Two years ago, Gregg and I pulled Spencer out of public school and gave him the world. His homeschool classroom now includes a front row seat before some of the most significant structures and masterpieces in Italy. We have stood next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, marveled at Michelangelo’s David and studied Leonardo Da Vinci’s vast collection in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I’m proud to boast that Spencer has inherited my love of history. Nothing is more gratifying to a history buff than standing in front of an ancient ruin or relic. But not everyone enjoys fighting the crowds at huge tourist destinations such as the Coliseum in Rome or Tower of London in England. I know Spencer does not, so we set out to find some of Italy’s more secluded spots.
If you prefer history to yourself there is a small gem hidden along Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Blink and you might miss Villa Romana, located in the seaside town of Minori. Built by a Roman aristocrat in the 1st century, the villa is not on most tourists’ radar. We enjoyed this Roman dwelling to ourselves while visiting during the busy summer season. My friend and Amalfi Coast resident, Sandra, gave Spencer and I a tour of this ancient structure.
The first mention of Villa Romana’s discovery came in 1873, but it was not until 1932 that construction crews unearthed a large portion of the villa. Crews working to renovate some local homes stumbled upon an underground chamber. Excavations began two years later. In 1954, after a devastating flood, the villa revealed much of her secrets. Since that time excavations have uncovered breathtaking mosaics and ancient artifacts.
You can view these treasures in the museum on street level. Take your time and marvel at the impressive collection of coins, pottery, frescos and gigantic urns. Caretakers often guide visitors down into Villa Romana. This is where the real history lesson begins.
You will first descend into the garden; a large expanse covered in overgrown grass and housing the once ornate swimming pool. As you find shelter from the sun in the corridors, signs of the lost opulence become hauntingly clear. Small sections of red paint and frescos still cling to the crumbling walls.
But it’s not until you reach the “thermae”, or bath, that you gaze upon stunning craftsmanship. The mosaic floor in the thermae features man, beasts and intricate designs. Despite centuries of weathering the mosaics still show their splendor.
Sadly, information on Villas Romana’s owner has been lost to history. This hidden jewel is free to the public and located at Via Capo di Piazza, 28 in Minori. Villa is open daily (expect January 1, May 1, and December 25) from 9am and closes an hour before sunset. Spencer and I will return to Italy in April and search out more of history’s hidden classroom settings.