Spello, one of Umbria’s prettiest medieval walled towns, famous for its narrow streets, marble buildings, the Infiorata (flower carpets on the Corpus Domini feats), and the Baglioni chapel frescoed by Pinturicchio, unveiled last month a breathtaking ‘old-new’ building, the Villa of Mosaics, an exceptional archeological discovery now turned into a museum complex and an architectural jewel.
In 2005, during excavations for the construction of a parking lot, well-preserved mosaics began to emerge, and with them the remains of a villa dating from the 2nd century, when Hispellum, a Roman settlement, was in its heyday.
The site and mosaics have been restored, enclosed by a contemporary building shaped like the surrounding hills, with large windows looking over the village.
The mosaics can be admired from the walkways installed just above them. The site is 500 square meters, with ten mosaic floors, displaying geometric and figurative motifs. The mosaics - in red, white, black, gray - are in the rooms around the peristyle, the arcaded courtyard that surrounded the inner garden; they depict birds, stylized amphorae, a radiant sun, crescent-shaped shields.
In the main space of the villa, the triclinium where banquets were held, the theme revolves around harvesting and wine: panthers, deer and wild boar, imaginary and human figures, the four seasons, a servant holding an amphora on his shoulders pouring wine into a cup. This has led archeologists to speculate that the villa belonged to a winemaker, given the mosaic theme and the ancient winemaking tradition of the area; Sagrantino, harvested in the vineyards around Spello, along with olive trees, is one of the most celebrated wines of Umbria and of Italy.
The walk among the mosaics is preceded by a room where visitors can learn about the daily life of the Romans in the 2nd century; there are tablets for those interested in delving deeper into different themes; a free app; and reconstructions of the villa on screens above the mosaics, so that visitors can see what the villa looked like 2,000 years ago.
Located just outside the main gated entrance to Spello, the villa will become the seat of the tourist information point, thus marking the beginning of the visit to Spello.
For more information and opening times, visit the Villa of Mosaics website.