The Italian Almanac

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Hadrian's villa

Italian News - February 5

Hadrian's Villa has unveiled its latest secret, a monumental staircase complete with huge columns and a giant sphinx. Archaeologists said the stairway, found in an area known as the Gymnasium, was probably the original entrance to the sprawling complex. A statue of an athlete and a huge theatrical mask, both in marble, were also found at the site.

"These are extraordinary finds," said the archaeologist who made the discoveries, Zaccaria Mari. "The coloured marble on the columns is simply superb while the sphinx is an amazing work." Mari said the 8.5m wide staircase and the statuary were probably made around the end of the villa's construction, towards 130 AD, but the 2.5m long sphinx might be even older.

Hadrian's Villa, a few miles north of Rome at Tivoli, was the largest and richest Imperial Roman villa ever built. Starting from his investiture in 117 AD, it took ten years to build with Hadrian himself showing his architectural skills as he paid homage to the most beautiful buildings in his Empire.

Protected by a beautiful park, the villa is one of the most evocative classical sites in Italy and draws thousands of visitors a year.