend to believe, the construction of this villa achieved some particularly bold and innovative architectural solutions.
Designed by architects Severus and Celer and decorated by painter Fabullus, thevilla consisted of several separate buildings as well as woods and gardens. In the area of the domus aurea there were also hot, thermal, sulfur and other water pools. Numerous rooms for parties and banquets, to go along with the lavish life of Emperor Nero. The most famous of these rooms was the coenatio rotunda, a hall that, thanks to remarkable architectural and engineering solutions, rotated on itself. Also impressive was the huge vestibule that housed a colossal statue of the emperor in the guise of the Sun god. The octagonal hall of the domus features architecture from curvilinear rhythms and is covered by a dome with a large central dormer that let in light; a style that anticipates the broken-line architecture of the 20th century.
The domus aurea was characterized by rich decoration, geometric patterns in stucco and painting, and interesting figurative images. The decorations of the domus aurea were extremely rich and incredible: there were ceilings plastered and set with semi-precious stones and ivory foils, not to mention vast gold coverings. This gives us insight into the choice of the dwelling’s name, which could not but be “house of gold.”
Another architectural innovation of this residence was the particular choice of placing mosaics on the vaulted ceilings: normally until that time mosaics were placed on the floors and never on the ceilings. Later this technique was adopted by Christian art to decorate the many churches that were later built in the city of Rome.
The domus aurea covered a very large area of Rome where the luxury and grandeur of the building was accompanied by magnificent gardens, vineyards, and wooded spaces. In the valley between the hills there was also a semi-artificial pond where later, the Colosseum was built. The domus aurea is one of the most fascinating historical sites in the world.
What remains of the domus aurea today?
When Emperor Nero died, the desire to erase all traces of his existence and work was strong. So it was also for the domus aurea and for the whole site. The grounds of the mansion were plundered, the rich halls of the mansion were stripped of their riches, gold and gemstone coverings, and sculptures, and filled with earth up to the vaults so they could build on the entire site. In fact, in that area would later rise the Baths of Titus, the Flavian Amphitheater, the Baths of Trajan, and the Temple of Venus. In about forty years the domus aurea was completely covered with earth and buried by the new buildings; in this way, however, the paintings and decorations on the walls were preserved from the elements and arrived almost intact until the xv century, when they were rediscovered, becoming a place of great curiosity for various artists. Now the frescoes are unfortunately very deteriorated and we can enjoy them only partially, imagining the colors. The parts of the domus aurea that can be visited today are probably the areas once dedicated to feasts and banquets and that were rediscovered from underground during the Renaissance. Artists such as Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, Raphael and Giulio Romano began to descend from above into those “underground caves” to go and discover and study the painting techniques of Romanesque art . Think what an explosion of emotions the rediscovery of that ancient and peculiar world may have been in the Renaissance. Painters would descend underground to discover the works, which had been covered with earth to construct other buildings. The painting technique born from these studiestakes the motifs of these decorations and reinterprets them, and is still called “grotesque painting.”
Today the domus aurea is part of the Colosseum Archaeological Park. A visit to the domus aurea, for which we recommend reservations, is a true journey through time, discovering the life of Emperor Nero’s opulence and luxury. The remains of the domus aurea have been made even more interesting and usable through the domus area experience, multimedia interventions designed to allow visitors to fully experience the domus aurea. We recommend reservations for a guided tour of the domus aurea.
How to get to the Domus Aurea?
The domus aurea is located in the heart of Rome’s historic center, in the Colosseum Archaeological Park, a stone’s throw from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
The entrance for visiting the domus aurea is from inside the Colle Oppio Park, on the Via Labicana side.
Address: Domus Aurea 1- Via del Serapide, Rome
You can easily reach the domus aurea by Rome metro, bus or streetcar. The domus aurea is within easy walking distance of the Colosseum.
By Metro: Line B stop Colosseo
In Bus: n. 51, 85, 87
Visiting hours at the Domus Aurea?
Visits to the Domus Aurea are possible on the following days:
Thursdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (entrances every 15 minutes)
Visiting the Golden House is accessible for the disabled, has a bookshop and toilets.
Visiting hours at the Domus Aurea?
A visit to the Golden House can last from about one and a half to two hours.
Visiting hours at the Domus Aurea?
Visiting the domus aurea is an exciting journey through time.
Reservations are recommended for visiting the domus aurea. Booking a guided tour will enable us to secure reserved entry, avoid the lines, and have an experienced guide on hand who will take us through the fascinating world of Emperor Nero and his residence. Visiting options include walking tours exploring the entire area and entrances to the villa ruins, guided tour with specialized guide.
Guided group tour of domus aurea rome
On this guided tour you will discover the beauty and riches of Emperor Nero’s Golden House and learn all the secrets of the site and the emperor’s life. You will be accompanied by a valuable expert language guide. Reserved entrance, expert language guide, skip-the-line ticket, free cancellation.
Guided walking tour of domus aurea rome
You will have the opportunity to explore the entire area of the domus aurea archaeological park. The ruins of the building, the luxury of the walls and mosaics, the remains of the famous dining hall, but also the underground lakes, thermal baths, forests, and the emperor’s vineyards. You will meet directly with a specialized guide without having to queue. Priority entrance ticket.
tours with priority entrance and virtual reality
What is included :
Skip-the-line admission to the Domus Aurea, Nero’s Golden House
1-hour guided tour with Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset