Villa Romana del Casale
The Roman villa at Casale, just outside the pleasant town of Piazza Armerina, is, thanks to its celebrated mosaics, one of Sicily's premier tourist attractions - be prepared to fight your way round, especially if school parties are sharing your experience. The villa is huge - comparable with other surviving Roman palaces (Hadrian's villa at Tivoli, Diocletian's palace at Split) quite apart from the amazing mosaics. Eat your heart out Fishbourne Roman Palace! It is, quite simply, the most luxuriously appointed villa yet discovered. There are about 45 rooms - the private quarters are separated from the reception areas by a corridor 70 metres long. The heart of the villa surrounds a huge peristylium, and there is a magnificent bath complex large enough for a small town. Most of the rooms have mosaic pavements, and the walls would have been frescoed. There are two sumptuous latrines, the larger one the size of a small theatre.
I won't go into details about the layout and mosaics themselves - you'll find all you need to know in any decent guidebook. The villa was probably built between 300 and 330 AD - who for remains a mystery. Many guides still mention the emperors Maximian and his son Maxentius - but this hypothesis is now discredited. Although the identity of the extremely wealthy owner is unknown, he must have been successful in Roman politics, judging from the importance placed on procuring animals for the games, and the chariot race in the Circus Maximus.
Some animals in the mosaics
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