Sicily is blessed with several spectacular classical sites – the Greek Theatre at Syracuse, the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, the ancient theatre overlooking Mount Etna at Taormina, to name three. But the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina offers something different.
The Villa is a site of great historical and artistic value of the late Roman Empire. The complexity of the architectural layout and the richness of the decoration was typical of many large Roman villas built in different regions of the Empire, but alone has retained the treasures that were once walked upon by masters and slaves alike. In the Roman world, a marble floor was considered more prestigious than a pavement of mosaics. The owner of the Villa del Casale could only afford marble for the floor of the basilica, which suggests he did not belong to the Imperial rank of Roman society. Strange as it may sound, the mosaics that we value so highly today were once considered second best.