Casale Roman Villa

The most important of all is the site of the Villa Romana del Casale, with its 3500 square meters of mosaic floors famous all over the world, as evidence of life in Roman times.

The Villa del Casale recognized in 1997 by UNESCO and included in the “World Heritage”, was the hunting lodge of Massimiliano Erculeo, colleague of Diocletian in the management of the Roman Empire. Also inhabited in the Arab age, the Villa was partially destroyed by the Normans. Subsequently, an avalanche of mud coming from Mount Mangone, which overlooks it, covered it almost completely.
The Roman Villa stands near the stream, which will become the Gela river further downstream, on the remains of a previous rustic settlement.

In the twenties, thirties and forties of the last century the first inspections were carried out, and with the excavations of the 50s thanks to the intervention of the Sicilian Region and the work of the archaeologist Vinicio Gentili, the excavations were completely brought to light.

The worldwide importance of the Villa is due to the impeccable state of conservation of the mosaics, which are also considered the most extensive and fascinating ever made in Roman times.


Almost always all important discoveries happen by chance. The Villa Imperiale del Casale in Piazza Armerina is proof of this.
It ran the century. XVII AD when some peasants noticed that numerous masonry structures emerged which later turned out to belong to the grandiose imperial villa of Casale. The news first of all attracted G. Paolo Chiarandà who in publishing this discovery wrote as follows: “At the foot of a high mountain called Mangone (Fortress) one can see ruins of houses whose name is not even known: by the Piazzesi it is called “Casale of the Saracens”.

A good 3500 square meters of mosaic floors with geometric and figurative designs, in Opus Tessellatum and Opus Secale, made by African workers who in some ways were inspired by oriental mosaic art were brought to light, and their discovery alternated with that of marble statues life-size, marble torsos, Ionic and Corinthian capitals, gold, silver and bronze coins with the effigy of Maximianus, columns and trabeations, statue heads and many other marble fragments: feet of statues shod with sandals, marble legs and hands which today should be in the warehouses of the constituent archaeological museum, in the trigona palace in Piazza Duomo.
The floor mosaics brought to light depict exotic landscapes, porticoed villas, episodes of hunting and transporting real and fantastic animals, mythological and marine scenes, circus games, cupids harvesting grapes and nereids, which document uses, customs, culture, philosophy and daily life of the dominant aristocratic society during the III-IV century. A.D. At the same time they constitute a sort of catalog of fauna (marine and terrestrial) known in that period. Immediately after the excavation, the restoration of all the floors and wall structures began.

In October 1991, due to an avalanche of debris from Mount Mangone, caused by a storm and by the deforestation of the whole area above the villa, towards the east, wall structures, marble slabs and terracotta channels came to light perhaps belonging to pools and fountains that embellished the terraced gardens of the villa which were located here, detached from the central nucleus.

Piazza Armerina

Piazza Armerina (Chiazza in Sicilian) stands on a hill in the southern Erei mountains, in the central-eastern part of Sicily.

It is an ancient medieval city with a valuable Baroque and Norman historical centre. On its territory is the Roman Villa del Casale with its famous mosaics. City of art, with a strong tourist attraction due to its important archaeological, historical, artistic and natural heritage, known as the “City of Mosaics and the Palio dei Normanni”.

In 1396, the Aragonese castle of Piazza Armerina (Platea or Plaza in Spanish) was erected by the will of Martin I of Trinacria and his wife Queen Maria of Sicily and Duchess of Athens and Neopatria, so that it would represent a powerful military deterrent against the excessive power of the barons Sicilians opposed to the crown.

In 1517 Charles V was given the title of City, with the official appellation of Urbs Opulentissima. In memory of the notable Catalan team that favored the wealth of the territory, a “Catalan gate” still exists in the city of Piazza. From 1689 until 1817 it was the seat of the fourth University of the Kingdom.

Piazza Armerina is a city of art with a strong tourist attraction due to its valuable archaeological, historical, artistic and natural heritage, known as the “City of Mosaics and the Palio dei Normanni”, it was one of the 21 candidates for the title of ” Italian Capital of Culture 2018”

The cathedral basilica of Maria Santissima delle Vittorie

The cathedral basilica of Maria Santissima delle Vittorie of Piazza Armerina is the cathedral of the diocese of Piazza Armerina, in Sicily and is dedicated to Maria Santissima delle Vittorie. In February 1962, Pope John XXIII elevated it to a minor basilica.

