Villa Romana del Casale

Piazza Armerina, Italy

The Villa Romana del Casale is a large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from Piazza Armerina. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest, and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The mosaic and opus sectile floors cover some 3,500 sq metres and are almost unique in their excellent state of preservation due to the landslide and floods that covered the remains.

Although less well-known, an extraordinary collection of frescoes covered not only the interior rooms, but also the exterior walls.

The visible remains of the villa were constructed in the first quarter of the 4th century AD on the remains of an older villa rustica, which are the pars dominica, or master’s residence, of a large latifundium or agricultural estate.

The owner's identity has long been discussed and many different hypotheses have been formulated. Some features such as the Tetrarchic military insignia and the probable Tetrarchic date of the mosaics have led scholars to suggest an imperial owner such as Maximian. However, scholars now believe that the villa was the centre of the great estate of a high-level senatorial aristocrat.

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Founded: 4th century AD
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jane Steensta (7 months ago)
Agree with all reviews about the impressive villa and mosaics. Just to add that if you visit with a dog they áre not allowed on the site,but there are numerous loose unsupervised dogs around the car park which come after your dog, and wondering around the site. The staff are not very friendly or have any interest in making visitors feel welcome.
Joaquim Souza (7 months ago)
Worth the drive to see this roman villa. One has to wonder about the scale of wealth of its former owner as he was able to build such a large and sophisticated place in the middle of nowhere. Very well preserved and the mosaics are incredible.
Jose María Simón (8 months ago)
Breathtaking. I think it is one of the most fantastic places I've ever seen, in terms of history&art. I didn't read much about it before coming and I expected not much more than a yard or room with a well preserved mosaic. However it is a big place with many different mosaics, which are an absolute joy to look at. Even the near village of Piazza Armerina has its charm.
Bianca (8 months ago)
If you are an antique society history lover or art lover, you have to go there. I am not the biggest fan and I was really impressed. Free toilets in the restaurant, don't pay outside. I would recommend to bring your own snack and don't eat there. Not sure if it's worth to the guide at the entrance 1h15 for 50 euros. She was kinda running to show us everything on time but I don't think she said anything different from the explanations signs. Only if you really like to have someone telling you, otherwise you can just read everything.
Cristina A. (8 months ago)
World famous archaeological site. This was the palace of a Roman aristocrat, possibly a senator and this was his grand palace in Sicily. In fact the name "villa" can be misleading and not give honour to the majestic size of the place. Take in account at least 40 minutes of visit, but with the guided one can stretch to 1.5 hours.
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Heraclea Lyncestis

Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.

Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.

The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.

Late Antiquity and Byzantine periods

In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.

The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.

The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.