Horti Lamiani: a secret garden underground Rome

A newly opened museum underground Rome

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Horti Lamiani Rome
Some of the rooms of the Horti Lamiani in Rome

Rome has a history that lasts thousands of years. Across this Eternal time, layers of history have accumulated, gifting us today with unexpected surprises. Especially when you walk underground Rome!

One of the latest surprises we can go and visit, is in the area of Piazza Vittorio, on the Esquiline hill, not too far from the Termini station.

After a short stroll in Piazza Vittorio, head down to the porticos around the square and reach the ENPAM palace (the foundation of the social welfare of medical personnel).

On Saturday and Sunday morning the foundation opens its doors to visitors, so that everyone has the chance to explore the secrets that lay beneath the building.

horti lamiani rome

The Horti Lamiani: the garden of the Gods

The Horti Lamiani in Rome used to be a sumptuous private residence, surrounded by lush gardens, fountains and porticos. It was a heavenly place, that is why it is referred to as the “garden of the Gods”.

horti lamiani rome

What does horti mean?

What does “horti” mean? The Horti in ancient Rome were the gardens around the aristocratic villas. The horti decorated those villas with bushes, fountains, statues, plants according to the taste of the owner and to the trends of the time. So when we say Horti, we refer to the aristocrats’ countryside villas, the perfect place for outdoor lush banquets!

The Horti Lamiani were the horti of Lucio Elio Lamia, who used to be a consul and prefect in Rome and built this beautiful place in the 1st century BC.

This place was so beautiful that in later times it became imperial property. In fact emperors loved this place, especially the emperors Caligula and Septimius Severus, who made the major adjustments that we can (partially) admire today. Emperors made this place divine.

What did the Horti Lamiani look like?

The section of the Horti Lamiani that you can explore here corresponds to a square. It was a sort of forum (a city square), but for the private use of the emperor.

This square featured a white marble pavement (which you can see today under the glass floor) and it was richly decorated with statues, fountains and colorful frescoes all around.

horti lamiani rome
This fresco decorated an entire wall which was 15 meters long!

And to make it even more special, there were also plants and flowers coming from all over the Mediterranean and..

lions, bears and other exotic animals that lived in the garden!

All of this information is known thanks of the fragments that were found here. 

In fact archaeologists found the bones of these animals and the vases where those plants were cultivated. The shells of the fish that were eaten during the banquets, as well as the crystal glasses used by the emperors during their banquets.

horti lamiani rome

Why emperors loved so much the Horti Lamiani?

Because it had all the advantages of a countryside villa, with the ease of reaching the political heart of the city in a short time.

Emperors used this place to meditate away from the bustling political life of the city center, as well as to receive the delegations and important guests.

horti lamiani rome
The original white marble pavement is visible through the glass

Visiting the Horti Lamiani in Rome

The Horti Lamiani archaeological site is called “Museo Ninfeo” and it opened only a month ago, beginning of November 2021.
You can visit this place on Saturdays and Sundays, morning only. You can purchase the tickets through their website: https://www.museoninfeo.it/

Will you be visiting this hidden gem while on the Esquiline hill? Let me know your thoughts of this place in the comments below! 🙂

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Written by Federica

Creative director of Live Virtual Guide. Her favorite things are gelato, pizza and the hidden gems of Rome.

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