The Domitian Villa: An Imperial Residence in Sabaudia, Italy

The Domitian villa, located in the comune of Sabaudia (LT) in Italy is a majestic, long living, roman imperial residence that occupies a peninsula of 46 hectares facing from east the Lake of Paola. This villa, as important and articulated as the Adrian’s one, is a case study of considerable value both from an archaeological and methodological point of view. The first documented excavations at the Villa were undertaken during the papacy of Innocent XIII (1721-1724). This work, conducted by Mons. Collicola between 1720 and 1728, led to the important discovery of the Apollo Kassel, but also to great destruction to the site. Collicola, in order to recover building material and in search of treasure, demolished much of the exposed sections of the walls of the villa. Some other excavations were undertaken in 1798 by Petrini, leading to the discovery of the Vatican Faun. The First excavations with a valid permit at the villa were carried out by the honorary Inspector Pio Capponi around 1901. The first scholar to identify the villa as an imperial residence, and in particular as the one belonging to Domitian, was La Blanchere. This discovery was not, however, published. Thomas Ashby, after the unsuccessful attempt of La Blanchere, published the first map of the site. The precise map did not help Ashby to correctly interpret the site, which the scholar interprets as a late republican expansion Circeii. In 1934, to give to the newly birthed Sabaudia a “cultural center,” Jacopi dug the southern portion of the villa, bringing to light a great impact area. Lugli fixed Ashby’s misunderstanding in his Forma Italiae in 1928; this book, despite more recent researches (1934 / 1980-81), still stands as the most complete work on the area.

From 2010 to 2012, Dr. Diego Ronchi has been the director for La “Sapienza” and the “Soprintendenza per I Beni Archeologici del Lazio” of a research project at the Villa. The project involves excavating small selected areas to investigate structure’s chronology, surveying the entire peninsula, 3D mapping using photogrammetry, laser scanner and LiDAR the 3 most monumental areas, and realizing a preliminary catalogue of archeological materials (marbles, fragmentary paintings, pottery….) collected in over 50 years of unpublished digs and research. The aim of this project is therefore the realization of a complete edition of the monument and materials, accompanied by phase maps, sections and reconstructive 3D for main buildings. Considering all the different scientific issues to be faced during the study of a complex site such as the “Villa di Domiziano”, Dr.  Ronchi will lead a team capable of integrating various professional skills to answer with mature expertise all of the challenges provided by the archaeological exploration of the monument. The main methodological complexity will be integrating in the same stratigraphic and contextual methodology, and diachronic system, a big amount of different data coming from field, archive and warehouse, blending new data with more than 50 years of unpublished materials.



























3. Domitian Villa UAV surveying
3. Domitian Villa UAV surveying







5. Domitian Villa Fragmentary Painting