The Excavations of Oplontis
Oplontis used to be a thriving fishermen's village at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, set into the charming inlet of the Gulf of Parthenope. At a first time, Phoenicians and Greeks started a flourishing commerce, but later on Oplontis became appendage of the Roman Nola and Pompeii, whose inhabitants used its port for foreign trades. The violent eruption of 79 AC buried Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae under a thick blanket of ash. As the years go by, life started again but the subsequent Barbaric Invasions along with the fall of Roman Empire and the High Middle Ages caused the abandon of these wonderful land.
Villa Poppaea is the only one currently visitable. A luxuriant residential property (I century BC), built in different phases with a great, refined taste which merges Roman and Hellenic traditions. The Villa, believed to have belonged to the beautiful Roman Empress and second wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, is a stunning example of "Villa Otium".
Atrium (open central court from which the enclosed rooms led off), tablinum and peristyle follow one another - according to the typical disposition of urban houses - while a huge main hall on the northern side leads to the marvellous garden and swimming pool, through a pillared portico. The swimming pool is completely surrounded by Roman statues and copies Hellenic statues dating to the I and II century BC.
The central axis large environment divide symmetrically the official spaces from the intimate and private ones, used to relax. The building is rhythmically wrapped by lovely porticoes, smothering outstanding frescoes dated back to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Pompeian style: the bright vermilion catches the eye, while perspective games mix up painting and real architecture. Mythological scenes, masks, allegoric figures, peafowls, fruit and sweets. A huge variety of styles and themes, marvellously expressed in still lives. The ancient Greeks considered still lives as hospitable gifts, simple food (fruit and vegetables) that the landlord sent to the guests' rooms, making them decide when and where to eat them. The same food enriched dinners, banquets and frescoes painted on the walls of wonderful villas in Pompeii, represented with impressive realism into the Villa Poppaea.
Baskets of fruit, pomegranates in a glass pot, a wicker basket full of figs and a dessert quite similar to the modern Sicilian "cassata", just to give you an idea of some recurring subjects. You will find the "cassata" fresco into the summer triclinium (formal dining room), recently restored along with the lararium (niche preserving holy images of "Lari", divine patrons of the family), lavatory and floors.
The first excavations started during the XVIII century and never stopped, in spite of the high difficulties due to the modern urban context. A Human Patrimony that exists and resists anyhow.
You will find the excavations of Oplontis in Via Sepolcri, at the centre of the modern Torre Annunziata, close by Naples.
The Villa is open to visits every day except of 1st January, 1st May and 25th December at:
- 8.30 am – 5 pm; from the 1st of November to the 31st of October (last entrance at 3.30 pm);
- 8.30 am – 7.30 pm; from April, 1st to October, 31st October (last entrance at 6.30 pm).
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