Walks are not known for getting excited about new tours. We tend to take the 70 services in Italy with us as they come. We recently launched a tour that is causing us all to be in a frenzy. We want to shout from the rooftops.
Our new VIP Caesar’s Palace Tour is now available. This tour will take you to Casa di Livia and Casa di Augusto. It’s the 1st Century B.C. House of Emperor Augustus Octavius Caesar’s wife Livia. Read on if you are interested in archaeology or history; the politics and scandals of Ancient Rome; or if your dream is to become an Ancient Roman Emperor’s house guest.
Emperor Augustus was quite a big deal.
You may not be aware that Emperor Augustus was born Octavian and was the grand-nephew to Julius Caesar. He was named heir after his great-uncle died. He then went head-to-head with Mark Anthony, his lover Cleopatra, to become the next ruler in Rome. He won the battle and was able to establish the Roman Empire. He also became the first Emperor in Ancient Rome. This created a better legal framework, improved road networks, and a period of unprecedented peace throughout Rome.
You’ll hear different stories about Augustus depending on who you ask. He was the father, head of Rome’s religion and leader of Rome’s army. He also won victories. One thing is certain, however: Augustus was an incredibly popular dictator. His house was so popular that the rich and the poor of Rome donated money unprompted to rebuild it after it was destroyed by fire. Augustus expressed his gratitude, but accepted only one coin for each donation, no matter how large.
Casa di Augusto – The Simple Home of a Great Man
Augustus bought an existing Palatine Hill house rather than building his own palace as many would do when he became the ruler of the greatest empire in the world. It was two floors high, with short arches, which meant a low roof and no marble. He didn’t use the entire space. According to legend, he slept in the same room for 40 years regardless of weather conditions and to the detriment of his health.
This symbolism was powerful. Augustus’ modesty and choice of location (right next to the Hut of Romulus where Romans came in honor of the founder of the city), raised him almost to sainthood by his people — the natural predecessor of Romulus.
To the delight of many visitors, he did a little decorating. To paint the walls of Augustus’ House, the best painters from Rome were hired. They created theatre scenes, masks, porticos, and columns. Visitors may be able to see similarities between their style and those of Pompeii. These are the best. They are some of the finest examples of Roman wall painting that you will find anywhere. And they’re still at their original spot: At the exact spot where Emperor Augustus used to look at them. Visitors can now stop and admire them 2,000+ years later.
The House of Augustus ‘Room of the Masks’: The entire room is painted with the theme of theatre and is amazingly well preserved
Visitors can take a complete walk through the House of Augustus, which allows them to see the small rooms and their doors, and get a sense of how life was in Ancient Rome. We have to confess, it was Casa di Livia (the House of Livia) that took our breath away.
Casa di Livia: A Grand Apartment for a Grand Lady
Augustus was less modest when it came to Livia. The arches grew taller, the ceilings got higher, and the floors became more marble-covered. He didn’t have a second or third wife, but she was his only and most loyal. He took her and Tiberius, her son, and built the rooms that we see today with original marble floor tiles and arches, and domed ceilings.
The perfect preservation conditions have allowed archaeologists to do an amazing job. The paintings were removed from the House of Livia’s walls as it was falling to ruin and buried at a constant cool temperature. These paintings were found in this way and could often be picked up and re-attached to the wall piece by piece.
It is breathtaking. The entrance is through a narrow doorway. Once inside, the visitors are taken down a few steps to reach a large, enclosed area with huge roofs and colorful frescos. The area doesn’t feel as much like a ruined ruin as it does as a real-life palace. It is as still and cold as if it had air conditioning. The best part? You can even go alone!
VIP Caesar’s Palace Tour: An Exclusive Visit
Since 2008, the Casa di Augusto, as well as the Casa di Livia, are open to the public. In the past, visitors would line up outside for hours and then be allowed in five at a time by guards. In recent years, a security gate was installed to keep the public out. Visits to Augustus’ and Livia’s houses can now only be made with a scheduled tour and guide.
The good news? Guests can now spend more time inside. Our VIP Caesar’s Palace tour takes us inside two houses for an hour. During this time, no one else is allowed to enter the Palatine Hill gated area. Our small group of 15 or fewer people — we are free to wander around the rooms and do not need to use headsets to hear our guide.
We recommend that you make a priority of a Casa di Augusto or Livia visit, even though it might not be on your top 10 Rome list. It is known for its beautiful paintings and peaceful atmosphere. The gossip, too. It is widely believed that Livia poisoned Augustus to make her son the Emperor. It’s quite a tale, but it’s one we will continue to tell.
The VIP Caesar’s Palace Tour lasts 3.5 hours. This includes a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, as well as Palatine Hill. You will be able to skip the lines at any site.