The Villa delle Vignacce is one of the ruins inside the Parco degli Acquedotti in the southern part of Rome. It was one of the biggest villa’s found outside what was then the center of the city. Unfortunately there is not much left of the original construction. Sculptures and other artefacts found during the excavations are on display in museums in Rome and other cities.
Villa delle Vignacce Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via Lemonia, 256 – Rome. District: Appio Claudio. Opening hours: The ruins can be viewed from outside. Admission: Not applicable.
History and description
The Villa delle Vignacce was probably constructed between 125 and 130 AD. The owner was Quinto Servilio Pudente, who was a friend of the Emperor Hadrian and wealthy producer of laterizio (a typical Roman brick). His name appears on some bricks and on some lead pipes found during the excavations.
The villa would seem to have been built in a somewhat out of the way spot, but it should be remembered that the nearby Via Appia Antica and Via Latina were important roads into the city at the time. It was built on top of an artificial hill, which made it possible to see what was happening at the adjacent Villa del Quintili and Villa dei Settebassi and prepare for possible attacks.
Other finds seem to indicate that the Villa was restored in the 4th century.
In the 6th century the villa became a fortress, in order to withstand the Barbarian invasions.
Excavations point to the presence of a huge two-story thermal complex with marble walls and mosaic floors with a cistern. It probably got its water from the nearby Marcio Aqueduct. Between the end of World War II and the beginning of the 70’s the cistern became the central point of a shanty town built next to the aqueduct. Nowadays it serves as storage space for objects found during the excavations. The shanty town was the background in Pasolini‘s film “Mamma Roma”.
When adjacent districts were built, the hill came to be used as a dump for building materials.
In 2006, 4 meters below the present street level, the ground floor of the villa was unearthed. Later excavations unexpectedly revealed an enormous complex with a.o. a perfectly preserved underground heating system.
Villa delle Vignacce is Italian for “Villa of the Vineyards”.
What is left of the villa is a huge circular hall, which was covered with a dome.
The gigantic thermal complex had walls that were covered with marble, floor mosaics and an enormous cistern.
In order to construct the vaults of the complex, so-called pignatte were used, hollow amphoras that diminished the weight of the construction and made it possible to use thinner walls. It is thought that it is here that the pignatte were used for the first time.
Several statues found during the excavations are on display in the Vatican Museums. The most important ones are an Aphrodite, a Ganimede Chiaramonti, the Tyche of Antioch and a big portrait of Giulia Domna (wife of the emperor Septimius Severus).
One of the most interesting finds was a statue of Marsyas. This satyr had challenged Apollo to a musical match, lost and was subsequently skinned alive.