Domus Aurea set to reopen
Domus Aurea set to reopenNero's 'Golden House' on view as safety work continues ROME (ANSA) - One of Rome's prime tourist attractions, the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea, is set to reopen to the public next month.
Visitors will be allowed back in to the fabled 'Golden House' as from January 30, according to the Culture Ministry, which said tours would be allowed even while repair work on the structure's leaky and flaking walls and ceilings continued.
The ministry said a special visitors' route had been set up amid the scaffolding which would allow them to tour the site in safety.
The Domus has been closed since December 2005. The 32 rooms that were open to the public were declared unsafe after patches of brick and plaster showed signs of detaching.
In recent years, there have been at least two incidents in which holes in the ceilings have appeared.
The top of the Domus on the Oppian Hill is covered with parks, trees and roads whose weight and possible polluting effect was highlighted by some experts when the site was re-opened six years ago.
Archaeological experts are now trying to unearth more of the massive baths that Emperor Trajan built over the Domus.
The Golden Palace of the ill-famed Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) re-opened in June 1999 after 21 years in which it was Rome's best-kept secret - open only to art officials and special guests.
Some five billion lire (2.5 million euros) were spent in refurbishing the visitable rooms filled with surprisingly fresh and lively frescoes of weird animals like winged lions, griffins and tritons which led to the original coinage of the word 'grotesque', from the Italian word for cave (grotto).
After Nero's suicide in 68 AD the Flavian emperors who succeeded him proceeded to bury all trace of the man who already in life was a byword for dissolution, cruelty and excess.
The Flavian amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, was built on the site of Nero's palace-side lake, while Trajan built his baths on top of the main part of the sprawling pleasure dome, located mainly on Rome's Colle Oppio (Oppian Hill).
Ironically, the Colosseum is so-called because of the massive statue of Nero that his successors dragged beside their own monument - after changing the head, according to some ancient accounts.
Another irony is that, by burying the place, they actually preserved it so that the finest wall-paintings outside Pompeii, with almost equally vivid colours, can be admired today.
Other interesting touches are the chalk and tallow marks left by Renaissance masters like Raphael who were let down through a hole in the roof to admire its splendours.
At the time of its re-opening in 1999, officials said it would take another 50 billion lire to uncover all 150 rooms of the palace.
They said the Domus Aurea had the potential to become a site rivalling that of the Palatine with its palaces of the first Caesars.
Among the highlights of any visit will be the frescoes, of course, many of them illustrating the emperor's taste for the exotic in scenes from Homeric myth.
Architecturally, the piece de resistance is the eight-sided Sala Ottagonale where Nero is supposed to have entertained his guests with his singing and lyre-playing, all on a rotating floor.
At suitable moments in the fun, the sybaritic emperor is also reported - by Roman historian Suetonius - to have given the signal for marble panels to slide back, showering guests with petals and perfume.
When it was completed, a 50-hectare complex covering most of the Palatine, Celian and Oppian hills, Nero was reputed to have remarked that finally he was beginning to be housed like a human being.