The first time I visited Villa Romana del Casale, I was 15 years old. I had accompanied my grandmother during a day trip around the pretty village of Piazza Armerina, in the province of Enna. I was much impressed by the magnificent mosaics, but, above all, by some of them depicting erotic scenes of the daily life of the ancient Romans. While I was watching these mosaics, my grandmother said to me: please don’t look at them, please cover your eyes! Then, I turned to my grandmother and said to her: sorry, grandmamma, but why did you take me here and now you want to take me away?
Fortunately (or unfortunately), today I am 47 years and understood that at that time, I visited the most realistic, impressive, magnificent and well preserved mosaics in the world. Around me, during that day trip, I saw mosaics depicting naked people, enormous breasts, asses and long male genital members. All this happened because the mosaics also depicted the scenes of private life of the ancient Roman aristocracy. At that age, ancient Romans were not ashamed about their sexuality, but I must admit that similar mosaics were really impressive for me. I don’t know if you can see these imagines again, when you visit Villa Romana del Casale, because this magnificent Villa has been undergo to renovation works in the past years. These works have been completed in 2012.
Before this date, the public entrance was forbidden. Today, I don’t know if these hot mosaics have been covered or if the long genital members of the ancient Romans have been resized!!! Among others, the male genital member is also called with a notorious name from Sicilians (Min… a!). I don’t write it here. If you have Sicilian roots, try to guess it!
Anyway, regardless this hilarious introduction, I want to better talk about one the most important monuments in Sicily. It is so important that it was also added to the Unesco World Heritage site list, in 1997. If you want to know more, about the wonderful Villa Romana del Casale, follow the subsequent paragraphs.
Tourist information and history
Villa Romana del Casale, also known as Roman Country Villa, is a magnificent building dating back to the IV century BC. It belonged to a noble and wealthy Roman family. This family was not a member of the Roman Senate, however it was fairly influential in the politic and economic of the Roman Empire. The owner came from Cefalù . Seen that he had his lands in Piazza Armerina, decided to control them personally and to settle in this village. The habit to move to Sicily, in order to control the lands and the crops, was largely widespread among the Roman aristocracy. Indeed, Villa Romana del Casale is the brightest example of the ancient latifundium in Sicily. Due to the richness of the owners, the manor, or rather, the villa, was built with a luxury style, as if it was half a cathedral and half a palace. It has 60 rooms decorated with stunning mosaics and a surface of over 3000 square meters. It is at four kms from Piazza Armerina, a picturesque Sicilian village (see the image) in the province of Enna.
While you visit Villa Romana, I also recommend that you visit the town of Piazza Armerina, where you can see another archaeological site called Morgantina (see the image), Pergusa lake, the Aragonese castle, Sant’Andrea Church, the nature Ronza park and one among the most untouched landscapes of Sicily. Coming back to Villa Romana del Casale, it was partially ruined because of an earthquake, but fortunately, a landslide covered and protected the most of the rooms and mosaics from the shocks. And so, these artworks remained well preserved. The villa was discovered by Gino Vinicio Gentili, who undertook a detailed exploration of it, in 1950, thanks to the suggestions of the locals. Mainly observing the style of the mosaics, the archaeologist established the real origin of the Villa and the pattern of the sumptuous property, which was built on an ancient agricultural farm. From this information, you can also guess the origin of the name of the villa. It is called Villa Romana del Casale because its internal and external style was built as a villa, Roman, because it was owned by a Roman family, Casale, because the properties built on agricultural lands in Sicily (and not only) are called Casale.
The most relevant details of Villa Romana del Casale are the mosaics. As I said above, they are really magnificent, realistic and characterized by many naked depictions. It is as if the ancient Romans made an homage, an artistic tribute to nudity. Just think that to decorate the various rooms of the Villa, the ancient Roman owners hired awesome African masters. Today, Villa Romana del Casale is the most sublime symbol of the mosaic art in the world. The other people who visited them, said that these mosaics are really outstanding. I can confirm all this because I have also visited this stunning Villa in my lifetime.
The mosaics of floors and walls are the real richness of this mansion. They depict daily life scenes, hunting, animals, sea creatures and mythological scenes inspired by Homeric legends. The rarity and the beauty of these well preserved artworks lies not only in the vivid colours, but, above all, in the modern style which depicts the various scenes. Among them, you can also admire a group of ancient Roman girls who play sports in bathing suit. This mosaic is called the bikini girls (see the image). Strolling the several rooms of the villa, you’ll see the thermal room with the gym, where is a mosaic which depicts a race at the Circus Maximus, in ancient Rome. This competition was organized to worship the goddess of seasons and harvest.
Going out of the wellness facility, you’ll reach the Frigidarium and the Tepidarium. They are two different rooms of the thermal baths of the Villa used for cold baths the first and for hot baths, the second. From here, you’ll reach the room with sea depictions (tritons, fishermen and seahorses) and athletes running with the torch. From the courtyard, you’ll reach the vestibule, a square room where the owner hosted guests. From the vestibule, you’ll enter the peristyle. That is a large external courtyard surrounded by columns (see the image).
On the North side of the latter, you’ll see the room of the little hunt that depicts a sacrifice for goddess Diane, where you can note the two moments of the sacrifice and the dinner. Continuing, you’ll arrive in the great Hunt hall, which, contrary to what you think, does not depict a hunt trip, but scenes of wild beast catched. At the far end of the hall, you’ll see the room of the Bikini girls, they are ten girls engaged in gymnastic competitions to worship the goddess of the sea, Teti. There are other two rooms to not miss in the Villa Romana del Casale, namely the room of Ulysses and the one of Polyphemus. Here, the mosaics depict the victory of art, music and poetry over evil. You must also see the rooms of Love and Psyche, the one of Eros and Pan and the cathedral. Here, you’ll admire the most captivating erotica scenes of the ancient Rome, the same ones that made me blush my cheeks when I visited for the first time Villa Romana del Casale.
For more images and videos about these stunning mosaics, see here.
How to get to Villa Romana del Casale
From Catania: Follow highway A19, Dittaino exit, direction to Valguarnera Piazza Armerina.
From Palermo – Trapani: highway A19, exit for Enna, direction to Pergusa- Piazza Armerina and from Gela, 117 bis road to Piazza Armerina.
For a tour from four to eight people to Villa Romana del Casale, from Catania, contact me, my brother in law is a taxi driver and he’ll can lead you to this wonderful visit.
Opening hours and entrance fee
Villa Romana del Casale opens every day (including holidays days).
During Spring and Summer, namely from the last Sunday of March to the last Saturday of October, the box office opens from 9.00 AM to 18.00 PM.
The gate closes at 19,00 PM.
During Autumn and Winter, namely from the last Sunday of October to the last Saturday of March, the box office opens from 9.00 AM to 16.00 PM. The gate closes at 17.00 PM.
In July and August, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the box office opens until 23.00 PM. The gate closes at 23.30 PM.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, entrance is free for all women.
The entrance is also free in every first Sunday of the month.
For all visitors who want to visit the Villa in the other days, the entrance fee is 10 euros.
The reduced fee of 5 euros is for the European Union citizens, Switzerland, Norwegia, Iceland. and Liechtenstein with an age between 18 and 25 years.
To know the reduced fee for extra European citizens, see here.
In addition to the above mentioned cases, the entrance is free also for underage people, teachers, students and disabled persons.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour to the fabulous Villa Romana del Casale. If you want to visit the Villa, when you go to Sicily, you can book your visit through the widgets you see on all the pages of this website. These are widgets for cheap travel services. If you use them to book your travel, I’ll gain a small commission to keep writing this blog. Thanks in advance for your help.
Photocredits in order of appearance:
Armando Domenico Ferrari Flickr