The big, spectacular maritime villa in the Sora district located about 3.6km south-east of Herculaneum overlooked the sea from its 150-metre-long facade. It was part of a system of otium villas, also represented by Strabone, stretching along the Gulf of Naples and inhabited by the richest representatives of the Roman ruling class.
The villa was built around the mid-1st century B.C., but its structures and magnificent wall paintings, which are still visible today, can be easily attributed to restorations which begun during the early imperial period. At the time of the 79 A.D. eruption, the villa was under restoration. This is attested by the piles of lime still visible in some rooms, a famous graffito which recorded the cost of the work, and unfinished precious floors made of imported marble slabs.
The first finds in the area date back to the 17th century, when two bronze slabs with the decrees of the two consuls Cn. Hosidius Geta and L. Vagellius and a marble relief with Orpheus, Hermes and Eurydice, now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, were found. Between 1797 and 1798, Francis IV commissioned systematic excavations in the villa, thus bringing to light its central core, which developed around a large apsidal hall. The area was then gradually abandoned. Only between 1989 and 1992 was research resumed, led by the then Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii. Previously unexplored during the Bourbon period, the areas east and west of the apsidal hall, including service corridors, reception rooms, and finely decorated bedrooms were excavated. Particularly valuable are frescoes which have been detached and removed from a bedroom. These frescoes are characterised by large Egyptian blue squares inside red frames decorated with golden plant motifs, while nearer the top there is wonderfully stylized architecture, again on a blue background, which would have decorated the ceiling.
The Villa is open for pre-booked visits on the first Sunday of every month. Prior booking can be made through the Gruppo Archeologico Vesuviano (Vesuvian Archaeological Group): http://www.gruppoarcheologicovesuviano.org/