Villa Adriana, a place suspended between history and nature

Published by Marco Rubino on


Villa Adriana – The Canopus – © 2015

Villa Adriana is an extremely fascinating place to visit. Located near Tivoli, a few kilometers from Rome, is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of authentic “Great Beauty” too often overlooked, due to lack of time or for purely logistical questions, from those visiting the capital city. It is an archaeological complex of substantial size (about 120 hectares) which houses a kind of royal palace ante litteram, built by the Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD. [pullquote-right]”Villa Adriana is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of authentic “Great Beauty” too often overlooked”[/pullquote-right]The villa is organized in a complex series of buildings and squares which were used in fact to carry out functions of representation and service, as well as of imperial residence. Beyond the historical and archaeological importance of the site (stated as World Heritage by UNESCO back in 1999), the charm of this place is due to the peace and tranquility that reign among the ruins and the monuments. Even on Sunday, there is no risk of long queues at the entrance, nor to be disturbed by crowds of tourists when visiting the area. [pullquote-left]”The charm of this place is due to the peace and tranquility that reign among the ruins and the monuments”[/pullquote-left]The complex has no architectural barriers and takes no more than two hours for a complete visit with no rush. Moreover, the rich vegetation of the area and the huge pools of water on the site, make it a very pleasant place to visit just to wander aimlessly, perhaps looking for a little relax and coolness during the warmer days in summer.

It was years since my last visit to Villa Adriana: the last time I had been there for sure I had not yet developed my passion for photography (or at least I still had no DSLR camera) so it was a long time since I wanted to go there again, this time “armed” with my gear and ready to take home some beautiful pictures that could help me enriching further my portfolio of images to be proposed to the microstock agencies. And so, a beautiful Sunday in April, I decided to dedicate a whole morning to the exploration of Villa Adriana with my photo backpack and all the main pieces of my gear (tripod, filters, tele and wide angle lens). This is the story of a photowalk at Villa Adriana.

Getting to Villa Adriana from the center of Rome is quite simple: by car you can use the A24 highway “Roma-Teramo”, taking the exit to Tivoli and continue for another 3km up to Villa Adriana, very well signposted already from the highway exit. Near the entrance there is a large pay parking (very cheap). The visit begins with a walk uphill on the Via del Lago di Lesina, a long tree-lined avenue that leads from the entrance of the Villa up to a kiosk with a model of the entire archaeological complex.

The Pecile

Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 3

The Pecile

The first area you come across after trespassing the big perimeter wall is the Pecile. It is a reconstruction of the painted portico of the Agora of Athens and it stands as a huge pool about the size of a football field, surrounded by trees of various types (olive trees, cypresses, cherry trees) while it was originally surrounded by a columned portico that bordered the perimeter on all four sides.

Photokore 2 Dreamstime Beautiful Italian Garden with flowered cherry trees, cypresses and olive trees, I canstockphoto27242070_comp

Just over the Pecile you meet the building with three Esedre, vestibule of what was most likely the private residence of the Emperor Hadrian.

Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 8

Building with Three Esedre

The Baths

Le Terme

The Baths

Continuing beyond you meet the huge bath complex, divided into Great and Little Baths, the latter presumably intended for the imperial family. The buildings that make up the spa complex are of considerable size and still show details that prove the richness of architectural solutions used to divide and at the same time enriching the spaces.

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The Canopus

Il Canopo

The Canopus

Continuing the walk south over the spa complex, you come to one that undoubtedly can be defined as the most classic “postcard” of Villa Adriana: the Canopus. It is a long pool still surrounded by Greek statues and Corinthian columns. The pool is the representation of the Egyptian canal that connected the city of Canopus with Alexandria and is said to have been built just as historical re-enactment of the journey of Hadrian in Egypt.

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Among the statues surrounding the pool, noteworthy are the statue of Ares at the Colonnade, a series of Caryatids on the west side and even a crocodile statue on the eastern side.

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Other notable buildings

Sala delle Colonne Doriche

The Hall of the Doric Columns

Up the east side of the Villa is a series of buildings that made up the true heart of the complex. Among these, it is surely worth to mention the Hall of the Doric Columns and the “Piazza d’Oro” (Golden Court), so renamed in modern times because of the wealth of material with which the architectural decorations and sculptures throughout the whole complex were originally made. Also notable is the “building with Peschiera“, considered the true residence of the Emperor because of the centrality of the building relative to the entire complex, as well as because of the richness of the architectural details. And more, in the same area of the Villa, the Imperial Palace, the Hall of the Philosophers and the Hospitalia. Unfortunately at the time of this photowalk the Maritime Theatre (another famous “postcard” of Villa Adriana) was not accessible due to restoration work in progress.

1stock-photo-roman-ruins-at-villa-adriana-hadrian-s-villa-tivoli-italy-277173482 Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 26 Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 22 1canstockphoto27243334_compVilla Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 23 Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 27 1canstockphoto27242864_comp Villa Adriana, un luogo sospeso a metà fra storia e natura 28

Villa Adriana in Microstock

I must confess that the time of day when I visited Villa Adriana (between 11am and 2pm) was not the most favorable in terms of light: a hot day and the blazing sun definitely are not the best conditions to take pictures that can be valid for microstock purposes, but I really had no alternatives. In these cases, you can often have backlight, with harsh shadows and reflections that are difficult to be fixed in post production. To overcome these problems, in addition to using the polarizing filter, I decided to also use the bracketing function, in order to obtain balanced exposure through the HDR technique and also to make more attractive and original images, that would have otherwise hardly distinguish themselves from other pictures of Villa Adriana published by other authors on the marketplaces of the main microstock agencies.

As for the legal aspects it is to be noted that, despite being a place that is subject to the payment of an entrance fee, the reproduction of images of Villa Adriana does not infringe any copyright and therefore there is no need of a specific authorization (model release). However, on this subject I had a lot to argue with the Shutterstock reviewers, who rejected some pictures just for this reason (model released required): I had to explain that in their database there were already dozens of images of Villa Adriana without any model release, therefore I managed to have a second review and to have my images evaluated only about technical issues.

As for the subjects, beyond the historic buildings and the architectural details (some of them truly remarkable, as for example the Greek statues and the Corinthian columns), I found very interesting also the gardens and the lush vegetation, that make Villa Adriana a truly idyllic place to visit.

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Finally, a good set of textures for backgrounds, thanks to the many plots on the old walls, to the mosaic floors, to the grain of the columns and of other architectural elements.

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Altogether, between main images and alternate versions with specific treatments (such as BW, HDR and other artistic filters) I edited a batch of more than 100 new pictures taken from this photowalk, and I progressively sent them to the agencies during the month of May. The results in terms of acceptance were as usual rather varies from agency to agency, but in some cases quite surprising. Below is a list of the acceptance rates of the main agencies:

Shutterstock: 16% Pond5: 2% Kozzi: 100%
iStock: 56% Dreamstime: 58% Colourbox: 100%
Fotolia: 58% CanStock: 61% Veer: 55%
Depositphotos: 65% BigStock: 54% MostPhotos: 100%
123RF: 80% Photodune: 8% Photokore: 100%

Mappa del Photowalk a Villa Adriana (Tivoli)

Map of the Photowalk at Villa Adriana (Tivoli)

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Expert in Marketing and Communication in a major company of the Italian FMCG market, traveler by vocation, passionate photographer, contributor at all major international microstock agencies, founder of Marcor$tock, a blog focused on Microstock Market and Digital Photography.