OFF THE GRID
Archaeology|January/February 2022
OPLONTIS, ITALY
MARLEY BROWN

The city of Pompeii was part of a thriving coastal region when it was destroyed by the a.d. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Entire farms, villages, and grand private estates on the Bay of Naples were buried under a thick layer of ash and debris. Among them were luxurious villas built by some of Rome’s most prominent families in the town of Oplontis, which is located in the modern city of Torre Annunziata, three miles west of Pompeii. The best preserved and most thoroughly studied of these is called Villa A, or Villa Poppaea. The 75,000-square-foot property is named for the second wife of the Roman emperor Nero (r. a.d. 54–68), Poppaea Sabina, who may have once owned it. Built around 50 b.c. on a high bluff looking out to sea—but now below the modern street level—the villa contains wall paintings depicting fantastical architecture and has been the site of pioneering work in garden archaeology

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