The ruins of what once must have been a beautiful patrician villa were discovered in Minori in 1932, following the collapse of some houses in the area where it once stood.
In 1934, excavation work began on-site, which, despite numerous challenges, unearthed invaluable treasures, many of which are now preserved in the Antiquarium attached to the villa.
The construction is believed to date back to approximately the 1st century AD and is thought to have been inhabited until the 7th century AD. It is a residential complex covering an area of about 2500 square meters, which undoubtedly spanned two floors and was surrounded by a large viridarium, a garden with a sizable central pool. The exquisite decorations that adorned the rooms speak of the wealth and culture, the refinement of the owner.
Surrounded by lush woods, it once overlooked the sea, which had slowly receded due to the deposition of debris carried by the Regina Minor stream. It is now located in the center of the town of Minori and is open for visitors every day from 9 AM until sunset.
Built in the 1960s, it incorporates the remains of a large fish tank that was part of the summer triclinium and a room with a floor of terracotta pilasters, possibly part of a thermal area.
On the walls, there are seven panels featuring aquatic plants with green and yellow leaves at the bottom, and above, classical masks of Roman theater, as well as ceramic artisan products. In one panel, the god Mercury is depicted, along with a medallion featuring the poorly preserved head of Medusa.
In the display cases, ceramic materials found during various excavation campaigns are preserved, including common items such as pitchers, jugs, and plates. Of particular interest are some lamps bearing the monogram of Constantine, suggesting the continuity of the villa’s life into the Christian era. Ceramic materials play a crucial role in dating archaeological sites, and based on these artifacts, historians have determined that life within the villa did not experience a drastic interruption after the fall of the Western Roman Empire but continued well into the 7th century. With the rise of medieval cities along the Amalfi Coast, the villa was repurposed after being permanently buried under alluvial material carried downstream by the Reginna Minor river.
The museum also houses a wide range of amphorae, which can be categorized into two types: large dolia used for on-site storage of foodstuffs and smaller, pear-shaped amphorae, suitable for easy transportation by boats to access resources not available in the area.
Some of the preserved material does not originate from the Villa in Minori but is the result of excavation campaigns at other sites along the Amalfi Coast and various underwater findings between Amalfi and Positano. These include the remains of anchors and commercial amphorae, dating from the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD. From Scafati, there is a lararium, a niche-shaped structure for family guardian deity worship.
These two rooms, due to their proximity to the triclinium-nymphaeum, were likely used as reception rooms, convenient for preparing food for banquets or meeting various needs of the homeowner.
Covered with barrel vaults, they differ from a third room characterized by a sail-shaped ceiling: a structure made of concentric stone rings on a rectangular plan. This type of ceiling was necessary to achieve the same height as the ceiling of the first two rooms. The sail vault is not a typical feature of Roman architecture but was more commonly found in the East.
Cubicula and the Music Room
From the reception rooms, you access other spacious areas.
Of particular interest is the music room, the first room uncovered during the 1932 excavation campaign. It is the largest room in the villa, named for the frescoes on its walls, featuring a red and black dado, with an upper section divided by thin and elegant panels, inside which are depictions of plant elements, medallions with mythological figures, and decorations showing musical instruments. Given the size of the room, it is highly likely that it was originally designed to entertain villa guests through theatrical performances accompanied by musicians.
Moving further, you traverse narrow, undecorated corridors used by servants for easy access to the aristocratic rooms. Along the way, you encounter small stair ramps, especially narrow to facilitate access to the upper floors. These rooms also provide insight into the water supply mechanisms essential for the thermal area and the water features of the triclinium-nymphaeum. Beyond these rooms, you enter some other reception rooms.
Located behind the thermal area, the Theater Room features painted decorations that can be attributed to the Third Pompeian Style.
This decoration can be considered as a single frieze, within which scenes characteristic of Roman theatrical performances are depicted, along with some of the main masks, including the face of Medusa.
The Minori region has always been characterized by numerous water sources.
In the 1st century AD, the Romans had developed an intricate system of water channels to divert part of the Reginna Minor river’s course, which, until 1954, flowed just a few meters from the archaeological site, creating an impressive and intricate thermal system. Preceded by the apodyterium, the changing room or waiting area, which also features mosaics and stucco decorations from a 3rd-century AD restoration, it is the only room that has preserved traces of valuable materials like marble. This leads to the thermal area, consisting of the tepidarium for warm water baths and the calidarium for hot baths.
The frigidarium is missing, as it is actually represented by the pool originally located in the center of the viridarium. The villa’s baths follow the classic layout of Roman baths, with a double floor supported by terracotta pillars, allowing for the heating of the space above by lighting fires. All the rooms in the thermal area are covered with barrel and semicircular vaults. The mosaic decoration of the tepidarium depicts a large vase with high handles (kantharos) from which plant elements emerge.
The entire structure symmetrically develops around the most important room in the villa: the triclinium-nymphaeum, whose entrance is perpendicular to the main entrance.
It cannot be considered a true triclinium because it retains only two triclinium beds, placed facing each other and resting on masonry structures dating back to the 3rd century AD. In the northern part of the banquet hall, there is a staircase, originally made of marble, from which a small waterfall flowed, and its water converged into two small channels from which diners could wash their hands or perform other bodily functions. The water then flowed into the pool through an underground channel system.
Recent studies have revealed three different decorative interventions: the first, dating back to the 1st century, shortly after the villa’s construction, characterized by the fresco depicting hunting scenes and stucco decorations on the ceiling, followed by an intervention aimed at providing more stability to the entire structure. The third intervention, from the Severan period, is much later and involved the creation of masonry structures to support the triclinium beds and the installation of mosaic decorations, which are also of particular interest. Structured with a dual representational scheme, the northern part features a hunting scene, reflecting the need to serve game during banquets. In the southern part, near the entrance of the triclinium, elements of mythology related to the sea, specifically the Nereids (ancient sea deities) riding a tiaso and other marine animals, are depicted.