tag archives: piazza armerina

 you may be familiar with the famous mosaic tile floor of ten female athletes, nicknamed the ‘bikini girls’, from the villa romana del casale, a 4th century roman villa located near piazza armerina in central sicily.*

mosaic tile floor | room of girls in bikinis (sala ragazze in bikini) | room 30
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit wtfarthistory.com

the villa romana del casale is the most impressive archaeological site that my husband, bob, and i have ever visited.

unesco describes the mosaics from the villa romana del casale as:

‘the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the roman world.’

the mosaics are exceptional not only for their quality, but also for their quantity.  a spectacular mosaic tile floor, called the ambulatory of the great hunt, covers the 200 foot (60 meter) long passageway that connects the reception, private, and utility areas of the villa romana del casale.  the mosaics depict the capture and transport of ferocious and exotic animals to rome for the hunts that preceded gladiator events.

mosaic tile floor | hall of the great hunt (corridoio della grande caccia) | room 28
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credits unesco and lisa walsh | innerspace

the mosaics are so exceptional, and the villa romana del casale is so large, that some scholars speculate that it could have been an imperial commission.**  so far, 46 rooms, totaling 43000 square feet (4000 square meters), have been excavated.

the prevalent opinion among scholars and art historians is that the villa romana del casale was built during the 4th century, between 327 and 357.***  and, that both the building and the decoration, which also includes interior and exterior frescos, are from the late roman period.

yet, some art historians have noted stylistic differences between the mosaic tile floors.

mythological or allegorical scenes, like the poet arion surrounded by sea creatures in the chamber of arion (room 37), are more naturalistic than domestic or genre scenes, like the fishermen in the hall of cupids fishing (room 24).  could they have been designed by the same people?

 mosaic tile floor | chamber of arion (diaeta di arione) | room 37

villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

mosaic tile floor | atrium of cupids fishing (atrio delgi amorini pescatori) | room 24

villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

 photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

in addition, the mosaic tile floors in the triclinium (room 36) look different than the floors in the rest of the residence.  could they have been installed later?  maybe.

some scholars argue that the villa could have been constructed in phases:  1.  the rectangular peristyle (rooms 11-31, 35, 37-46)  2.  the bath complex (rooms 3-10)  3.  the entrance (rooms 1-2) and the oval peristyle (rooms 32-34, 36)****

floor plan | villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lasiciliainrete.it

could that explain why the ‘bikini girls’ were installed over a geometric patterned mosaic tile floor?  the room of girls in bikinis (room 30) is located adjacent to the oval peristyle.  could the ‘bikini girls’ have been part of the final expansion?

geometric mosaic tile floor | under the room of girls in bikinis (sala ragazze in bikini) | room 30
villa romana del casale | 4th century | piazza armerina, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

as an interior designer, i am less interested in the ‘bikini girls’ and more interested in the geometric patterns.  the geometric patterns are a textile designer’s dream!

cubicle of fruit (cubicolo della frutta) | room 45


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duralee|highland court | lalique rayon/silk fabric | 800249H-720


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martyn lawrence bullard | mamounia linen fabric | MLB2314

medallions

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photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace, duralee|highland court and martyn lawrence bullard
cubicle of cupid and psyche (cubicolo della scena erotica) | room 46

 

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did you notice the fresco remnants on the wall?

holland & sherry | ringlet linen/wool fabric | DE11843

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kelly wearstler|groundworks | ombre maze viscose/linen fabric | GWF-2806.416

medallions

 

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 photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace,holland & sherry and kelly wearstler|groundworks

the field patterns and borders in the utility rooms are as interesting as the mosaic tile floors in the master’s apartments.

utility room (sala mosaico a ottagoni) | room 26

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photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

utility room (sala mosaico a quadrati) | room 27

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photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

what textiles (or trim) could you design from the mosaic patterns?

footnotes

*sicily became the first roman province in 227 BCE, and remained part of the roman empire until 395 CE.

**some scholars think that the villa romana del casale was commissioned by emperor maximanus (r. 286-305) or his son, maxentius (r. 306-312), between 290 and 312.  villaromanadelcasale.it

***the gymnasium mosaics (room 15), which feature the circus maximus in rome, could indicate that the villa romana del casale was built between 327 and 357.  emperor augustus (r. 31 BCE-14 CE) installed an obelisk in the center of the circus maximus in 10 CE.  in 327, the obelisk was moved to the perimeter of the circus maximus to make room for a larger obelisk, which was installed by emperor constantius II (r. 337-361) in 357.  the villa romana del casale gymnasium mosaics only have one obelisk, which is located on the perimeter of the circus maximus.  so, some scholars believe that the villa romana del casale was built between 327 and 357 CE.  villaromanadelcasale.it

****the floor plan of the villa romana del casale is unusual because the orientation of the the rectangular peristyle (rooms 11-31, 35, 37-46) and the oval peristyle (rooms 32-34, 36) are not axial.  a coin, dating to 355-361, was found in the west wall of the foundation of the oval peristyle.  so, some scholars believe that that the oval peristyle was built later than the rectangular peristyle or the bath complex.  villaromanadelcasale.it

click here or here for more information about the villa romana del casale.

