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The Roman Villa at Cottanello
how to get there:
  • Leave the Roma - Firenze motorway at the exit "Magliano Sabina"
  • Take the Flaminia road towards Civita Castellana. After c. 3km. turn left at the crossroads for Torri in Sabina, on the ss.657 road
  • After about 13 km. turn left at the crossroads for Montebuono and keep straight on passing Tarano and Rocchette, following the signs for Cottanello.
The Roman Villa is situated in the district of Cottanello. To find out more about this district, see the page for Cottanello.

Soon to be opened to the public
The Cottanello Villa
Private housing of Roman age in Sabina

An interesting example of Roman rural settling type, in the Sabina in the Tiber region, is represented by the Cottanello villa, at the town of the same name in the province of Rieti. Its name, according to scholars, derives exactly from a villa existing in this area, owned by the roman family of the ambassador Lucio Arunculeio Cotta. At the end of the 60s, the agricultural works made at Colle Secco, brought back to light a residential area, partially surveyed up to now, which occupies a rectangular area of about 90x70 metres. The excavation seasons in 1969, 1970 and 1972, led by the Lazio Archaeological Board, with the co-operation of the "Pro Loco" volunteers, made possible to locate only a part of the residential building perimeter. The villa, which is included in the type of the Domus with atrium and peristyle, is characterised from a planimetrical development, distinct enough, and it shows most of rooms decorated by interesting mosaic floors, with a repertory particularly rich. These are all in black and white, with the exception, in several cases, of some tesserae in Rosso-Cottanello. Once restored, they have been set at their place, under the protection of metal roofs.

Today the villa has two entrances: south-east and west, and of this western entrance, which should have been the hallway to the peristyle, a part of the floor still remains, made of limestone blocks and Rosso-Cottanello. The peristyle, which was later transformed, was closed at the western side by a wall, which had been built out of salvage material, and it was decorated by four columns along the short side and six columns along the long side, with limestone capitals of tuscanic kind and bases made of bricks covered with stucco, in some parts still coloured in azure. The passage, along the southern and south-eastern sides of this room, is floored with a mosaic decorated with Rosso-Cottanello squares, with a central subject with little crosses of white tesserae, and from this, through a rectangular exedra, decorated with a mosaic with sandglass-shaped subjects and small black squares, separated by a plait-shaped subject from another with two-coloured squares, it is possible to enter a big room, identified as summer triclinium: floored with big squares with white tesserae, framed by thin black bands, probably at its centre there should have been an emblem, which now has disappeared.

The room was accessible from any side: besides the peristyle, from the eastern entrance, later plugged, which led to the porch, from the southern entrance, which was the hallway to the tablinium floored with a mosaic representing a grid of rhombs.
Along the two tablinuim long sides, there are four symmetrical cubicula with traces of plaster on the walls and simple floor mosaics of very refined taste, with decorations with subjects respectively: honeycomb stitch, gate, geometrical scheme, formed by linked octagons and squares with plant subjects, small birds and theatre masks, geometrical scheme, such as squares linked from linear stars of eight rhombs united by a rhomb-shaped subject, with insertion of polychrome plant subjects. From the tablinium it is possible to reach the atrium, in communication with the summer triclinium too trough a passage, parallel to the western cubicula.
In the tuscanic type atrium, the rain water coming from the four pitches of the roof, was collected into the basin of the impluvium, from where it was distributed, through pipes, to the thermal rooms in the south-western area of the building.

The atrium floor was decorated with a mosaic of cross type and in the middle, in the impluvium (3,80x2,80 metres), paved in opus spicatum, it is possible to see some walls of uncertain work, which probably date to a first phase of the building of the villa.
South of the atrium there are other three rooms of unclear destination, where parts of mosaic floors remain. Along the building western side there is a porch, which leads both to the atrium - through a passage later closed, and to the summer triclinium, where there are the grooved blocks for the water drainage.

In a later period, probably to set this side of the villa entrance, the porch, under which a two-wing crypt-porch of uncertain work remains, was divided into two parts by brick walls.
The thermal zone, west of the atrium, seems to belong to a later stage of the villa development, for signs of a previous plant were found in the rooms; the frigidarium has been located, characterised by the circular form, with four opposite hollows and earthenware floor, over parts of a previous opus spicatum floor.

The next eastern room, diagonally crossed by a drainage, the signs of which were visible under the atrium floor too, has been considered as the tepidarium. Immediately south of it, with an apse along the short side and a earthenware floor, there is the calidarium, which like the other rooms, shows clear signs of later transformations. The final use of the rooms next to the thermal baths is unclear, but probably they were used as lavatories.
Between the thermal area and the peristyle, there are two more rooms: the first one has a floor decorated with little crosses on black background, a vegetable subject with black tesserae on white background occupies the part of the eastern threshold, while the western threshold is decorated with a cock and a hen of white tesserae on black background, with comb and wattle in Rosso-Cottanello.

The second room shows a mosaic carpet with white tesserae with oblique weaving, bordered by two black stripes, while the third one is earthenware floored with traces of colour red and at a side there is part of a stair with limestone steps, leading to the upper floor.
From the study of the carried out building techniques, it is possible to locate more periods during the building of the villa: a first phase, to chronologically locate between the end of the 2nd and the 1st century B.C., is characterised from the uncertain work, a second one, between the end of the 1st century B.C. and the first half of the 1st century A.C., corresponding to a radical change in the building plant with the fulfilment of the peristyle and mosaic-floored entertainment rooms, defined by the work almost reticulated and the use of the local limestone and the red stone of Cottanello; this latest one much later, characterised by the vittata work at the peristyle with the transformation of this room and with the closing of some entrances to the porch zone. The villa has given back, among the other materials, a large number of covering slabs, richly decorated with portrays of sphinxes, hags and vegetable elements.


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