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Subterranean Roman villas

If you have always wanted to know what an actual Roman villa was like 2000 years ago, then head for Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini. This new yet antique attraction was only discovered in 2007 and provides a unique insight into the life of the ancient Romans. Instead of musty ruins, the site offers amazing multimedia projections that bring the villas back to their former glory.

In 16th-century Rome it was common to fill up old ruins with soil and use them as the foundation for new buildings. This is how Palazzo Valentini was built in 1585, on top of two ancient villas from the imperial age. The two residences were discovered coincidentally a few years back during excavations in the basement of the palazzo. The condition of the villas and the attached bath house was remarkable. Over a period of 3 years, the spaces were renovated and made ready for the general public.

The treasures of the Palazzo Valentini
The treasures of the Palazzo Valentini

Rome

Light and sound

Descending beneath Palazzo Valentini is like entering another world. Because the villas were so well preserved, large segments of the mosaics, marble floors and stairs are still intact. A multimedia tour brings the spaces to life; projections and light shows demonstrate how people once lived here, while the audio tour explains many fascinating details such as the heating system in the bath house and old traces of a house fire. There are also projections that describe how the surroundings must have looked like at the time.

History comes to life

“One of the finest additions to the palace is the Imperiali library, which exhibits over 24,000 books”

Palazzo Valentini

Palazzo Valentini itself has been home to the provincial government of the Province of Rome since 1873. The palace was built on behalf of Cardinal Michele Bonelli, a nephew of Pope Pius IV. The history of the palace is tumultuous, with many expansions, demolitions and renovations. One of the finest additions is the Imperiali library, built for Cardinal Renato Imperiali, which exhibits over 24,000 books. The palace was named after Consulate-General Vincenzo Valentini who bought it in 1827.

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See location on map

Palazzo Valentini, Via IV Novembre 119/A, Rome

Photo credits

  • History comes to life: Martin Conde, Flickr