At Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina there exists the richest, extensive collection of Roman mosaics that are in their original condition and position.
Roman Bikini Girls
back on display
at Villa del Casale
Providing a insight into the life, love, culture and lifestyle of the Romans who lived on the island in the 4th century AD the mosaics have survived miraculously in tact. Recently reopened to the public after an €18 million restoration, they truly are one of Sicily’s greatest artistic treasure troves.
What is remarkable about the Villa Casale is that it remains intact. So much classical art and artefacts were looted by the invading forces over the centuries but here remained preserved because the site was abandoned in the 12th century after it was hit with a landslide.
The villa was originally constructed in the early 4th century as a centre to a huge agricultural site and a town grew up around it. Many speculate as to who may have lived here, some saying it may even have been a member of the Imperial family itself but it was most likely one of the senatorial class, making it an abode of the absolute upper class of the Roman Empire.
Excavation began in the late nineteenth century and in 1997 the site was made Italy’s 44th Unesco protected World Heritage site. The mosaics were probably created by North African slaves who were renowned for their skills in this area. The restoration of the site has involved amongst other things a rebuilding of the glasshouse like structure that was built in the 50s to protect the mosaics when they were originally uncovered. The aim was to renew the artefacts, protect them and to enhance the visitor experience.
Some of the best examples of Roman mosaic design exist here, probably the most famous of which is known as ‘The Bikini Girls’. In 1959, Gino Vinicio Gentili discovered a mosaic on the floor of a room dubbed ‘The Chamber of the Ten Maidens’, and it depicts ten Roman maidens performing various sports and games while wearing what appear to be garments that are remarkably similar to modern bikinis. When they were first uncovered they caused a sensation.
The ‘Corridor of the Great Hunt’ is floored with a mosaic depicting a number of scenes in which Roman hunt and track down big game in India and Africa before transporting them by boat to Rome where they possibly could have made appearances in the Coliseum or became part of private collections. There is a rhinoceros, an elephant and a tiger pouncing on its own reflection in a glass sphere, a device used by Romans in the hunt.
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