The part of the palace known as "the basement" was built during the reign of Diocletian to support the apartments placed above it and, until 1956, was unexplored and cluttered up with the detritus of thousands of years of history. Now, it's been cleaned and opened for visitors. Because it mirrors the floor plan of the original imperial living quarters, a visit to the basement can help visitors envision the layout of the palace. And, because exploring the depths of ancient palaces is difficult work, the steps leading up and out of the northern end of the basement to the Peristyle can be a perfect escape. At one time the central courtyard of the palace, the Peristyle is now one of the central meeting points in town, with people leisurely sipping coffee, surrounded by an array of ancient architectural structures.