The exceptionally well-preserved Imperial Roman Villa is thought to have been a hunting lodge of the emperor Maximian (3rd–4th century AD). The excavations were not begun until 1950, and most of the wall decorations and vaulting have been lost. However, some of the best mosaics of the Roman world cover more than 12,000 square feet under a shelter that hints at the layout of the original buildings. The mosaics were probably made by North African artisans; they're similar
to those in the Tunis Bardo Museum, in Tunisia. The entrance was through a triumphal arch that led into an atrium surrounded by a portico of columns, after which the thermae, or bathhouse, is reached. It's colorfully decorated with mosaic nymphs, a Neptune, and slaves massaging bathers. The peristyle leads to the main villa, where in the Salone del Circo you look down on recently restored mosaics illustrating scenes from the Circus Maximus in Rome. A theme running through many of the mosaics, especially the long hall flanking the whole of one side of the peristyle courtyard, is the capturing and shipping of wild animals, which may have been a major source of the master's wealth. Yet the most famous mosaic is the floor depicting 10 girls wearing the ancient equivalent of bikinis, going through what looks like a fairly rigorous set of training exercises.
SP15, Contrada Casale, 4 km (2½ miles) southwest of Piazza Armerina, Piazza Armerina, 94100, Italy