Fit For an Emperor – a Virtual Reality Tour of Nero’s Golden Palace

Emperor Nero, a technology enthusiast, would have loved it: his over-the-top golden palace in Rome is about to get the virtual reality treatment.

Beginning Saturday, visitors to the buried Domus Aurea (Golden House) will be able to don headsets to get a closer look at the frescoes on its 12-meter- (40-ft)-high walls.

The palace was built in 64 A.D. after fire swept through the city, the one through which the man himself is – probably apocryphally – said to have fiddled.

“We believe it is fundamental to get visitors to understand what the Domus Aurea was really like,” said the site’s special superintendent Francesco Prosperetti. “We wanted to let them experience it even better than Nero himself.”

Named after the gold leaf covering some of its walls, the palace was the centerpiece of a complex that once included an artificial lake where the Colosseum now stands.

The exhibitionist emperor indulged his penchant for clever contrivances with benign inventions like a revolving dining hall inside the palace and more sinister plans such as, according to legend, a collapsing ship to carry his mother to a watery grave.

Filled with rubble by the later Emperor Trajan, who built his baths on top, the palace was rediscovered in the 15th century. It has been undergoing restoration in recent years.

The complex used to attract 1,000 visitors a day before leaking water put the underground chambers at risk of collapse and prompted its closure.

Rome’s archaeological authorities decided to open up the palace in 2014 to small groups of visitors, partly to show people how the state-funded restoration was progressing.

The site superintendent’s office has estimated reinforcing the palace will cost 31 million euros.