The ancient Stabiae, the ancient site of Roman aristocratic holidaymakers, the ancient “Beverly Hills or Portofino of the time”.
The archaeological sites of Stabiae, Villa Arianna, Villa San Marco and the second complex are easily reachable from our holiday home on foot in about 15 minutes on foot.
Visiting the ancient Stabiae and these archaeological sites is an extraordinary experience, on request we offer transport service to the Ruins and a tourist guide authorized by the Campania region.
The role of Ancient Stabiae
Stabiae played an important strategic and commercial role already in the archaic age (8th century BC). The greatest population density must be placed between the destruction of the city by Silla (89 BC) and the eruption of Vesuvius (79 AD). In this period, on the northern edge of the hillock of Varano, there are numerous villas in a panoramic position, conceived mainly for residential purposes, with large residential districts, spa facilities, porticoes and beautifully decorated nymphaeums.
Currently it is possible to visit only some of these villas not yet fully investigated: ‘Villa S. Marco’ which, with an area of 11,000 square meters, is one of the largest among the Roman ‘villas’ with a residential character; ‘Villa Arianna’, the oldest, which owes its name to the great mythological painting found in the back wall of the triclinium and the villa called ‘Second complex’, separated from Villa Arianna by a narrow street.
A bit of history
Stabiae is the ancient name of the settlement located south of the Gulf of Naples. For the knowledge of its most ancient phases, the documentation supplied to us by the necropolis found since 1957 in Madonna delle Grazie, which with about 300 tombs dating back to a chronological span between the seventh and third centuries, is fundamental. B.C. attests to the important strategic and commercial role played by this city in the archaic age.
The following period, between the third century. B.C. and 89 BC, the year of the destruction of Stabiae by Silla, is poorly documented as it ends the attendance of the necropolis; two settlements in the area testify to destruction during the first century. B.C.; the shrine of Privati, at the end of the second century. B.C. is abandoned.
After the annihilation by Silla in 89 BC (Pliny N.H. III, 70) Stabiae will be transformed into a residential site: on the plateau of Varano otium villas are built in a panoramic position and an urban system of about 45,000 square meters not yet brought to light. Stabiae is buried during the eruption of 79 AD from about 3 m. of ash and lapilli which cause the coastline to advance. After about 42 years from the eruption, Stabiae returns to life: in fact P.P. Stazio urges his wife to join him at “Stabias renatas”. In 121 AD the milestone found in the excavations of the Duomo certifies that the road to Nuceria is passable again. In the second century. A.D. new necropolises are attested in Grotta S.Biagio, Santa Maria la Carità and Pimonte.
The beginning of the excavations
The excavations of Stabiae began on June 7, 1749 at the behest of Charles III of Bourbon. An urban layout was explored, with shops and streets and six residential villas on the edge of the Varano plateau. The excavation took place, according to the use of time, through tunnels reinterrating and moving on to another when the finds were not considered worthy of being exhibited at the Bourbon Museum of Portici. The work carried out by the Bourbon excavators was published in 1881 by M. Ruggiero, architect collaborating with Fiorelli, then director of the Pompeii excavations.
All the Bourbon documentation consisting of excavation diaries, drawings and graphics was collected. An overall plan of the finds made in the Stabian territory was also drawn up. In the 1950s, interest in the Stabian site resumed, with the definitive excavation of the villas by L. D’Orsi. For reasons of protection and conservation, numerous frescoes were detached from the villas and then collected in the Antiquarium, inaugurated in 1957.
Villa S. Marco, ancient Stabiae.
With about 11,000 square meters. it extends in a splendid panoramic position on the edge of the Varano plateau. Named after an existing chapel in the area in the 1700s, the villa includes two large peristyles, located on different levels, around which a large swimming pool, boardrooms and residential areas develop. The villa has a complete spa district whose orientation follows that of the road below with which it communicates via a staircase: it is possible to assume that the spa area was for public use also because it was well insulated, through double doors, from the rest of the villa. The oldest nucleus, dating back to the Augustan age, consists of the tetrastyle atrium with the surrounding areas which leads to the large kitchen.
To the east of the atrium, a secondary entrance has recently been identified through the road leading to the underlying coastal area. This entrance led to a rustic neighborhood connected to the villa through a small peristyle with a green area in the center with a fruit tree. Around it there were latrines and service rooms, perhaps cells for storing food.
Villa Arianna, ancient Stabiae.
The villa, so called from the fresco depicting Ariadne abandoned by Theseus to Naxos, found in the 1950s on the back wall of the triclinium 3, was excavated in the Bourbon era and subsequently buried.
Hollowed out in the 1950s, it revealed a complex plan that adapts the rooms to the orography of the place.
Connected to the underlying plain through ramps and tunnels, it is divided into four nuclei: atrium and adjacent rooms, dating back to the late Republican age, service rooms and thermal baths from the Augustan age, rooms on the sides of the summer triclinium dating back to the Neronian age and a large annexed gym to the villa in the Flavian age. The Tuscan-style atrium had access to the two cubicula in second style later buffered in the late Republican era.
The thermal sector, connected with the service areas, consists of a calidarium, tepidarium and laconicum with some rooms used for rest and siesta.
Then you reach a series of rooms added in the last expansion of the Neronian era, overlooking the panorama of the gulf, preceded by a portico and supported by two terraces with blind arches, partly landslide downstream. Beyond these rooms there is a large peristyle, most likely a gym, whose central area was planted with greenery.
Ancient Stabiae, second complex.
Located on the edge of the Varano plateau, the villa explored entirely in 1762 by Weber and in 1775 by La Vega, today has an excavated surface of about 1000 square meters. The investigation carried out on the same site since 1967 has made it possible to identify the N side of the peristyle with a portico on three sides, and a series of environments, including an oecus, landslides downstream for the landslide of the hill. From the plan of the building drawn up in the Bourbon period it is evident that the S side of the peristyle was closed and had a fake portico adorned with half-columns resting on the wall.
Behind this wall was the spa district comprising the calidarium with the apse side N protruding into the peristyle and a small rectangular basin recessed on the S side; the tepidarium with tub and steps; a circular room with a dome and very little ventilation, perhaps a laconicum; the kitchen. The peristyle had on the W side a fishpond with a square basin surrounded by a lead cane with spouts.
It consists of an older body, which takes place around the peristyle, and a more modern part in N-W, with different orientation, which can be considered an expansion of the imperial age or the structure of fusion with another building. The decoration of the oldest part of the ‘villa’ has almost completely disappeared; in the N-W area, however, the well-preserved walls have a late III Pompeian-style black background decoration. The floors were largely removed in the Bourbon period and inserted in the floors of the rooms of the Royal Bourbon Museum, now the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Visiting the ancient Stabia is an extraordinary experience, on request we offer transport service to the Ruins and tourist guide authorized by the Campania region. Below is a part of the video taken from the broadcast of Alberto Angela “one night in Pompeii” where we talk about the ancient Stabiae.