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A Brief History of Hadrian's Villa

After being sacked by Totila (penultimate King of the Ostrogoths), Hadrian’s Villa became a brick and marble quarry for the nearby City of Tivoli, a bishopric.

Villa Adriana

In the 1400s Biondo Flavio correctly identified it as the Villa of Emperor Hadrian, and Pope Alexander VI Borgia sponsored the first excavations in the on-site Odeon Theatre. 

To satisfy the nobles’ eagerness to find historical objects, more excavations were to take place beginning in the 1500s; however, they first had to be financed by Ippolito II d'Este, son of Lucrezia Borgia and Governor of Tivoli. 

Thanks to the architect Pirro Ligorio, who led the excavations in order to then decorate the Villa d’Este with marble and objets, today we have the Ligorian manuscripts, which contain his descriptions of ancient architecture, recountings of his explorations and a legend of the ancient Romans’ “living chambers.” 

The excavations have continued to multiply up unto the present-day. A mass of private excavators, primarily on behalf of the Bulgarini family, have made numerous findings that have ended up in the Vatican Museums. Cardinal Alessandro Furietti, with the permission of the Bulgarini, discovered other celebrated works during his excavations, such as the statues of the Centaturs of Aristeas and Papias, and the Red Faun, all which went on display in the Capitoline Museum

Count Fede
 came in possession of the Villa’s extent in the 1700s, and in addition to having cypresses planted on the property, he actively excavated it, in search of treasures for his own collection (which were then lost upon his death). 

From that time Hadrian’s Villa was stripped bare by English aristocrats, who took home various pieces from the Villa as thug they were trophies from their travels. 
Only until the end of the 1800s was Villa Adriana acquired (in part) by the Kingdom of Italy, when restoration works were begun again and have endured to today.