Fresco fragment from Il grotte di Catulle, Sirmione, Italy

We visited the ruins of the astonishingly large Roman villa in its spectacular setting at the tip of a peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda. Because many of its stones were re-used to build later buildings, not many decorative artifacts have survived, but there are some very fine plaster fresco fragments on view in the museum at the site. This one is of the boats that must have been a frequent sight from the villa, as the lake was an important transportation artery toward the mountainous region to the north. I was touched to see that the one sculptural fragment recovered from the site was a head of a Dioscuri (Castor and/or Pollux), a god who protected mariners, and the subject of Schubert’s lovely song “Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren”.

The site is called Il grotte di Catulle because it is traditionally associated with the family of the Roman poet Catullus, who mentions visiting “Sirmio” in a poem. The large villa dates from a later time than the poet, but there is evidence that this structure replaced an earlier villa, so it is possible that Catullus did indeed view Lake Garda from this wonderful vantage point.

Information on the site is most plentiful in Italian, but the wiki entry includes some photos of the villa itself


Reconstructed Bronze Age dwelling from Lake settlement

Keeping the archeological theme going, today’s picture, from the southern shore of Lake Ledro in Trentino, Italy, was taken at the Museo de le Palefitte. When the level of the lake fell in the 1930’s, wooden pilings were discovered sticking up from the shore of the lake. It has been verified that these pilings supported a settlement that lasted from the neolithic age into the bronze age. The little museum (the goal of our hour-long hike from the opposite shore of the lake) has many interesting artifiacts, including some rare wooden pieces that would have rotted but were preserved for milennia by the boggy water. They have also reconstructed some dwellings, admittedly somewhat speculative since there was not a lot of evidence to go on, but they could draw from knowledge of similar settlements around Europe. I like this picture becuase if you look underneath the walkway to the modern hut, you can see some of the original pilings in the lake.


Theatre Fragment

A Detail from one of the carved stones of the old Roman theatre in Verona. We saw several of these on the grounds of the ruins of the theatre (of which enough survives that they can mount classic plays during summertime). Temperatures were in the 90’s, so we faded faster than we would have liked, spent more time in the cool space inside the large churches, and deeply enjoyed the artisanal gelato that we found near the Ponte di Pietra.