25
Sep

augustusLavishly frescoed rooms in the houses of the Roman Emperor Augustus and his wife Livia are opening for the first time to the public Thursday, after years of painstaking restoration.

The houses on Rome’s Palatine hill where the emperor lived with his family are re-opening after a 2.5 million euro ($3.22 million) restoration to mark the 2,000 anniversary of Augustus’s death — with previously off-limit chambers on show for the first time.

From garlands of flowers on Pompeian red backgrounds to majestic temples and scenes of rural bliss, the rooms are adorned with vividly coloured frescoes, many in an exceptional condition.

Restorers said their task had been a complex one, with bad weather during excavation threating the prized relics of a golden era in the Eternal City.

“We had to tackle a host of problems which were all connected, from underground grottos to sewers — and I’m talking about a sewer system stretching over 35 hectares (86 acres),” Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome’s archaeological superintendent, told AFP.

To protect the site, tourists will have to book to join one of three daily groups of up to 20 people who will be taken around by a guide for a 15-minute visit.

Cinzia Conti, head restorer, said the plan was to allow people to enjoy “a more intimate, more attentive exploration of Augustus’s spaces.”

It will also mean “we restorers can keep an eye on and evaluate the consequences of the public walking through, for example the dust on their shoes and especially their breath,” she said.

Augustus’s decision to build his “domus” near a grotto where Romans worshipped Romulus — one of the twins who legend has it founded Rome — was no coincidence.

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