(ANSA) – Rome, September 12 – The Villa of Livia, home of the beloved wife and trusted adviser of the Emperor Augustus, has opened its doors to the public after being partially restored to its former splendor on the occasion of the 2,000-year anniversary of the emperor’s death in 14 BC.
« It was the imperial family’s place of rest and relaxation, » explained Rome Archeology Superintendent Mariarosaria Barbera of the villa on in the Prima Porta suburb on the outskirts of Rome, which Livia Drusilla (37 BC-14 AD) made her domain after becoming Augustus’ third wife.
Legend has it that Augustus fell in love with Livia at first sight, while he was still married to his second wife, Scribonia, and she was married and six months pregnant.
Augustus divorced his wife, and persuaded Livia’s husband to divorce as well.
The couple married three days after she delivered a son, waiving the traditional waiting period, and remained married for the next 51 years.
The emperor was often on hand to visit Livia at the lovely villa whose famous illusionistic fresco of a garden view, in which all the plants and trees flower and fruit at once, has been removed and is on view in Rome’s Palazzo Massimo. The villa’s alternating mix of architectural and cultivated areas, open and enclosed spaces, would later become the model for Renaissance villas and can still be experienced in its sequence of rooms with sky-blue painted ceilings opening onto an internal garden where Livia grew her famous yellow daisies, fig trees, and herbs for her husband’s tisanes, while hallways decorated in black and white geometric mosaics lead to the thermal baths and the guest rooms, their walls frescoed in Pompeian red.
On the vast terrace overlooking Rome in the distance, restorers have placed 90 potted laurels, for Livia’s villa was famed in antiquity for its laurel grove.
At least a third of the villa remains to be excavated, but funds have run out, officials said.