Monday, June 19, 2017

6/19 -- Villa Romana del Casale, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Regusa

On our way to our primary stop today, we passed fields of prickly pear cactus, which is cultivated her to make the drink we had several days ago. We also passed through Piazza Armerina, which was devastated by a 7.8 earthquake in the past and decided to earthquake-proof themselves by having each house abut the next (what we would call zero lot lines in the US). The concept was that this would prevent the domino effect where  one house collapses and takes out its neighbor.

Cactus fields
Piazza Armerina Cathedral

Tightly built hillside houses to limit earthquake damage.
We spent a couple hours this morning touring a 4th century Roman palace near there that was buried in a landslide in 1193. Although the upper parts were visible and some mosaics were found in the late 1800s, it wasn't initially excavated until 1929. It is the largest and richest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world. We took over 200 photos, and can only publish a small subset here. Our exploration started with the exercise and bath area, moved to the public and guest rooms, and finished in the owner's suites and reception hall (then called a Basilica, which was a term the pope appropriated a couple hundred years later for churches).
Roman viaduct supplying the Villa with water

The end is the water heating plant for the exercise and bath areas.

What looks like benches is actually the floor
which was elevated with heated water under it.

Interior atrium of the guest spaces.

Four halls around the atrium were full of
animal depictions like the one highlighted above.

The rock walls were covered with plaster and frescos. They are
more fragile than mosaics, and these are some of the best
ones left.

Top of one of the columns

This is the basilica, where the owner would meet with
people and conduct business.

While this looks like a bikini exhibition, it was
actually women athletes.
The upper left corner was excavated to show the original floor
in this room. This was the only place you had to step up to
enter because the new floor was about 6-8 inches thick.

Capturing a tiger by trapping the baby one first.

The basilica floor was full of designs in marble instead of mosaics.

Drawing of what the place might have looked like. The whole
thing was over 40,000 square feet in area.
We had lunch in Chiaramonte Gulfi, a hilltop town called the Balcony of Sicily, but rarely visited by tourists. The views were spectacular as was the lunch.

Chiaramonte Gulfi street -- decorations were
being put up for a music festival next weekend.

Interior of our restaurant
Then we headed further east to another hill town, Ragusa. After our big lunch, dinner consisted of a variety of hot and cold happy hour snacks.

Post office in Ragusa built by Mussolini

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