The Roman Villa in Positano

Positano is world-famous for its characteristic narrow staircase streets and enchanting sea. However, the town also hides equally precious vestiges of its prestigious past. Beneath the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, a few steps from the beach of Marina Grande, lies a Roman villa, considered the most important archaeological discovery in southern Italy in recent decades. The aristocratic dwelling, dating from between the first century BC and the first century AD, is included in the tour of the MAR Positano – Museo Archeologico Romano.

It is a “maritime” villa (accessible only by sea), very similar to those on Capri and the countless ones scattered along the entire coast. Already at the time of the ancient Romans, the Amalfi Coast was considered a sought-after holiday destination in which to indulge in leisure and enjoy the exceptional natural beauty present. There were numerous luxurious residences built starting from the late Republican age by emperors and wealthy patricians along the Campania coastal strip. Many of which were buried by the terrible eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which for this reason have been able to reach the present day in a good state of preservation.

Photo © MAR Positano – Museo Archeologico Romano

When it was irreversibly damaged by the Vesuvian eruption, renovation works were underway in the Roman villa of Positano due to the damage caused by the earthquake of 62 AD. Unknown until a few years ago, the villa was discovered by chance in 2003 during restoration work in the church’s crypt. Even though its existence had already been known for some time. In the second half of the 18th century, a Bourbon excavator named Karl Weber described the remains of a building with frescoes and mosaics beneath the church. According to some experts it belonged to the freedman Posides Claudi Caesari, from whom the name Positano could even derive.

The building has typical characteristics of the villas of the time. Of notable historical and artistic interest is the cycle of frescoes, with vivid colors and details still clearly visible, which can be admired in the triclinium. Here time really seems to have stopped 2000 years ago. The frescoes fall into the so-called Fourth Style, which developed around the middle of the 1st century. A.D. The excavations also brought to light stucco reliefs, the mosaic floor, ancient columns and a large number of everyday objects.

Even if you are not passionate about archaeology, we recommend you visit it because it is one of the most fascinating testimonies of Roman civilisation.

Photo © MAR Positano – Museo Archeologico Romano