I really love mosaics, and I’ve always been drawn to them.
I’ve seen beautiful examples all around the world, and my fascination even extended to taking a mosaic making class (in fact I still have a plant pot I decorated in the 90s).
So when I heard Sicily was home to a Roman villa with extensive mosaic floors, I was in.
Villa Romana del Casale was constructed in the first quarter of the 4th century AD, and the owner was probably a member of the senatorial class, if not of the imperial family itself. What makes this villa even more interesting is that it had been covered by a landslide and largely forgotten until the 1920s, when excavations began. I bet the locals knew it was there all along though, and I’m sure there are pieces of it in people’s gardens thereabouts!
Being covered by mud for centuries means that the mosaics haven’t been exposed to sunlight and are therefore in top notch condition.
On our first visit in 2010, only two rooms were open because restoration work was in full swing. They were wonderful, but it was a bit of a letdown.
On our third trip to Sicily in 2014 we paid the villa another visit. This time I was hoping more rooms would be open, and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole site has been extensively renovated since we were last there. There were what seemed like dozens of rooms, almost all with exquisite mosaics, and all just incredible.
One of the things I love about ancient mosaics is that they’re like photos from that time: they show you what people were wearing, what animals were around, what technology they had. It’s fascinating. and that’s before you even start admiring the craftsmanship.When I’m visiting ancient sites I have a tendency to transport myself back in time (in my own mind of course, until time travel is available) and imagine myself as a player in the scene. So here at the villa I imagined myself sashaying around in a toga as lady of the house. Imagine the life!
A word of warning: this place is very firmly on the tourist trail (for good reason) and attracts huge crowds, and lots of tour groups. I recommend getting there as soon as it opens in the morning to have a quieter experience.
There’s not much else to see in the vicinity, and both times we went we made a special trip – once from Syracusa and once from Ragusa. Totally worth the detour in my opinion. And it’s UNESCO!
More information on the villa and its mosaics can be found here.
Until next time, happy travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni