Sicily. Piazza Armerina. Villa Romana del Casale. Sensational mosaics in a 4th Century Luxury Roman villa
“These mosaics are unique in the Mediterranean,” says the Italian archaeologist Carmela Bonanno, gesturing towards the 3,500 square metres of mosaic pavements that fill the Roman Villa del Casale near the town of Piazza Armerina in central Sicily. “It’s a miracle that they’re intact.”
Sicily is blessed with several spectacular classical sites: the Greek Theatre at Syracuse, the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, the ancient theatre overlooking Mount Etna at Taormina, to name three. But the Villa del Casale, which was protected by Unesco in 1997, offers something different. One of the best-preserved villas from anywhere in the Roman Empire, it still boasts much of its original decoration. The contents of, say, Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli outside Rome were long ago dispersed. But, against the odds, the mosaics of the Villa del Casale (named after an agricultural settlement known as casale, or farmhouse, that flourished there in the 15th century) remain in situ.
The UNESCO World Heritage site has seen the completion of most of an ongoing EU-funded reconstruction project that began in spring 2007