Villa Romana Del Casale, A UNESCO Site In Sicily

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This post is by Chris Bienemann

Villa Romana del Casale is one of the most famous Roman villas in the world, and its splendour has led to it being listed as one of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The villa is situated at the foot of Mount Mangone, around 6 km from Piazza Armerina and it is a popular destination for visitors to Sicily.

UNESCO World Heritage At Villa Romana Del Casale

There are three main reasons why the Villa Romana del Casale has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

  • It is an exceptional example of a luxury Roman villa.
  • The villa typified the social and economic structure of its age
  • The mosaics that it contains are exceptional for their artistic quality, and for the sheer number in one location.

Dating back to the early 4th century CE, Villa Romana del Casale was a hunting residence. Some historians believe that it belonged to the emperor Marco Valerio Massimiano; others think that it was owned by a member of the hierarchy of the Roman Empire. Whoever lived there certainly enjoyed a life of luxury!

Roman courtyard with columns and mosaic floor
A courtyard in the Villa Romana del Casale (photo copyright Becc Repper via Flickr)

Exceptional Mosaics

The villa is widely considered to be the most luxurious villa in the Roman world. Its main attraction is the amazing collection of mosaics which are the most extensive and best preserved mosaics from the Roman era. They are believed to have been created by North African craftsmen who were able to produce highly detailed mosaics that show scenes from everyday life during the time of the Roman empire.

There are also beautiful representations of other aspects of Roman culture like images of gods and heroes, hunting scenes and the games. The most famous room shows ten women in bikinis who are taking part in various activities like gymnastics, discus throwing, ball games, and running, all in honour of the sea goddess Teti.

Mosaic picture of four Roman women apparently dressed in bikinis and throwing a ball to one another
Perhaps the most famous mosaic – athletic women who appear to be wearing bikinis (photo copyright Jacques Savoye via Pixabay)

Another room not to be missed is the Circus Room which is an elongated and rounded space originally used as a gym. The mosaic in this room depicts scenes from the Circus Maximus in Rome. The big game hunt mosaic is a particular favourite of mine and includes an incredible image of a tiger.

Frescoes And Ruins

But it’s not just mosaics that you can see here. The extraordinary artwork continues on both the inside and outside of the walls where you can view some incredible frescoes.

The ruins of Villa Romana del Casale are so well preserved because they were almost completely covered by a landslide in the 12th century. The splendid ruins and mosaics were forgotten about until they were rediscovered in the 19th century.

Small recessed area with mosaic on floor and fragments of painting on walls
There is a vast variety of mosaics and frescoes (photo copyright Simon via Flickr)

What Else Can You See Near Villa Romana Del Casale?

The town of Piazza Armerina is not far from the villa and is well worth a visit. You can stay right in the historic centre at Suite D’Autore Art Design Gallery.

The main sights in the town are the Aragonese Castle built at the end of the 14th century and an impressive 18th century Duomo. But, as with many old towns in Italy, it is a joy simply to wander the winding streets and take in the history and atmosphere of the town.

Some very well preserved mosaic work (photo copyright Helga via Pixabay)

How To Visit Villa Romana Del Casale

Villa Romana del Casale is open every day from 9am but the opening hours vary throughout the year with late openings in the height of summer. Tickets cost €10 for adults (concessions €5). Children get in free. If you time your visit right, there is free admission on the first Sunday of the month.

Reaching the villa is easiest if you have a car. If not you will need to first catch a bus to Piazza Armerina. From here you can take a taxi for the short 5km journey to Villa Romana del Casale, or take the municipal shuttle bus “Linea Villabus”. The shuttle bus only runs on weekdays from the 1st of May to the end of September.

It is also possible to take an organised tour from Palermo.

About Bewitched by italy

Bewitched By Italy is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), but Italy remains one of my favourite destinations. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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