Villa Romana del Casale: Luxury, Mosaics, and the Sicilian Countryside with Alice Bifarella

Villa Romana del Casale: Luxury, Mosaics, and the Sicilian Countryside with Alice Bifarella


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Join a virtual visit to one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman villa dating back to the fourth century. Forgotten for centuries, it was discovered in the nineteenth century and has been a hidden gem in the heart of the Sicilian countryside ever since. Noted in particular for its richness and quality of mosaics which adorn almost every room, this conversation will explore the most luxurious villa that we’re lucky still exists today.

An astonishing example of a late fourth-century Roman residence, the Villa Romana del Casale was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 due to the uniqueness of its architectural and decorative elements. Although located in a remote area of Sicily, which today seems to be of little significance, evidence suggests that the villa was an important seat of power located in a strategically important area. For decades, it was believed that the villa’s owner could be an emperor. Undoubtedly, the villa belonged to a high-ranking dignitary, and today most scholars agree that it must have belonged to a Praefectus Urbi, a provincial governor.

Built on top of a former villa Rustica, a countryside house that could be dated back to the first century AD, the Villa lived its golden age in the fourth-century AD when it was completely renovated, and an impressive number of rooms were decorated with extraordinary mosaics, influenced by the north African artists in their design. The Villa is home to the famous “bikini girls” mosaic, a representation of two women wearing bust support during exercise which resembles a modern-day bikini. The stunning geometric patterns and figurative scenes representing animals, myths, hunting and fishing, chariot races, and athletes or moments of everyday life, continue to impress travelers just as they did the first archaeologists who uncovered this veritable treasure in the nineteenth century.

Led by an expert on archaeology, Alice Bifarella, this interactive seminar will survey the richly-decorated Villa Romana del Casale, and examine what is considered to be one the greatest complex of Roman mosaics in the world. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the layout of the Villa, its setting, and stunning decorations.

Alice Bifarella holds a degree in Classics from the University of Bologna and a postgraduate Master's degree in Art History and Archaeology from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris. She has been working for many years as a field archaeologist. Since the beginning of her career, her main goal has been to make archaeology and art more approachable to the general public. Her long experience as a museum educator has given her the training to work easily both with children and adults. She likes to see herself as an enthusiast and passionate ambassadress of Sicily’s cultural heritage.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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