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Plinius’ Villa in Castel Fusano

Plinius’ Villa in Castel Fusano
Cultural itineraries Culture What to do

From the square infront of Villa Sacchetti, immediately before reaching the gate, turn right along the fence; the via Severiana, is right there (recognizable by the typical roman road paving) entering in the pine forest. The ancient road reaches after about 2 Km (it is necessary to cross via Cristoforo Colombo, though) the remainings of Villa della Palombara (mistakenly known as Villa di Plinio), located almost at the border with the Estate of Castel Porziano. It is also possible to get to the Villa by walking along via della Villa di Plinio that begins with the bridge over the canal (Canale dello Stagno).

The name Palombara, comes from the big and ancient holm oak, still present in the square, that was once used for hunting the palombe (wild pingeons).

Originally the entrance to the building, possibly, faced the sea, nowdays about 600 meters distant from the original shore and not even visible from the place.
The entrance is possible from the North / Eastern side, from a trail that leads to a large square (unfortunately was covered with tarmac in modern age).
A big brickstone arch is immediately noticeable, access to a four-sided porch about 40 meters long on each side; in the center of the North / Eastern sector are visible two ambients, one rectangular with a black and white mosaic floor (perhaps a triclinium, the roman “chaise longue”), and the other has an apse.

Other important remainings of reticulated masonry are visible on the site, perhaps belonging to what was once a tower. The columns of the porch are made of bricks and have traces of plaster to simulate grooves. On the North / Western side of the four-sided porch, there’s a thermal complex with a circular tub for hot bathing, decorated with a mosaic representing Neptune and sea monsters (currently in the Capitoline Museums). Near by there’s another round shaped building, perhaps a fish breeding tank. Almost all the structures are realized using reticulated work, dating them back to the first half of the I century a.C.; there are parts datable to the end of I century/beginning of II century a.C. and of the first half of the II century a.C.

Going back to the square, a trail located on the opposite side of the four-sided porch leads to a small Christian basilic (la Chiesola, the tiny church) built in bricks, with one nave and an apse in listed work; via Severiana is visible right next to the church.

Since the first phase of the excavations, thanks to the Marquis Sacchetti in 1713, the ruins were though to belong to the villa of Plinius the Young (31-114 a.C.) the Laurentinum, described by the author in a letter sent to his friend Gallo (Epistulae, II, 17).
In spite of the compatible dating of the complex, the origin was never confirmed nor from the analysis of the orientation and further characteristics of the buildings from the first scientific excavations in 1933 and after, nor by the excavations that followed in ’80 of the XX century. The roads and distances indicated by Plinius would perhaps place his villa within the area of the Villa Magna, within the Presidential Estate of Castel Porziano. A final proposal by the archaeologist Antonio Maria Colini, identified the complex as villa della Palombara, the residence of the speaker Ortensio (114-150 a.C.)

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