Visiting Itinerary

Section 3 - Upper Quarters

(Quick link: click on the plan or on the building name of your interest)


- Roccabruna
- Accademia
- Apollo's Temple
- Odeon
- Inferi
- Great Trapezium
- Mausoleum
- Temple of Pluto
(Numbers in brackets refer to the plan)


Roccabruna in its actual state. Originally had a panoramic pavilion on its upper floor.
South of the Canopus is the higher and most secluded part of the Villa Hadriana (not completely open to the public), which still is a private property and just recently was partly cleaned-up and restored. It is a vast artificial esplanade, which had a long containment wall with buttresses on it west side (more than three hundred meters), spanning all the way from north - Roccabruna (n. 29) - to south - Accademia (n. 30-31) and Odeon (n. 32).

Roccabruna (n. 29) is the only buiding of this area open to the public; only its lower part is preserved, with a ramp climbing on its roof, where originally there was a round temple-like panoramic Pavilion. In its lower floor is still visible a vast rounded internal hall, once paved with precious marbles, decorated by niches and ample windows overlooking the landscape. There also was a series of flanking rooms, surrounding the central hall, with stairs linking its various floors; one of these stairs climbed up to the Panoramic Pavilion of the upper floor.
Recent restorations have found mosaic pavements; little is left of the opus sectile ones.

The western side of the Accademia and Roccabruna esplanades had a containment wall more than 300 meters long.
Roccabruna had the shape and the function of a tower, similar to that of the Tempe Pavilion: it was the only passageway and check-point leading to the esplanades of Roccabruna and Accademia; there was no other access to them on this side of the Villa.
South of Roccabruna is a great artificial esplanade, reaching up to the Accademia (n. 30-31), not open to the public and still the property of the Bulgarini family, that built a Casino over its ruins and excavated it since the XVII Century. The western side of the esplanade still has a containment wall with buttresses, which had the appearance and function of a city walling, which protected this side of the Villa (such as the Tempe Terrace).
The northern part of the Roccabruna artificial esplanade has a smaller width, about 35 m.; then it widens up to almost 110 m., with a containment wall that was at a right angle with the one coming from Roccabruna. This passage was one of the many security check-points of the Villa; very little is known about this area which probably was a garden, although some scholars believe here was a wood where the Emperor could hunt.
Three hundred meters from Roccabruna, on the southern end of the esplanade, is one of the lesser known and most interesting buildings of the Villa, the Accademia (n. 30-31).
Its first visible structure are the ruins of its entrance Pavilion or Vestibulum; we can still see three of its four pillars, which originally supported some kind of roofing: Hansen believed it was a dome, other scholars have different opinions. Two small stairs gave access to the Pavilion from the Roccabruna and Accademia esplanades, and were a security filter controlling the entrance. Nearby, the plans by Contini and Piranesi show a staircase climbing up from the containment wall and the road that surely flanked it. Here were found the statues of Centaurs by Aristeas and Papias, now in the Capitoline Museum of Rome.

One of the remaining four pillars of the entrance Pavilion of the Accademia.

Three rooms of the Accademia were stransformed in hay-stacks; the central one still has parts of the stucco ceiling.

The entrance Pavilion lead into the vast internal garden of the Accademia, which was surrounded by a porch. Its high walls make it a secret and secluded garden, and probably were meant to shelter it from the wind, since it is on the top of the hill. But there were openigs for the view: on the western side of the garden there was a double porch (similar to the one of the Pecile): a large door at the center lead to the outer porch, overlooking another artificial terrace and the panorama.
On the northern side of the inner porch still exist three rooms, which were transformed in hay-loft, whose ceilings still have their stucco decoration.

The so-called Temple of Apollo is one of the best preserved structures of the Accademia.
On the eastern side of the inner porch the best preserved structure is the so-called Apollo's Temple (Tempio di Apollo) (n. 31). It is a vast circular hall, more than 12 meters of diameter, but only half of it is still standing. The lower part of its walls was decorated by brick columns supporting an architrave. The upper part had windows and niches, and according to most scholars it was covered by a dome, but there are no traces of collapsed fragments on the ground. On its eastern side, the Apollo's Temple opened over a rectangular alcove, where was found the famous Dove Mosaic now in the Capitoline Museum of Rome. Its walls were completely reveted with marble and there are traces of rectangular panels or possibly marble reliefs.
South of the Apollo's Temple is a vast apsed hall called Zooteca (a place for sacrifice animals, according to Ligorio); its walls have holes for the beams, that once supported the roof of a porch surrounding an inner garden. In the center of the apse a door lead to another room, which was the concealed entrance to the Accademia on its southern side. This room belonged to an axial perspective from north to south, from the Accademia esplanade to the Zooteca.

