Sunday, March 9, 2008

Villa of Augustus on Palatine Hill Now Open To The Public

Exquisitely preserved frescoed rooms in the ruined house of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, were opened to the public today for the first time since they were unearthed nearly half a century ago.

Archaeologists say that the future emperor lived in the house on the Palatine Hill above the Forum in about 30BC, before he gained supreme power and built his imperial palace complex higher up the hill. The paintings have been restored at a cost of nearly €2 million (£1.5 million).

The wall and ceiling paintings in the house - discovered in the 1960s by the Italian archeologist, Gianfilippo Carrettoni - are in vivid red, blue and ochre. They include a small study, believed to have been Augustus's private retreat...

Some decorations on the walls and vaulted ceilings were found intact, while others have been pieced together from fragments. In one room, dubbed the Room of the Pines, the walls are painted to represent yellow columns.

In another, known as the Room of the Masks, a wall is painted like a stage, with narrow side doors standing ajar, comic masks peering through small windows and painted garden vistas beyond.

Visitors will enter the rooms in small groups to avoid damage to the delicate frescoes, restored after 20 years of excavation and conservation at the site by a team led by Irene Jacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine Hill.

Angelo Bottini, superintendent of archeology for Rome, said that a new combined ticket would provide access to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine Hill, including the house of Augustus.

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