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Roman Villa of Tellaro

Another small gem of the Eastern Coast of Sicily: the Roman Villa of Tellaro.

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Roman Villa of Tellaroo - The Africa
The Africa
PJ (Margherita Montoneri)

My mother has always had an explorer's soul, even if unfortunately she couldn't fully express it. But when they gave her autonomy, she could find the most secluded places with a few rows read on a book.  
The Roman villa of Tellaro was one of such secluded spots: I remember my father wondering for a good hour through large and small streets, sometimes muddy and unpaved until we saw what seemed to be an old farm. Immediately my mother said "It's this!", whereas to us it seemed to intrude in somebody's house. 

Whit her usual gall she asked the lady coming toward us if there were some mosaics. Of course, we were always more ashamed... you know, you enter another person's house and ask if there are some roman mosaics... it's perfectly normal, isn't it?

And instead, here they are: still half-buried [at that time, n.d.t.], a girl knelt down intent on carefully brushing the face of a woman emerging from the floor. I found that scene really fascinating.

In fact, the Roman Villa of Tellaro was discovered in 1971, under a 19th-century farmhouse surrounded by the vineyards of Nero d'Avola and of the rare Albanello grape variety, and at first, as often happens, there were some illegal excavations.

The explorations and excavations lasted more than 20 years. In 2004 I had the good fortune to admire that mosaics in an exhibition in the city of Noto.

Roman Villa of Tellaro - Mosaic of the Hunt
1) Mosaic of the Hunt
2) Tiger pounce (Particular of the Hunt)
3) Waves (Particulare of the Hunt)
PJ (Margherita Montoneri)

At present, the Roman Villa of Tellaro can be finally visited, and it's experiencing a well deserved and renewed interest. This little sister of the Villa of Piazza Armerina gives small surprises chiseled into the floors of various environments. The figures are more stylized than the unrivaled sister but not less precious and cured in details, and in the chromatic study. The creators of these mosaics were refined artists, capable of giving life and depth to their representations. As an example, consider the hunting scene: it's intense, harmonic, with figures that seem to come out from the floor.
And also overflowing vases of flowers and fruit, geometric patterns reminiscent of those of the pre-consular Africa, and make us think about African craftsmen.

Roman Villa of Tellaro - Pesatura del corpo di Ettore
The ransom of the Hector's body
PJ (Margherita Montoneri)

Recognizable, although still very ruined, there is the scene of the ransom of the Hector's body, from the Ilyad, and the representation of Africa in the woman's face that my young astonished eyes saw emerge from the floor many years ago.
The villa dates back to the 4th century AD; it belonged to a family of wealthy landowners and consisted of a central body, a Court surrounded by a portico with various rooms facing onto it.
We are never going to find out anything about them, about how the rooms were used, we don't have any clue about their everyday life. The Roman Residence was totally destroyed by fire: maybe during the Barbarian incursions?  It looks likely. the fact is that, in 1700, on the ashes of what was once a festive Roman villa, they built a farmhouse that buried the mosaics that survived the fire beneath soil and debris.
Until 1971, when a tip to the Finance Police reported illegal excavations in that area, making the Superintendence suspicious.
Until, with great difficulty and long bureaucratic procedures, a girl knelt down in the dust revealed, still alive, the eyes of Africa's face.




Roman Villa of Tellaro - Mosaics
Villa Tellaro 1) Particular of mosaics
2) The Oven of the ancient Farmhouse Tellaro
3)Geometric floor
Ph. PJ (Margherita Montoneri)


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The Roman Villa of Tellaro is in the municipality of Noto, in the province of Siracusa.

It's only a few Kms from the Nature reserve of Vendìcari, and close to the crag of Avola and to the other climbing spots in the provinces of Ragusa and Siracusa.    

It's open to the public; for info call the  +39 0931 573883.

36.836023, 15.07848

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