Enna: Piazza Armerina, Villa romana del Casale

This is an excerpt from the book “Sicily”.

Photo © Mauro Manmano
Photo © Mauro Manmano

This villa is located near Piazza Armerina in south central Sicily. The beautiful floors are done entirely in mosaic.

The “Villa Romana del Casale” has already been, in 1997, declared from Unesco inalienable heritage of Mankind because it quite represents not just an extraordinary and important witness of the Roman lifestyle towards the end of the Empire but even the complex system of economic, social and cultural relations in which it was integrated with particular reference to the Mediterranean basin.

Through its mosaics it is possible to go again along the history of the greatest among the Empires, a sort of photographic album that shows not just the scenes of everyday life, but even representations of Divinities and Heroes, hunting scenes, cupids and children having races and others countless representations that leave the visitor amazed by the beauty of everything he can see.

Photo © Mauro Manmano
Photo © Mauro Manmano

The villa, rising on an area of more then 3500 square meters, was probably the hunting residence of the Emperor Massimiliano, named Herculeos Victor; or the residence of an important roman patrician, maybe Valerio Proculo Populonio. It presents 48 rooms. Almost in every room it is possible to see the splendid mosaics made almost certainly by north African workers that used to utilize this technique. The structure was made between the end of the III Century and the beginning of the IV. The first diggings of scientific importance were undertaken by the Municipality of Piazza Armerina in 1881 and abandoned soon after.

Later they were resumed between 1935 and 1939 but just in 1954 the Villa begun to be dug out by the means of the great archaeologist Gino Vinicio Gentili. Thanks to the digging, lasting no less than 9 years, he gave to the world one of the most amazing and inestimable jewel of the history of art. Inhabited even during the Arabic age, the Villa was partially destroyed by the Normans. Afterwards, an avalanche of mud, coming from the Mount Mangone (raising above the Villa) covered it almost totally. The morphology of the ground conditioned and determined the plan metric development of the structure, giving to it an organization on three levels.

The Villa follow the slope of the hill on which it rises, determining architectonic peculiarities really remarkable. It is divided into several parts: the residential zone (built around the big central peristyle over which overlook even the basilica, reserved to the official receptions); an official zone with the elliptical peristyle (xistus) and the big trilobite lounge (triclinio); the whole of the thermae with the aqueduct that provided to its watering.

Photo © Mauro Manmano
Photo © Mauro Manmano

The polygonal courtyard that is the entrance to the Villa act as a Hinge between the zones in which it is subdivided. All the pictures, executed with the mosaic technique, deserve to be admired. Among them the more popular are: in the “Ambulacro della Grande Caccia” (the hall of the Great Hunting), the capture and the transport of the animals destined to the circus games; in the vestibule, the fight among Eros and Pan and the portrayal of Ulisse and Polifemo; in the triclinium the labours of Hercules. Surely the best known picture is that one of the girls wearing Bikinis.

It is situated in one of the rooms to the South of the peristyle. The Villa is easy to reach through the motorway Palermo-Catania, leaving the motorway at the Enna or Mulinello Junction and continuing towards the city of Piazza Armerina; it is even possible to use the railway links Palermo-Catania.

Where to stay in Piazza Armerina

There are hotels, B&Bs, villas and farm stays available, check them out and make a reservation here.