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"Villa San Marco" Villa San Marco Tip by leics

  One of the beautiful frescoes
by leics
  • Villa San Marco
      One of the beautiful frescoes
    by leics
  • Villa San Marco
      Graffiti made by a Roman child
    by leics
  • Villa San Marco
      A vast pot
    by leics
  • Villa San Marco
      The huge courtyard with swimming pool
    by leics
  • Villa San Marco
      An internal courtyard
    by leics

This should really be an off-the-beaten-path tip, because ancient Stabiae lay above the modern town of Castellammare...and the ancient shoreline lay much, much further inland. Past excavations have uncovered other parts of this Roman resort town but (as far as I know) only the two villas are open to the public.

Villa San Marco was first excavated in the late 1700s but attention soon turned to the 'sexier' sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, so it was not until the late 50s/early 60s that further excavation took place. Like those better-known sites, the rain of pumice and ash from the Vesuvian eruption of 79AD ensured that the villa was remarkably well-preserved.

It is a truly vast place, quite obviously built not only to impress but also to flaunt the wealth of its owner. There is a massive swimming pool set within a colonnaded courtyard, ending in an outside dining room with a magnificent view of Vesuvius across what would once have been the bay. There are beautiful frescoes throughout, and many mosaics floors (although the best of both, inevitably, are in museums elsewhere). The villa not only has numerous rooms for its occupants (and its servants) but also has its own private baths complex. Clearly a summer home for the wealthiest of the wealthy and, I suspect, the site of many a 'bunga bunga' party before the eruption!

Perhaps the most unexpected and touching sight is the graffiti of birds and a huge-nosed man, scratched into the lower parts of a corridor's fresco and clearly drawn by a naughty Roman child. Seeing that makes on realise that this place was once a real home for real people.

The site is open every day, from around 0830, and entrance is free.

See my travelogues here and here for more photos of the site and its frescoes.

I've made a separate tip about how to get to the villas.

Address: On the ridge above Castellammare centre, Castellammare di Stabia

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Sep 12, 2016
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