We make our way past fields of brilliant flowers (brilliant yellow rapeseed) to the center of Sicily to the town of Piazza Armerina. In the countryside is the famous Villa Romana del Casale which was covered for hundreds of years under mud and earth from a landslide- thus preserving inside the most precious examples of mosaic floors from the Roman era. The image above shows figures at the entrance to the villa welcoming visitors.
We meet our incredible guide, Onofrio, as we arrive. He is a former teacher, and he truly knows how to hold the interest of we eager students, as he shares his passion and excitement for the things we are seeing.
We pass the thermal spa on our way to the entrance. With particular attention to the interests of our group, he points out the massage room where is depicted nude massage and various treatments such as body scraping for cleaning the skin.
To visit this palace in those days would have been an introduction to all the strange and interesting creatures from the whole world. There are rooms full of these patterns where an exotic animal is featured as the central image of a section of flooring.
Several thousand feet of flooring are devoted to various scenes of hunting and fishing.
One of the largest and most interesting scenes depicts expeditions to Africa and India to capture wild creatures to ship back to Rome to be used for entertainment in the Colosseum.
In all, it is a highlight of our tour thus far. We continue on to the city of Ragusa for overnight. Several of us go to the old town for dinner and a wander through cathedral square, which we will tour tomorrow.