IN PHOTOS: Italy reopens ‘forgotten’ mausoleum of Roman emperor Augustus
Despite coronavirus restrictions, tickets are sold out until June for Rome’s most recently unveiled historic site.
Published: 5 March 2021 14:29 CET
Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP
The newly-renovated mausoleum for the founder of the Roman empire Augustus reopened to the public this week after fourteen years of closure – and centuries of neglect.
“Until now we have always known it as a ruin, but it is one of the most important monuments of antiquity,” explained Alessia, a masked guide taking a small group of visitors on the labyrinthine route through five concentric enclosures.
“It was so majestic, they had never seen anything like this in Rome.”
People visit the Mausoleum of Augustus as it reopens on March 3rd. Photo by Filippo Monteforte/ AFP.
The vast Mausoleo di Augusto was built on the banks of the River Tiber between 28 and 23 BC as a monument to Augustus, the great-nephew of Julius Caesar who built the Roman empire during his 40-year rule.
The cylindrical base has a diameter of 90 metres, on top of which was planted a mound of cypress trees. On the summit, a bronze statue of thee mperor stood guard, taking the total height to 45 metres.
At the centre of the mausoleum, originally clad in white marble and travertine, was a burial chamber reserved for Augustus and his wife Livia, while around them were further rooms reserved for members of their dynasty.
But it had fallen into such a state of disrepair, in ruins and overgrown with weeds, that modern-day Romans described the site as a “rotten tooth”.
After the fall of the Roman empire, the mausoleum lost its relevance as a burial site and like other Roman monuments was put to a variety of uses by the generations that followed.
It was a fortress in the Middle Ages, then a Renaissance garden, an arena for bulls and buffalo fighting, and in the early 1900s a concert hall was built over it.
Photos by Filippo Monteforte/ AFP.
The mausoleum was brought back into public display in the 1930s by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who sought to present his regime as the heir of the ancient Roman empire.
As a result of all these conversions, only 30 percent of the original monument remains, and the spoils of Augustus and his family have long disappeared.
But the restoration of the square in front of the building, which currently lies seven metres below ground level, has made it more visible and ensures it finally gets the attention it deserves.
The mausoleum was closed in 2007 and the restoration works are not yet complete, as evidenced by the crane overhanging the site and the swarms of contractors bustling around.
Photos by Filippo Monteforte/ AFP.
Such is the scale of the building that experts believe Augustus was probably inspired by the tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria in Egypt, or the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, now in Turkey, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Gianluca Carli, a 38-year-old Roman, was overwhelmed after his first visit.
“It’s a lot of emotion, as a Roman in love with his city, the idea of regaining possession of a part of my heritage,” he told AFP.
“I feel a bit like the guardian of this city. So to be able to set foot again in such a mausoleum, so beautiful.”
Here are the remote Italian villages worth seeking out in 2022, according to a list compiled by one of the country's leading tourism associations.
Published: 17 May 2022 14:18 CEST
A total of 270 villages across Italy have been recognised as being especially tourist-friendly this year by the Italian Touring Club (Touring Club Italiano), one of the country’s largest non-profit associations dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism throughout the territory.
‘Orange Flag’ status is awarded if a village is judged to have significant historic, cultural and environmental value, as well as for being welcoming to visitors and outsiders, according to the initiative’s website.
Villages can apply for the status if they are located inland with no coastal stretches; have fewer than 15,000 inhabitants; have a well-preserved historic centre and a strong sense of cultural identity; demonstrate sensitivity to issues of sustainability; have a well-organised tourist reception system; and show an intention to continue to make improvements to the town.
The list is updated annually, and in 2022 three new villages gained orange flag status for the first time: Dozza in Emilia Romagna, Manciano in Tuscany, and Sasso di Castalda in Basilicata.
See below for the map and a list of the Orange Flag villages according to region:
Montepulciano in Tuscany has ‘orange flag’ status. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.
Abruzzo – 7 villages
Civitella Alfadena, Fara San Martino, Lama dei Peligni, Opi, Palena, Roccascalegna, Scanno.
Basilicata – 6 villages
Aliano, Castelmezzano, Perticara Guard, San Severino Lucano, Sasso di Castalda, Valsinni.
Bagno di Romagna, Bobbio, Brisighella, Busseto, Castell’Arquato, Castelvetro di Modena, Castrocaro Terme and Terra del Sole, Dozza, Fanano, Fiumalbo, Fontanellato, Longiano, Montefiore Conca, Monteleone, Pennabilli, Pieve di Cento, Portico and San Benedetto, Premilcuore, San Leo, Sarsina, Sestola, Verucchio, Vigoleno.
Friuli Venezia Giulia – 7 villages
Andreis, Barcis, Cividale del Friuli, Frisanco, Maniago, San Vito al Tagliamento, Sappada.
Lazio – 20 villages
Arpino, Bassiano, Bolsena, Bomarzo, Calcata, Campodimele, Caprarola, Casperia, Collepardo, Fossanova, Labro, Leonessa, Nemi, San Donato Val di Comino, Sermoneta, Subiaco, Sutri, Trevignano Romano, Tuscania, Vitorchiano.