Located about 90 km southwest of Catania, Sicily is the town of Piazza Armerina. This city has quite a reputation and touts itself as being the "La Citta dei Mosaici e del Palio", "The City of the Mosaics and the Palio."
Piazza Armerina is ancient town that was inhabited in prehistoric and Roman times as demonstrated by the world famous Roman Villa Casale located nearby. This Villa is famous for its mosaic tiles that adorn every room from the thermal baths (which were fed by aqueducts and heated by special ovens) to the private rooms of the Villa. Built in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., the Villa was destroyed in the 13th century then rediscovered in the 17th century and was not formally excavated until 1950. The work lasted 7 years and revealed 60 rooms and 3500 sq. meters (that's 37,673.69 sq. feet) of exquisite mosaic tiles. The varieties of scenes depicted on the floors of this Villa are mind boggling as is the intricateness of their design. Among the most famous are the rooms with the girls in bikinis, the mosaics depicting the 12 toils of Hercules, and various hunting scenes.
The Villa is quite moderate in size, with a few outdoor rooms. Most of the priceless mosaics are under the cover of glass roofs and walls (I assume to prevent further damage to the mosaics from rain and weather) and under the surveillance of video cameras and electric fences. We were allowed to bring the dog into the Villa with us and we chose to carry him most of the time as I did not want him getting stepped on but most of all did not want him to accidentally soil the Villa in any way. Being 30+ C, the Villa was very warm with not much shade and I recommend a hand fan and water. The site has a large bar that offers food and refreshments as well as restrooms and many, many stalls that sell everything a tourist might need or want. (Check out the leather stall, some of their creations are amazing.) There is also an ample parking lot, a 5 minute walk from the Villa itself, and the fee to enter the Villa is 6 Euros.
* A short note on the Palio: The Norman Palio takes place every year from August 12th to August 14th, we did not get to see this but it is a medieval-ish fair in which knights, noblemen and women parade through the narrow, basalt paved streets of the town until they reach the Cathedral in the Piazza Duomo. The next day the knights that represent the 4 districts of Piazza Armerina challenge one another to various tests of skill and ability.
For more detail see the photos below:
Many of the churches had tiled bell towers or were tiled in elaborate ways.
Here I am standing at the entrance to the Villa. I am getting big but I made it even with the intense heat.
Some scenes from the Villa; it was hard to get a good shot as the sun was fierce that day and cast strange shadows everywhere.
The famosaicosiac with the girls in bikinis.
More of the ruins in the Villa.
The hubby looks like he stepped off a plane bound for Hawaii.
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