Villa Romana del Casale, mosaics seen from a catwalk.
Villa Romana del Casale UNESCO World Heritage Site (archaeological site in Sicily)
Before I wrote this story I spent forty-five minutes looking for the book, In Sicily (by Norman Lewis). I had presumed it was thrown out and fortunately it was not. The book praises one aspect of Sicily that is not to be missed – Villa Romana del Casale in central Sicily. This intrigued me because I love pottery and ceramics, and one of my many careers, I made large commissioned stain glass windows. We bypassed the Greek temple at Segesta for this once luxurious Roman residence.
Stained glass and mosaics share many qualities and I was eager to see an (4th century) emperor’s estate whose floors were all mosaics. There is a connection here with mythology and rural life of aristocrats. Possibly, the villa was a hunting lodge of Maximilian Herculean.
The basic problem was that in order to preserve the mosaics, a series of roofs had been erected with catwalks. This accomplishes three things: you get to see each individual room, but you lose any sense of the layout of the extensive villa because of its ruined state, and the roof leaves you a shadow that dulls the appearance of the mosaics, which made picture taking difficult.
The mosaics displayed mythology, hunting, sports, and daily life. The Hunt room which is long with numerous African animals that surprisingly were known to the Romans and depicts the capture of exotic wild animals. Very interesting to note was a scene where they were worshiping Artemis with a sacrifice to their God.
The most memorable was called the Bikini Girls room. The floor here depicts young women in some athletic scenes in bikinis that would have looked like a 60’s beach party, nothing very scanty. Take note that they were receiving awards common to the Olympics. Brava to women in sports!
The place had been buried in mud until the 1920’s which accounts for its preservation. It is a great piece of history and is believed to be the work of North African artisans. I am glad my visit was in spring… don’t visit in the middle of summer, it will be hot. Nothing is air-conditioned. The crowd was sparse, but as we were leaving six busloads of school kids arrived.
As we drove away we could see this hillside historical town. Next time… Arrivederci!