when you go on vacation, do you ever book a room with a view?

how about a room with a site?

during our recent vacation, my husband, bob, and i stayed at an extraordinary hotel in southeastern sicily.  a hotel with an archaeological site.  the eremo della giubiliana, which has been an agricultural settlement since the greeks colonized sicily during the 8th-3rd centuries BCE, has an archaeological park.  the site of a greek necropolis (cemetery) from the 5th-2nd century BCE.

 the necropolis | 5th-2nd century BCE | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 we knew that we were staying somewhere special, when upon our arrival, we were greeted at reception by angelo, the general manager, and a waiter with a silver tray holding two glasses of cold latte di mandorla (almond milk), a traditional sicilian summer beverage.

the entrance, reception and lounge | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credits eremo della giubiliana, hotels.com and lisa walsh | innerspace
then marco, the concierge, showed us through the courtyards to our (upgraded) room, the suite della guardia.

 room 14 | the suite della guardia | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

the bedroom and the sitting area both have restored stone walls and floors, cathedral ceilings with chestnut beams, and antique sicilian furnishings

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
during the 12th century, the eremo della giubiliana was part of an ecclesiastical feudal estate.  the oldest existing part of the convent, the square stone watch tower, was built during the 15th century when the building was used as a fortified rural residence.  the knights of the order of saint john (san giovanni) from malta occupied the convent during the first half of the 16th century, when the suite della guardia was used as the guards room.  did you notice the date of 1536 inscribed into the stone plaque above the bed?

  stone plaque dated 1536 | the suite della guardia | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

 photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

during the 18th century, a landed aristocratic family purchased the estate.  the nifosi-mancini family has owned the eremo della giubiliana since then.  the present heiress, lady vincenza iolanda nifosi, decided to restore the convent for use as a five star luxury hotel, which opened in 1997.  her son, who is an architect, designed the restoration project.  she resides on the estate.  and, she and her family manage the estate holdings.

‘when my son asked me to open the eremo to guests, he tried to convince me by saying that our family had always welcomed their guests there. i objected that all the people who had been welcomed within the privacy of our eremo were our friends, too. the answer was that, once in the eremo, our guests would become our friends.’

-vincenza iolanda nifosi

28 october 1997

architectural rendering | salvatore a. mancini architect | eremo della giubiliana restoration project | ragusa, sicily

did you notice the flag flying from the 15th century stone watch tower?

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
outside, there are secluded courtyards…

  stairs and courtyard outside the grand master’s suite | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

the grand master’s suite now occupies the top floor of the 15th century stone watch tower

photo credits eremo della giubiliana and lisa walsh | innerspace
a shaded swimming pool…

swimming pool | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace
and, herb and kitchen gardens.

herb and kitchen gardens | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

part of the kitchen garden was being replanted

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
the cuisine at the restaurant, don eusebio, which is located in the former 16th century refectory, features seasonal estate grown and local organic produce, fresh seafood, and wild game.  in addition, chef peppe cannistra offers sicilian cooking courses and oversees the don eusebio workshop, which makes tenute eremo della giubiliana estate grown products.

chef peppe cannistra | cooking class | eremo della giubiliana | ragusa, sicily

photo credit facebook.com/eremodellagiubiliana
the breakfast buffet featured house made marmalade, freshly baked brioche, fresh melon and figs, and freshly squeezed fruit juice.  one of the best buffet breakfasts that we’ve ever had at a european hotel!  we would have loved to bring home some of the tenute eremo della giubiliana marmellata di arance amare (bitter orange marmalade).

tenuta eremo della giubiliana estate grown products

fruit and vegetables, marmalade, olive oil and olive oil soap, capers, almonds, dried fava and cicerchia beans, lentils and chickpeas, plus organic wheat flour, couscous, and pasta

   photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

there are so many outstanding restaurants in southeastern sicily, that bob and i decided to dine out.

pietro leemann, the chef at joia, one of our favorite restaurants in milan, highly recommended some sicilian restaurants where some of his former sous chefs are now chefs.  david tamburini at ristorante la gazza ladra in modica.  and, accursio craparo at accursio ristorante in modica.  according to giorgio locatelli, the chef at locanda locatelli in london, pino cuttaia could be considered the best chef in sicily.  so, we also had lunch at ristorante la madia in licate on the way back from the valle di templi in agrigento.  lorenzo, the concierge who booked our restaurant reservations, and angelo (the general manager) were most interested in our restaurant reviews!

it’s a good thing that the eremo della giubiliana is conveniently located near the archaeological sites in agrigento and piazza armerina.  and, the baroque towns of ragusa, modica, and noto.

we cover a lot of territory when we travel.  while we were in sicily, we drove 2000 kilometers (1250 miles)!


photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

eremo della giubiliana

located off sp 25, between ragusa and marina di ragusa

97100 contrada giubiliana, ragusa, sicily

+39 (0)932 669119

eremodellagiubiliana.com