A view of the substructures under the east side of the Accademia.

The so-called Zooteca, south of Apollo's Temple.

The plans by Contini, Piranesi, Winnefeld and Salza Prina Ricotti show a series of buildings south of the Accademia garden porch. Today they are not visible anymore, hidden by a small Casale and by the Casino buit by the Bulgarinis. According to Piranesi in this area there were thermal plants.
The eastern side of the Accademia esplanade had its own cointainment walls, almost completely hidden by vegetation. They passed behind the Canopus with a diagonal bearing, until they reached the Apollo's Temple, under which the wall became a cryptoporticus. Here was a vast area which reached east to the Inferi (n. 33). Ancient maps by Piranesi show the existence of secret subterranean passageways also under the central garden of the Accademia.

The ambulacrum of the Odeon, the theater near the Accademia.

The remains of the Scenae frons of the Odeon theatre.
Further south are the ruins of the place where, at the end of the XV century, were held the oldest excavations we know of: a theater called Odeon (n. 32), from which come the statues of seated Musae now in the Prado Museum of Madrid, Spain. Little is visible of this building, just the rear part behind the scene; the scenae frons is barely visible in the wood, while the cavea is completely hidden by the vegetation.
A series of subterranean galleries linked the Odeon to one of the most peculiar and little known buildings of the Villa, a nymphaeum called Inferi (n. 33).
Formerly a tufa quarry, this is an arficial valley excavated in the tufa rock, with a central grotto at its southern end, decorated by a cuniculus from which ran out water.

A view of the Inferi in their actual state: in the background is barely visible the grotto.
The tufa walls of the grotto were 'chiseled' to give them the appearance of natural rock, and partly reveted with travertine tartari (pseudo-grotto imitating stalactites).

The grotto of the Inferi, with the central operning for a water fountain. The rock was chiseled to simulate a natural grotto, and partly reveted with 'tartari', fake stalactites, made of travertine.

The grotto was flanked by two openings which gave access to subterranean corridors excavated in the tufa bank, linking it to the Odeon and also to the Great Trapezium (Grande Trapezio) (n. 34).
The Great Trapezium is a subterranean road network, probably for the carts bringing supplies to the Villa Hadriana. Salza Prina Ricotti believes that one of these galleries, which has a series of niches, was used as a stable for horses and mules. Actually this comblike structure is typical of the cuniculi, subterranean galleries for the drainage of water, very frequent in roman and etruscan area. It is possible that these cuniculi

The north tunnel of the Great Trapezium.
belonged to the ancient republican villa later enclosed in the imperial buildings.
Since the Great Trapezium is linked by subterranean galleries with the Odeon and the Inferi grotto, Mac Donald and Pinto (1995) suggested instead that this subterranean road system – absolutely unique in its own kind – had a symbolic meaning linked to the Afterworld and possibly to the Eleusinian Mysteris (about which very little is known). This hypotesis is very interesting and is supported by the presence of the Odeon, since theaters were often used for symbolic and ritual representations.

The Mausoleum as was visible in the XIX century in an engraving by Penna.
Further north still survive the remains of a Mausoleum (n. 35), which actually is covered by a thick bush. The XIX century engraving by Penna shows it in a better state of preservation. It is supposed to be a funerary monument, but Mac Donald and Pinto (1995) believe it could have been instead a "Neviera" a building meant for preserving the snow in summer-time.
Recent excavations of the site by professor Patrizio Pensabene discovered several fragments of columns and marbles, and also opus sectile pavements. Therefore this building was not a Mausoleum nor a snow storage structure, but a small round temple.

Not far from the Mausoleum is the Temple of Pluto (n. 36), about which almost nothing is known. Its state of preservation is fragmentary, old maps show a rectangular bulding with a central apse on one of its long sides. On the spot are still visible mosaic fragments, opus sectile, and some walls.

In the Bulgarini estate are still visible the ruins of the aqueduct that supplied the Villa's waterworks.
Still in the Bulgarini Estate are visible the remains of an aqueduct (not shown in plan) partially hidden by ivy. Villa Hadriana had a general leaning from south to north, so the water supply must have come from south and from above. This aqueduct, which an engraving by Penna shows in a far better state of preservation, in the first decades of the XIX century, surely was linked to one of the great public aqueducts which brought water from the Aniene river in Tivoli to Rome.

The aqueduct near the Accademia in a XIX century engraving by Penna, showing a far better state of preservation.

Further south (again not shown in the map) there was a double porch (recently explored by prof. Jorgen Hansen and the Academy of Denmark) and the ruins of S. Stefano, which probably belonged to a different Villa.

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