Aragonese period

Discovery of the image of the Madonna occurred during the plague epidemic of 1348. The episode is cloaked in mystery, dreams and revelations indicate the place where the banner is hidden. The rediscovered icon was transferred to the church of San Martino, the mother church of the time.

Primitive church

The construction in Catalan-Gothic style under the title of “Santa Maria Maggiore”, is a building enriched between the 1400s and 1500s by a mighty bell tower and a Gaginesque marble arch in the baptistery, an expression of the Sicilian Renaissance.

Spanish era

The temple was seriously damaged by an earthquake, probably the “Magnus Tremotus in terra Xiclis” of 1542.

By “maramma”, in the manner of those historically documented for the cathedrals of Palermo, Messina and Catania, we mean the «Fabbrica del Duomo.

After a further interruption of about forty years between 1666 and 1705, the structures of the cathedral were completed and only inaugurated in 1742.

The temple was elevated to a minor basilica by Pope John XXIII in February 1962.

The current cathedral, dominated by its 76.5 m high dome and has a diameter of 13.88 meters, the highest in Sicily, visible from the whole city, was begun in 1604, continued by the architect Orazio Torriani, completed in 1719, instead the bell tower, 40 meters high, in late Catalan Gothic style, dates back to the 15th century and is that of a previous church, in place of which the current cathedral was erected.

The portal, from the 18th century, has elements of Sicilian Baroque style.

The interior of the cathedral is dominated by the high central dome. From the triumphal arch hangs a large cross painted on both sides, bearing the depiction of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, a work of 1485 conventionally referred to the «Maestro della croce di Piazza Armerina», and a baptistery created by Antonuzzo Gagini in 1594.

The high altar in lapis lazuli, semi-precious stones and Sicilian marbles, with the floor and the balustrade of the apse, are made by the Palermitan master Filippo Pinistri based on a design by the architect Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia. The elevation includes the embossed silver case from 1625, which contains the image of Maria Santissima delle Vittorie, patron saint of the city and of the diocese, chiseled by the Caltagironese silversmith Giuseppe Capra in 1627, the manta in gold, silver and enamels to protect it, designed and created by the Palermo goldsmith don Camillo Barbavara. Behind the altar are the funeral monuments of Marco Trigona (1598) and Melchiorre Trigona (1637). On the back wall, two large windows with the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in the center, in the upper window, the image of the Redeemer.

The Palio of the Normans

The Palio dei Normanni has been held every year in Piazza Armerina, in the heart of Sicily, on 12, 13 and 14 August, since 1952. The event has its origins between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, when the then twelve confraternities of the city organized for the first time a historical procession on the occasion of the celebrations in honor of Maria Santissima dell’Assunta, today “Maria Santissima delle Vittorie”, known as the “Cavalcata”.

The event draws inspiration from the war of conquest of Muslim Sicily by the Normans led by Roger I of Sicily. The Norman conquest began in 1061, with Roberto il Guiscardo and above all thanks to the Arab emir

Piazza Armerina had not yet been founded, legend has it that Count Ruggero, at the end of the conquest of Sicily (which took place in 1091), wanted the banner of the Madonna delle Vittorie to be donated to the Norman city of Platia (in Latin) and kept in the mother church.

The Palio therefore becomes a unique blend of history and legend, of popular devotion and historical tradition, which makes it unique and incredibly fascinating.

Archaeological Museum of Aidone


Morgantina is an ancient Sicilian-Greek city, an archaeological site in the Aidone area.

The city was brought to light in the autumn of 1955 by the archaeological mission of Princeton University (United States). The excavations carried out so far allow us to follow the development of the settlement over a period of about a millennium, from prehistory to Roman times. The most easily visited area, it preserves remains from the middle of the 5th to the end of the 1st century BC, the period of maximum splendor of the city.

Very important archaeological finds come from this site such as the Goddess of Morgantina (wrongly called “Venus”), currently housed in the archaeological museum of Aidone which arrived on March 17, 2011 from the United States where it was exhibited at the Getty Museum in Malibu, and the Treasure of Morgantina, also returned.

