Nero's palace reopening signals return of tourism in Rome
Hermione Kitson in Rome

After months of Covid19 shutdown, one of Italy's most famous archaeological sites has reopened with an innovative exhibition in homage to Renaissance artist Rafael.

The Domus Aurea holds the remains of Emperor Nero's "Golden Palace". Curator Stefano Borghini says its relaunch signifies an important step for the entire tourism sector.

"It is a big emotion to be able to reopen this site which is one of the biggest and most incredible architecturally in the centre of Rome, just steps away from the Colosseum. It is a symbol of life returning, for all of us".


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The emperor decided to build the sprawling estate after the city's devastating fire of 64 AD.

After he died, his successors wanted to remove any trace of the decadent palace and it was filled with soil and built over. Incredibly, that allowed paintings on the walls to be protected from moisture and preserved. They were rediscovered in the 15th century.

Borghini explains how the site became an artistic inspiration, "The discovery of these strange figures in the frescoes became for these painters a new language that then spread across the world, we found examples of Grotesques in Mexico for example."

The site's first ever exhibition is a tribute to Renaissance artists such as Rafael, who imitated the artworks and inspired generations to come.

"We tried above all to reproduce the sensations of the artists who scaled down from the 'grotte' or caves with torches and were able to see in extraordinary detail the famous grotesques," says Borghini.

During the lockdown closure, a new state-of-the-art lighting system was installed and a new walkway was built, designed by famous Italian architect Stefano Boeri.

In the exhibition, visitors can journey back in time in an interactive media display. Visitor Emanuele Giancola says it is "a perfect union between the ancient and modern worlds."

Tourism is breathing life into the Eternal City again, after months of various lockdowns. Every region in Italy is a low-risk white zone and masks outdoors are no longer necessary but health authorities are still urging caution as the Delta variant gains ground.

For now, the Covid infection rate remains stable, allowing Italy's famous attractions to bask in the spotlight.

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