The Astonishing Villa Romana del Casale

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From the Hall of the Great Hunt (I think)

What a difference two years make! The itinerary for our visit to Sicilia last week included a stop in Piazza Armerina to see the Villa Romana del Casale. After we visited Greek temples at Agrigento on Saturday morning, we asked our daughter, Kate, to decide if we would go to the villa, because Michael and I saw acres of gorgeous mosaics in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and I visited the villa two years ago. Happily, Kate chose to see the villa, and I’m so grateful that she did.

The geometrical floors were so restful after the frantic activity of the other floors.

The geometrical floors were so restful after the frantic activity of the other floors.

When I visited in 2011, excavation and repair work were still underway in the villa. Two years ago I saw five of the 40 rooms; last week we saw most of the 40. Two years ago the villa was covered with a horrid plastic roof; now the rooms are covered with a new roof that allows visitors to see the mosaics much better. I’ve never toured a home in quite the way we walked through the villa, because we couldn’t walk on the floors. We had to use catwalks to get some distance on and better ogle the brilliantly colored mosaics.

And such mosaics! Every floor of almost every room is covered from wall to wall with mosaics created by meticulous and creative craftsmen from North Africa. The mosaics depict every subject: hunting, mythology, daily life, festivals, food, animals, children, girls in bikinis, amorous couples—you name it, a floor has it! The villa’s large basilica is a different story. There marble covered the floors, obviously the most precious floor covering at that time.

Detail from the Hall of the Great Hunt

Detail from the Hall of the Great Hunt

The villa that we see today was built atop another structure sometime around the end of the 3rd century or the beginning of the 4th century AD. It was buried by a landslide in 1161 and rediscovered only at the end of the 19th century. Excavations began in 1950 and are still underway. It must have been an amazing place to visit during its heyday! Because the owner paid such elaborate attention to the floors, I imagine that the walls must have been covered with wonderful frescoes as well. In fact, I could still see some of the vivid colors on wall fragments in some areas.

A rat biting a boy - yuck!

A rat biting a boy – yuck!

If the mosaics weren’t enough, seeing how a nobleman lived during the Roman Empire was fascinating. The villa sits in the countryside, and it measures around 37,000 square feet. It boasts a large complex of rooms for the owner, guest rooms, servants’ quarters, a basilica, latrines, rooms for cold and hot baths and saunas, and an exercise room. The villa’s most magnificent room is the Hall of the Great Hunt, which is 200 feet long and crammed with hunters who are capturing animals to be displayed in Roman spectacles. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The Villa Romana del Casale is utterly magnificent! I’m so glad I returned. Oh, how I love Sicilia!

Ciao!

P.S., The photos in this post are from the trip last week. To see photos from my 2011 visit, click here.

Such glorious colors, and note the frescoes on the wall

Such glorious colors, and note the frescoes on the wall

I can't tell whether this is consensual or just sensual.

I can’t tell whether this is consensual or something else.

Detail from the Room of the Small Hunt

Detail from the Room of the Small Hunt

One of my favorite floors - everything you always wanted to know about fishing!

One of my favorite floors – everything you always wanted to know about fishing!

The most famous floor in the villa. The woman on the bottom left is about to crown another winner. Apparently this costume was commonly worn for gymnastics. I think these babes are cute!

The most famous floor in the villa. The woman on the bottom left is about to crown another winner. Apparently this costume was commonly worn for gymnastics. I think these babes are cute!

Close-up of the old floor under the bikini girls

Close-up of the old floor under the bikini girls

The Hall of the Great Hunt - I LOVED this ship, which was huge. You can see only half of it here.

The Hall of the Great Hunt – I LOVED this ship!

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt

The Hall of the Great Hunt - 200 feet long!

The Hall of the Great Hunt – 200 feet long!

I loved this antechamber floor - children's chariot races on birds!

I loved this antechamber floor – a children’s race with bird-drawn chariots!

Semicircular portico at the front of the master's chambers

Semicircular portico at the front of the master’s chambers – the semicircle connected many of the rooms in this private area.

An antechamber near the master's quarters

An antechamber near the master’s quarters

Note the shape of the room and the busy, busy, busy floor.

Note the shape of the room and the busy, busy, busy floor.

Marble floor of the basilica

Marble floor of the basilica

Bedroom - center floor medallion

Bedroom – center floor medallion

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6 Responses to The Astonishing Villa Romana del Casale

  1. Christine Windheuser says:

    Sue

    This was one if my favorites places on my Sicily trip. So glad they finally finished the roof and opened more rooms ! Loved rat boy and the groper! Why no new photos – is the lighting bad under the roof? Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • skdyer7 says:

      The photos in this post are all photos from last week; the ones in the old post are photos from 2011. The lighting isn’t great under the new roof, so the colors don’t really pop the way they do in real life. You should go back–it’s wonderful!

  2. Larry Byer says:

    Mary and I really enjoyed this.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. lightbox3d says:

    One of the most stunning sites I have seen in all of Europe!

  4. Pingback: Ostrich for Breakfast, Ostrich for Lunch, Ostrich for Dinner – Co-Geeking

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