Located between the mouths of the river Platani and Salso, Realmonte is situated near Agrigento in south-western Sicily.
Realmonte itself is a "young" small town, dating from the mid 17th century, but the same thing can not be said of the area in which it is located, with traces of prehistoric settlment and an important roman villa...
Pebble culture in Realmonte region
Archaeological discoveries here have changed the economic structure of the small town, and a traditional focus on agriculture has changed to Realmonte now being a prime tourist destination, not only for its beaches, but also for the archaeological discoveries which have brought a fundamental contribution to the knowledge of humanity's development.
Studies have shown that during the Quaternary period many links existed between Africa and Sicily, and comparisons between Realmonte and “Capo Rossello” have uncovered human remains belonging to a type of Australopithecus "Africanus," the ancestor of the genus “Homo”.
Some pebbles dating from the Palaeolithic have been identified as being from the so-called "Pebble Culture," which is considered the oldest form of human culture, dating back in Italy about 750,000 years. The Pebble Culture is the earliest stage of the prehistoric Stone Age.
Roman Villa of Realmonte
Realmonte can also boast another unique archaeological find - a Roman villa that was discovered thanks to Japanese archaeologists. The Villa is located a few kilometers from the “Scala dei Turchi”, near the sea, and shows that the coast here was important in Roman times not only for economic and commercial reasons but also from the residential point of view.
The proximity to the sea shows that it was a summer villa that belonged to an important member of the Roman aristocracy.
This discovery of a Roman villa on the coast of Realmonte was a great source of surprise and excitement, in particular the discovery of "sectilia pavimenta” - black and white mosaic floors - one of which depicts Neptune, the god of the sea, with the trident, who rides a dolphin, framed into geometric borders. Roman coins, one dating back to the Emperor Domitian, have also been found.
The motifs depicted in the mosaics are inspired by Sicilian mythology, as seen in the scene of the fight between Scylla and Charybdis. Also of great artistic value is the "mosaic of the Dolphin". According to scholars the mosaic is the work of a local art school, probably from Agrigento. The villa also had a thermal swimming-pool, usually only found in the "Domus" of the richest citizens.
The villa, built around the end of the 1st century AD, covers an area of 5000 square meters, although its structures also extend further north. There are a series of square or rectangular rooms arranged around a peristyle with five square columns on each side. The peristyle was surrounded by a covered passageway, which opened onto the different rooms.
In the northern wing there is a large central room, with traces of “opus tessellatum” on the floor, and with a large opening on the south side where the “tablinum” (the main room, used to receive guests) was found. To the sides, symmetrically arranged, there are two private smaller rooms, probably the "cubicula" (bedrooms) with a floor in “opus sectile”, preceded by their ante-rooms with black and white geometric mosaic on the floors.
In the west wing of the villa there are other important rooms, such as the "triclinium" (dining room), with mosaic floors in geometric black and white, with friezes and leaves. To the west of the "triclinium", a room features a floor mosaic in black and white, depicting Poseidon with a trident and surrounded by dolphins in the central panel . Around it are various ornaments and other decorations depicting crenellated walls.
The villa was surrounded by a wall that reached the beach and enclosed the landing-stage. At the spa there is a corridor leading to the dressing room ("apodyterium") with a mosaic floor decorated with Scylla, who holds a rudder, surrounded by sea creatures. As in the mosaic of Poseidon, this also is adorned with decorative patterned friezes.
The adjacent room with mosaic floor, was the "frigidarium" giving access to a circular room lined with marblewhile in the south wall a door led into a hallway from which they entered a small heated room (“calidarium”).
Elsewhere in Realmonte
You can continue your visit with a trip to the archaeological site of the ancient town of Erbesso, which was located on the hill south of Realmonte and where today there is a lighthouse. Erbesso was the "store" for the Romans during the Punic War I, but was later destroyed by them and disappeared.
The coast near Realmonte has a very diverse and rich vegetation, characterized by intense and varied colors. An area of great landscape interest is represented by the "Scala dei Turchi", consisting of layers down towards the sea that give it the appearance of a natural staircase.
Another ancient building in this area is the "Tower of Monterosso," a tower of Arab origin from the 16th century, still well preserved and located on the same hill as the “Scala dei Turchi”. The tower has a square plan of about 12 meters per side, divided into three rooms.
For those who love sea resorts, Realmonte has many beaches such as that of the “Scala dei Turchi” , which, as we said, is particularly striking for its form of natural staircase, with a succession of broad steps and terraces that slope down to the sea below.
The Gelonardo beach is east of the seaside resort of Siculiana Marina and characterized by a very long coastline, bordered by a cliff formed by banks of gypsum crystals which create a stunning play of light throughout the day. Other beaches include those of Pergole, between Siculiana Marina and Realmonte.
See also Realmonte history and etymology.