Villa del Tellaro, a roman treasure

Eleonora Ruzzenenti | Live the World

November 23, 2022

I want to come back to talk about my favourite part of Sicily: the South East. There are countless things to see and do in this corner of region, whether you are staying amid the history and culture of one of the Val di Noto's towns and cities, or locating yourself near the coastline to make the most of an inviting range of beaches. This region of Sicily is best explored by car, and you'll find that most major attractions are within easy reach of each other if you hire your own set of wheels. *Culture, history and food are among the primary themes of a holiday to Sicily, and you'll find no better place to embrace these interests than in Val di Noto. Speaking about the to the archeological treasures of this area, everyone knows the name of the Roman villa of Piazza Armerina but very few have heard of one of the most recent archaeological discoveries, the Villa Romana del Tellaro.*

The remains of the villa were found in 1971 in a fertile agricultural area, on a low elevation near the Tellaro river. The Villa del Tellaro is a luxurious building (6,000 square meters / 65,000 sqft) dated back to the 4th century AD and decorated with extremely refined mosaics on the floor; it was destroyed by a fire about 100 years later, perhaps during a barbarian invasion . Forgotten about for centuries, someone decided to plunk a 17th century farmhouse on the remains of the villa, so parts of the excavation include the farm’s wine-making vats. Even if, measured in terms of the amount of surface covered by mosaics, this building cannot compete with that of the better known (and more crowded) villa in Piazza Armerina (only four rooms survive), the artistic quality of the mosaics is comparable. Besides the Villa del Tellaro has the advantage of being much easier to reach, just a few kilometers south of Noto.

Today it is possible to visit the great peristyle, the floor mosaics on the north side of the peristyle portico, the three rooms that overlook it and a short stretch of the south side of the portico. The mosaics are one of the most important testimonies of Sicily in the late Imperial Roman age. Some of the more intricate mosaics depict ancient Greek stories, with the work estimated to date back the 4th century. One of the more complete floors shows hunting scenes and African animals surrounded by a frieze. While some of the mosaics are close to completely in tact, others have sustained more damage — but all are fascinating to examine in person.

Behind the villa lie vineyards, where the traditional grapes of the region are still grown. These include Nero d'Avola, Muscat and Albanello Bianco which are increasingly difficult to find today.

A few meters from the villa there is a private farmhouse, sheltered by a roof, where it is possible to stop for a snack. In addition to a bar and picnic area the owners have, by appointment, workshops for schools (in Italian): "Experimental Archaeology" (simulation of an archaeological excavation), "From milk to cheese," "From wheat to bread" and "From grape to wine” (artisanal preparation of cheese, bread, and wine). The same family also offers excursions in a 4x4 car of the Noto Valley, and the services of area nature guides. For information and reservations: (++39) 338 9733084 (Sebastiano) - email: [email protected].

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