Piazza Armerina and Villa del Casale
Mosaics are like computer screens. As monitors are made up of thousands of light dots (pixels), mosaics are made of tiles, usually square-shaped: the more tiles are small and numerous, the more sharp and precise is the mosaic image. Continuing in this parallel, one can say that mosaics at Piazza Armerina are in high definition, so much is the perfection of the tiles, the sharpness of the images, the accuracy of the shades and the colors.
Piazza Armerina, province of Enna in Sicily, is not a place where you can go accidentally. Yet, despite the relative difficulty in reaching it (it is in the center of Sicily, or almost) and the apparent distance from the usual tourist itineraries, once one arrives at the destination may discover that place is crowded with tourists, even foreigners, enchanted by the beauty of mousse images.
The mosaics are located inside the Villa del Casale, a magnificent patrician villa, home of one of the oldest Roman families of the late Imperial age, dating from the 3rd to the 4th century A.D.
Between 2006 and 2012, a very important restoration and transformation of conservative structures was realized. The old plexiglass coverings, which had caused so much damage to mosaics, are now replaced by an agile wooden walkways from above you can admire mosaics of the Villa. It is difficult to find that mosaics have more than 15 centuries, having seen their perfect state of conservation. Villa del Casale is certainly the most important testimony of Roman civilization in Sicily and has been the UNESCO Heritage since 1997.
The visit of the “Villa”
Once at the Villa you are immediately immersed in a colorful and questionable souvenir market, books, guides and more, with sellers who try to sell their products in every way. Inevitable consequence of mass tourism.
After passing the entrance (the fee is 10.00 euros for the full fare, the entrance is free on the first Sunday of each month), there is a practically obligatory path that allows you to visit one after another, all the rooms, about 40, of this Villa of over 3,500 sq. m.
Describing all mosaics in one post is virtually impossible. But to tell the most important ones, that yes, I can do it.
The most spectacular mosaic of the whole Villa, probably one of the most beautiful of the world’s art worlds, is that of the “Porch Corridor of the big Hunting“.
It is normally intended for the walk and had the task of disengaging the rooms of the dominus. The peculiarity is that the entire floor of this environment, 65 meters long, is covered with very high-quality mosaics, a real “carpet” of tessers that, wisely composed, depict scenes of hunting with wild beasts and exotic animals inserted in landscapes of great effect (trees, houses, palaces, porticoes).
Quadrangular peristyle hits for its grandeur, surrounded by 32 marble columns. The peristyle had, in the Roman houses, the important function of ensuring the entrance of light into the apartments. Mosaic floors are very spectacular with 162 heads of wild and domestic animals, inserted in laurel wreaths in turn inscribed in squares.
The famous mosaic of “bikini girls” can not be missed by the visitor, probably the most famous and most depicted on the books and tour guides, which has attracted the interest and imagination of scholars more than any other. It is a floor mosaic found in the gym room. The mosaic strikes for the beautiful girls’ style that, engaging in various sporting disciplines (weights, balls, racing), would not miss their modern bikini even on today’s most luxurious and exclusive beaches.
If the morning is dedicated to the visit of the Villa del Casale, you can engage in the afternoon by visiting the beautiful Caltagirone, a little town just over 40 minutes drive from Piazza Armerina, notable for the production of high quality ceramics.
The town is full of countless shops selling ceramic products of all kinds, from unlikely gigantic magnets to commonly used items that are most useful for home use.
The most notable attraction of Caltagirone is the famous “Staircase” leading to the Church of Santa Maria del Monte. It consists of 142 stairs, all different from each other, decorated with ceramic enamelled with tints of yellow, blue and blue.
Other important monuments of Caltagirone are the former Convent of Sant’Agostino, now home to exhibitions, and the Regional Museum of Ceramics with the annexed garden.