Nero's Villa, with its rose-colored brickwork, nestles on the plateau overlooking the sea, just to the west of the modern-day lighthouse. Sitting high, majestic and solemn on the half-moon slice of coastline, close-by Capo d'Anzio. Perched jumbled together on a group of "ruins" above the base of massive walls with gardens, pools, fish hatcheries, gyms, porticoes, home spas and what is thought to be a small theater. A suburban residence that tradition holds was that of the most restless and talked-about of Roman emperors ‒ Nero.
“Nero greeted a daughter, presented to him by Poppaea, with more than human joy, named the child Augusta, and bestowed the same title on Poppaea. The scene of her delivery was the colony of Antium, where the sovereign himself had seen the light. The senate had already commended the travail of Poppaea to the care of Heaven and formulated vows in the name of the state: they were now multiplied and paid. Public thanksgivings were added, and a Temple of Fertility was decreed, together with a contest on the model of the Actian festival; while golden effigies of the Two Fortunes were to be placed on the throne of Capitoline Jove, and, as the Julian race had its Circus Games at Bovillae, so at Antium should the Claudian and Domitian houses. But all was transitory, as the infant died in less than four months. Then fresh forms of adulation made their appearance and she was voted the honour of deification, a place in the pulvinar, a temple, and a priest. The emperor, too, showed himself as incontinent in sorrow as in joy.” (Tacitus, Annals; XV, 23 – trans. Loeb Classical Library, 1937)
A huge complex worthy to be the golden standard-bearer which, at the height of its expanse, extended inland to the area currently occupied by the military hospital in Villa Sarsina. While, towards the coast, it extended beyond the beach into the sea with charming structures right on the water’s edge. In actuality, it was born and developed starting during the republican era and was talked about during the various periods of imperial Rome, from Augustus to Nero, Domitian, Hadrian and up to Septimius Severus. Periods that can still be traced in the walls, masonry and fistule, and which allow us to just imagine how exceptional the structure was with all its extraordinary accompanying gardens, mosaics, frescoes and statues:
“Among these ruins from the time of Julius II was disinterred the Apollo, known as the Belvedere, and during the period of Paul V a century later, the presumed Gladiator of the Borghesi, classic statues in the history of art that demonstrate the richness of this villa.” (Nibby, Historical and topographical study of the area around Rome, I, 43)
A place to relax and take refuge from the labors of what was the capital of the world and one which, thanks to its solitary view over the sea, would prove capable of moving the emotions for centuries to come:
“The solitude of this sea is marvelously suited to calming the soul. The subtle, gentle contour of the shoreline which extends for miles blending into the sky; the sparkling white sands; the perpetual breaking of the sea's waves that change form and hue in continuation; the marvelous Cape of Circe that rises up out of the sea, almost like an island and seems to shine like a magical sapphire of Homeric proportions; the small, distant island of Ponza whose light blue peaks rise out of the waves like a crown of flowers; the hundreds of small sails that come and go, appear and disappear: the melancholy song of the fishermen; the strains of flutes and harps.” (F. Gregorovius, Ricordi storici e pittorici d’Italia, p. 107)