Appia Antica, Rome, Things To Do In Rome, Villa, Villa Quintili
On a recent Via Appia walk, we had the opportunity to spend the day exploring and touring Ancient Roman Villa dei Quintili.
This is part of the Things to Do in Rome series. Rome is full of winding streets – get lost on them and you discover place after place of beautiful finds. But sometimes you don’t want to leave it all to luck – sometimes you just want to know the best of the best in Rome.
While it’s possible to quickly reach Villa Quntili by bus or metro on the modern road of Via Appia Nuova, we chose to walk Via Appia Antica and reach the original entrance of the villa.
Ancient Roman Villa To Kill For
This Italian villa was original owned by a wealthy set of brothers who were mid 2nd consuls – the Quintili’s. However, once Emperor Commodus came into power he seized the property. There are conflicting stories, but as per the guide Commodus did kill the Quintili’s for this villa. This is something I want to do a little more research into. However, given the craziness of Commodus’ rule, I don’t doubt the accuracy.
Luxury of An Ancient Roman Villa – The Bath’s
Seeing the villa, located in the countryside it’s easy to see how the brothers and emperor fell in love with the space.
Entering from the Appia Antica, you will see a house-like structure. During ancient times, it acted as one of two cisterns on the grounds. The other large cistern, known as ‘Grande Cisterna Circolare’ (the big circular cistern) was updated in the Renaissance.
While the cisterns are interesting, I was excited to see the Roman baths. The bath structure itself is huge. While the brothers Quintili installed the baths, it was Emperor Commodus who had mosaic tiles laid, many of which are still intact.
Interestingly, the tiles are stories of gladiators – even boasting the name of a gladiator (which would have been unheard of in the early centuries). Commodus adored the games and the depictions were probably laid in homage.
Ninfeo, Fountain For Faries
The Ninfeo (Nymphaeum) was a fountain dedicated to nymphs.
Visible from the Appia Antica, the Emperor’s Ninfeo would have been a magnificent display of his wealth. Walking through the nymphaeum, which at one point would have been pumping, filled or spraying water, is like being inside a clock.
Now denuded of its marble, it would have been a shocking white, decorated with dozens of nymph sculptures, and tiled glass mosaics. It would have been breathtaking. You can find some of the sculptures in the ‘antiquarium’ past the villa.
Emperor’s Country Villa
Exploring Emperor Commodus’ villa, you can walk through rooms and on tiles that are 2nd century. Baring a few protected rooms, you have the free reign of the villa.
The dining room walls still have paintings and a fully tilled floor. Marble remnants speak to the majesty of the villa. And even the large slave areas are well preserved. Interestingly, diggers found a fresh supply of 2,000-year-old limestone ready for repairs. They promptly recovered the supply to preserve it.
Also part of the villa is a ‘ludus’, or arena. The word ludus is usually used in context with gladiator training houses. But should it really be surprising the Gladiator Emperor had a space within his house for private fights?
Leaving the villa, you can walk down to the antiquarium – where ancient Roman antiquities are beautifully displayed. A pit was discovered on Appia Nuova where countless discarded sculptures were found. It was essentially an ancient Roman sculpture landfill! Since the villa has been mostly stripped of its white marble and sculptures, this is the place that puts the whole picture together.
Villa Quintili Information At A Glance
Name: Villa dei Quintili
Location: Via Appia Antica
Time Period: Early 2nd Century
How to get there: There are two ways to enter Villa dei Quintili. If you are enjoying the morning walking the Ancient Romans Road (see post here) you’ll find the entrance around mile 6 (Address: Via Appia 251) or, if you prefer to take the bus directly, you will use modern Via Appia Nuova 1092. (see website below to plan your bus or metro route)
Website: COOP Culture
NOTES: Make sure to take advantage of the buy one ticket get into three sites (see COOP Culture for details). Once a week there is a free official tour of the site. It is in Italian – but I would highly suggest taking it and just trying to listen in.