The oldest traces of attendance on the site belong to the early Bronze Age (2100 -1600 BC), a period to which dates back to a village of circular and rectangular huts which occupied the Cittadella hill (contrada “Terrazzi di San Francesco”). The village belonged to the Culture of Castelluccio, characterized by an elementary civil organization and the possession of rudimentary domestic and agricultural handicraft techniques and to the subsequent culture of Thapsos. Mycenaean and Sub-Mycenaean pottery was also found at the site

The city seems to have been destroyed for the first time at the end of the century, by the tyrant of Gela, Hippocrates. In 459 BC, the city was taken and destroyed by Ducezio, leader of the Sicilians, during the revolt against Greek rule.

After the Roman conquest the walls were demolished and the inhabited area shrunk considerably, but the city continued to exist as an important commercial hub for the production of terracotta in the kilns and above all for the production of cereals (wheat, barley), oil and of the wine obtained from the famous Vite Murgentina.

The Macellum and many public buildings were built in the center of the Agora and in a short time the Polis was progressively transformed into a Roman oppidum used by the various legions passing through Sicily.

The remains were identified for the first time at the end of the 19th century by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi and initially the city was identified with Herbita. The discovery of some bronze coins and the concordance of the archaeological data with the news reported by the sources therefore allowed the recognition with the ancient Morgantina.

Notable remains of the Hellenistic city remain in the area: several public buildings, mostly articulated around the Agora square, the public granary, the “Great Furnace”, the theater and the Roman slaughterhouse and important houses, richly decorated with mosaics.


At its eastern end, the remains of a monumental double-basin fountain (nymphaeum), preceded by a wide staircase and decorated with columns with Doric friezes, were brought to light (1982-1984). Probably built in the second half of the 3rd century BC, it was dedicated to the Nymphs and was violently destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake, during the last years of the 1st century BC.


The lower square is flanked on the west side by the theatre, which rests on the slopes of the western hill. In a first phase, datable to the mid-fourth century BC. it seems to have had a trapezoidal shape, while it was later rebuilt with a horseshoe cavea. The theater was dedicated to Dionysus, whose name appears on the riser of one of the steps forming the cavea. This, with about fifteen steps divided into several sectors, was built in such a way as to allow a surprising acoustic effect, still appreciable today, and is supported by a sturdy retaining wall in carefully squared blocks


Next to the theater and in close relationship with it, in an elevated position stood the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, the two patron deities of the city. The southern sector, intended for worship, is organized around a large cylindrical altar, still covered by traces of the original plaster. Next to it, surrounded by a low circular wall, there is a bothros or sacred pit, for offerings to the deities of the underworld.


The Goddess of Morgantina is a statue from a clandestine excavation and exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Aidone following a dispute that lasted for years between Italy and the United States, caused by the previous illegal purchase of the work by the Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles.

The goddess was carved in the 5th century BC. in Sicily, the author would be a disciple of Phidias. The statue was stolen from the archaeological site of Morgantina in the second half of the twentieth century, to then be sold to the Paul Getty Museum which bought it and exhibited it in 1988. It was purchased at an auction in London for 28 billion lire.


The statue is 2.24 m tall and would have been carved between 425 BC and 425 BC. and 400 BC, the period in which the city of Morgantina was assigned to Kamarina, after the agreements of Gela (424 BC). The Goddess having her body made of colored limestone from an Iblean quarry, and the bare parts (head, arms, feet) in Parian marble. The statue is worked in the smallest details also in the rear part, where the drapery is richly characterized: this would suggest an exhibition of the work on a pedestal.

From a stylistic point of view, the statue falls within the so-called rich post-Fidiac style, which spread in Greece during the years of the Peloponnesian war: it is evident from the so-called “wet effect” of the garment on the torso, which highlights the features of the body, and from the rich drapery to form wide folds, a detail visible only from the side or back. These characteristics are also present in other contemporary or slightly older statues, such as the Nike in Olympia or the Victories of the Temple of Athena Nike in Athens. The head is not finished in the back but is only sketched, probably because it was covered with a layer of stucco on which a wig or headdress was placed.