Villas in Italy

On the Italian peninsula, the origin of the villa may be seen as the culmination of the uninterrupted development of rural structures that began in the 4th century BCE. Alternatively, they might have their roots in the abrupt shifts that came about in the wake of the Second Punic War, which saw the development of a new, slavery-based economic system.

The late Republican period provided impetus for villa-building, and some of the oldest examples are known from 2nd century BCE sources (Cato the Elder).Construction accelerated in the 1st century BCE, particularly along the shoreline between Rome and Naples. The villa maritimabecame the brick-and-mortar expression of the ambitions of the Roman upper classes. Some of these seaside palaces became imperial residences, including the Villa Iovis in Capri, Campania, and Tiberius's villa at Sperlonga, Latium.

The villas existing around Pompeii in the late 1st century CE offer a wide range of structures, ranging from the suburban Villa of the Mysteries and the rural Villa Regina and Villa Boscoreale to the luxurious residences at Oplontis. Excavations at Settefinestre (Tuscany) revealed the changes to a villa that, in the 2nd century, focused on the slave trade. Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli remains one of the most extraordinary villas of the early Roman Empire.

Piazza Armerina (Sicili) and Piazza Desenzano (Lombardy) testify to the vitality of architectural constructions in late Antiquity. Some of these creations did not have a productive role, which characterised villas from earlier periods.

Medias

Interactive document - Villa Iovis in Capri (Italy)

Villa Iovis in Capri (Italy)

One of twelve villas bearing the names of gods, built by Tiberius, according to Tacitus. The Jupiter Villa.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa Iovis in Capri (Italy)

Villa Iovis in Capri (Italy)

One of twelve villas bearing the names of gods, built by Tiberius, according to Tacitus. The Jupiter Villa.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, Latium (Italy)

Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, Latium (Italy)

One of the emperor Tiberius's residences, an ensemble consisting of terraces reaching all the way down to the sea.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, Latium (Italy)

Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, Latium (Italy)

At the centre of the main pool was a podium that was used as a triclinium. It faced a natural cave containing statues depicting episodes in the life of Odysseus.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa of the Mysteries (Italy)

Villa of the Mysteries (Italy)

On the outskirts of Pompeii, a residential villa whose layout dates to the 2nd century BCE.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa of the Mysteries (Italy)

Villa of the Mysteries (Italy)

Detail of the 1st century BCE megalographia depicting an initiation into the rites of Dionysus, after a Hellenistic original.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Villa Regina, Boscoreale (Italy)

Villa Regina, Boscoreale (Italy)

An example of a farm in the region of Pompeii. The buildings are surrounded by vines.
Cliché Jean-Pierre Brun