The Roman Houses of Palazzo Valentini

With our study abroad class drawing to a close today, Dr. Meyers and I took the opportunity to explore a new place: the Roman Houses of Palazzo Valentini (Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini). This archaeological site, located underneath a sixteenth century palazzo near Trajan’s column, features parts of two Roman houses from the imperial period. The brochure calls it “an unforgettable journey through time” and I suspect it is unforgettable. I’ve certainly never seen a site presented like this before.  You spend most of the tour looking down through glass floors at the Roman remains while experiencing a kind of son et lumière. The narration is at times kind of cheesy (e.g., “The horse was the Roman motor car”), bombastic, or poorly translated from Italian (e.g., “the Trajan column”) but that hardly detracts from the overall effect. The tour takes you through, among other things, the bathing complex of one house, a segment of Roman road, an impressive mosaic floor from the second house, and some nice opus sectile floors as well. The images projected onto the floors,  walls, and ceilings recreate the ancient environment while the narration discusses how the Roman houses were destroyed as well as the subsequent occupation and use of the site. There are a couple museum-like sections with displays of marble, ceramic, epigraphic, and numismatic finds. The tour ends with a couple of presentations about Trajan’s Column. The visuals are quite impressive although I have the sense that the narration is being delivered by a computerized voice. They discourage photography and, given the way the site is lighted, it would be hard to take good photos anyway. However, their website provides a nice gallery of images. They advise booking tickets in advance. The whole tour lasted about an hour and a half. Definitely worthwhile.

The entrance, inside the palazzo's courtyard, is easy to miss...

The entrance, inside the palazzo’s courtyard, is easy to miss…

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