Scenes from Sicily, Sette – Tile from the Villa Romana del Casale

Probably the best thing that we almost skipped but didn’t during the Sicily trip was a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Villa Romana del Casale, located just outside of Piazza Armerina.

At first glance, this place looked like an expensive waste of time, the sort of place where you have to fight your way through busloads of tourists in order to get a glimpse of the antiquity, or where the magic and the mystery of what you are seeing vanished due to the hassle of getting to it or the presentation of the thing. I’m happy to say that Villa Romana del Casale had none of those problems. Instead, you were so transfixed on the amazing scene of tile floors that went on and on that the world around you just faded away.

The house was a Roman palace probably expanded over the years starting the first century AD and eventually reaching its peak toward the end of the 3rd century, when it was probably owned by Marcus Aurelius Maximianus, a co-emperor of the Roman Empire. Beautiful tilework covers the floor of almost the entire structure, containing scenes of hunting parties, fishing expeditions, girls in bikinis exercising, mythical creatures, and personal portraits of the ruling family.

The nearly 4000 square meters of tile floors were rediscovered buried under mud in the early-20th century, and excavations took place from 1929 into the 1970s. The river near the villa, which frequently flooded, probably saved the tile floors by keeping them a secret from other groups that used the building for hundreds of years after the Romans abandoned it.

More photos of the Villa Romana del Casale and Sicily are available here.