For Roman Mosaics, Come to Sicily

In 300 CE, the Roman Empire was beginning to fail so the rich and famous preferred to build their palaces away from the impending chaos in Rome. One Roman built his villa near Piazza Armerina and covered the floors with 37,000 square feet of marble mosaics. No one knows who built Villa Romana Del Casale; but based on the themes of the mosaics, it is believed to be a Roman senator who imported exotic animals. The Villa is special as it is one of the few remaining Roman sites in Sicily. Centuries of invaders looted, destroyed, or recycled the ancient buildings of Sicily. Villa Romana survived because of its remote location and a landslide that sealed off the area in the 1300’s. By the time it was rediscovered in the 1930’s, civilization was ready to preserve ancient treasures. The mosaics are some of the best preserved in the Mediterranean area. The site has been preserved by covering it with a roof, but the mosaics are original without restoration. Since the mosaics are marble, their color is the same today as when they were created.This was part of the viaduct that supplied water to the thermal baths in the villa.This dog accompanied us for much of the tour. He was very popular with the guards.The palestra was the home gym located adjacent to the spa area which had hot, warm, and cold baths.The peristyle courtyard had a walkway on all four sides featuring faces of exotic animals. Rick Steves speculates that they may have served as a catalog of the animals offered for sale by the owner.The Hall of the Small Hunt features hunting scenes. In the top picture the hunters are enjoying a barbecue lunch. In the bottom the man with the spear is fending off a wild boar after his companion had been injured by the boar. This room is thought to be the dining room.The Ambulatory of the Great Hunt. This 200 foot long hunting scene may depict how the owner obtained exotic animals to sell. The scenes shown above illustrate an antelope and elephant being loaded on a boat and a rhinoceros being captured. I question that the boat shown would hold an elephant and that a rhino would be that passive when caught.This shows convincingly that Bridget Bardot did not originate the bikini. The mosaic depicts women athletes competing in sporting events.I placed a Euro on the nose of this animal for scale. The Euro has a bronze edge and is about the size of a quarter. The mosaic tiles are typically the size of a finger nail and some are much smaller.I included these two pictures to show that there were also frescoes on the wall. Most of them were in poor condition. The bottom picture is the alcove of the master’s bedroom where the bed would be located.A mosaic from the master bedroom. The basilica had a marble tile floor instead of mosaics.The prickly pear cactus by the villa was loaded with fruit.We had lunch in the hill town of Caltagirone. It was a charming town with Baroque balconies.The alter of this church is made from different colors of marble. It is the only church I have ever been in that had an operating model railroad including a working waterfall.These 141 steps all lined with ceramic tile lead from the old town to the new town. Fortunately, we had no need to get to the new town.The town is famous for its ceramics. The ceramic pinecones on the corners of the railing are a symbol of hospitality.The town is filled with scenic, narrow streets with views of churches at the end. We are staying in another hillside town, Ragusa, the next three nights.

One thought on “For Roman Mosaics, Come to Sicily”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *