Everyone always thinks of opulence and wealth when they think of the Roman villas in the Bay of Naples. There were certainly plenty of those but there’s also what are known as “Villa Rustica”–Country properties that were producing and shipping products, often agricultural, such as wine, olive oil, wheat and other products. We saw both on our tour of the suburbs outside the bustling cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The Villa Poppaea at Oplontis was probably owned by the second wife of Nero, Poppaea Sabina. It was also covered by the same pyroclastic flows that hit Herculaneum and was completely covered until archaeologists found it again in the 19th and 20th centuries. You can see the hardened deposits from which it was freed on the right of the image above.
As you can imagine this imperial property was richly decorated from head to toe with frescoes, mosaics and colonnades.
It appears that at the time of the eruption no one was actually living at the Villa Poppaea. No bodies were discovered and many of the rooms were filled with construction material, suggesting the complex was undergoing major renovations at the time. So we repopulated the rooms with Western students!
The villa at Boscoreale is very much a villa rustica with its wine production business going strong when it all got buried in a single day! But unfortunately for us it is undergoing consolidation right now so we couldn’t get in. You’ll have to enjoy further pictures of the luxurious villas at Stabiae, Villa San Marco (named after the nearby church) and Villa Arianna.
The luxurious and huge atrium of the Villa San Marco
The villa had a waterfront view in antiquity, but after the eruption it was more like half a kilometre from the coast! Now the view looks out over modern Castellemmare di Stabia.
At the end of a long reflecting pool was a fabulous fountain and nymphaeum that was once ornately decorated, but you can still get the vibe in the picture above.
The almost unbelievable wall frescoes of the Villa Arianna and San Marco!
Everyone takes a much needed break at the end of a long day. No better place than the courtyard of a luxury villa perfectly placed to catch the breeze!