Visit Piazza Armerina
Piazza Armerina is a lively local town surrounded by forested slopes in the heart of Sicily. The town still follows its original medieval design although many of the buildings date from the 17th to 19th centuries and are in the baroque style.
Explore Piazza Armerina: tourism and travel guide
Although the amazing mosaics in the Roman Villa del Casale on the edge of the town is the main attraction here, in the old town of Piazza Armerina there are numerous other buildings of historic and artistic interest, including a 14th century castle, the Town Hall and a 17th century cathedral, several notable churches and the baroque style Palazzo Trigona.
Villa Romana del Casale
The Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Amerina is the main highlight in the town, and known especially for its mosaics. These are unique both in the sheer quantity and size of the mosaics and in the scenes they represent - instead of (or rather, as well as) the repetitive patterns you might expect from Roman mosaics you are greeted with elaborate scenes of activity, drawn from both real life (such as everyday life and hunting trips) and from stories in mythology. The villa was built on four levels:
Level 1: on the first level there are the baths, supplied with water by two aqueducts. At this level there is also a massage room and gym.
Level 2: on the second level is the main entrance, with three arches and a large open-air courtyard surrounded by columns of Ionic style.
Level 3: on the third level there is the peristyle, a rectangular courtyard surrounded by columns in the Corinthian style, with a central fountain. To the left of the peristyle there is a group of small rooms, including the room of the so-called "Little Hunt", that of the fishermen and that of the dancers.
To the right there is a group of three rooms, one of which, known throughout the world, is the room of the "girls in bikinis". Along the eastern side of the peristyle is the corridor of the "Great Hunt".
The Girls in Bikinis mosaic (and several others here) are exceptional because they are among the few surviving examples of roman era art that suggest the Romans were really just like us, and helps create a closer bond between 'then' and 'now'.
Level 4: Finally, on the fourth level are the "Triclinium”, or the private rooms of the family, and the Basilica.
In the "Triclinium" there are mosaics depicting the twelve labors of Hercules and in the central apse there is the Gigantomachy - both of these mosaics have a high symbolic value. See separate feature for details of the symbolism and interpretation of the mosaics: Roman Villa del Casale mosaics
Piazza Armerina cathedral
The Renaissance-Baroque style cathedral of Piazza Armerina stands in Piazza Garibaldi, in the highest part of the town. The cathedral was founded on the ruins of the former Mother Church of which only the original bell tower remains. The façade is divided by two orders of pilasters with a large window above and a richly decorated portal below.
On the right of the facade you can see the imposing bell tower, with two rows of windows in Gothic and Renaissance style.
The interior of the Cathedral has a Latin cross form with a dome over twenty metres high. There are many works of art here - note in particular the 'Assumption of the Virgin' by Filippo Paladini (1544-1610); the 'Martyrdom of Saint Agatha' by Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1627) and the wooden cross, attributed to the school of Antonello da Messina (1427-1479), whose author is known as the 'Master of the Cross of Piazza Armerina'.
Around Piazza Garibaldi
In the same square as the cathedral you can also see the 18th century Palace of the Trigona. The main façade of the palace has a portal, a series of large windows on the first floor, and a balcony above. From Piazza Garibaldi you can also access the area known as the "Canali", an ancient village that was home to the Jews.
The Church of St. John's in Piazza Armerina dates from the 14th century and was frescoed in the 18th century by the Flemish painter G. Borremans (1672-1744).
In the lower part of the district called "Casalotto" you can visit the Chiesa del Carmine, a 17th century church which was built on the ruins of the 15th century Church of Saint Albert - the original bell tower, of Gothic-Catalan style, can still be seen. Also noteworthy in this church is the 16th century cloister and the 'Madonna' painted by A. Gagini above the portal.
Behind the former Benedictine Monastery is the area known as "Castellina”, one of four historical districts of the city and so named because it originally developed below a castle. At its heart is the Church of Saint Venerable whose foundation probably dates from the 12th century. The church has a single nave with a wooden roof supported by wooden trusses.
On the edge of this neighborhood is the ancient Tower, dating from 1337 when the walls were enlarged.
The next region to explore in Piazza Armerina is the “Monte” district, which is a classic example of Norman town planning with picturesque narrow streets. Highlights here include the richly frescoed 16th century Church of the Guardian Angels and the 12th century church of Santa Maria della Catena.
In Via Crocifisso is the church of Saint Martin of Tours, the first church founded by the Normans in the new city of "Platia", whose construction began in 1163.
Around Piazza Castello
The principal attraction in Piazza Castello is the Aragonese Castle that was built in the late 14th century and once the residence of King Martin I of Aragon. You can also see some palazzos such as Velardita, Roccella (18th century) and Starrabba (19th century) and the 17th century Church of Our Lady of the Snows, near the convent of the Augustinians.
Outside the city walls the Church of Sant'Andrea was founded in the early decades of the 12th century and is an important example of the medieval Sicilian style. Inside the church a significant amount of fragments of frescoes have been found that were carried out between the 12th and 15th centuries - among these, experts have identified a "Crucifixion of Saint Andrew", an "Annunciation," and a "Massacre of the Innocents".
The region around Piazza Armerina
The Roman villa at Piazza Armerina is in an area of great natural importance. Here you are in the southern “Erei” Mounts, between the Gela River, which waters the surrounding area and makes it fertile and suitable for the cultivation of hazelnuts, grapes, olives and wheat; the eucalyptus forests that surround Piazza Armerina; and the waters of the nearby Lake Pergusa.
In this region, rich in art, history and nature, visitors can also enjoy the best of the Sicilian and Piazza Armerina cuisine and enjoy a few local dishes in the “Roman” style.
When we say "Roman" style we refer to "Coena" [dinner], which began with an appetizer typically made with vegetables, a first course ["primae mensae"] with meat and fish dishes, and desserts [“secundae mensae”] of fresh and dried fruit to conclude the "Coena".
See also Piazza Armerina history and etymology.
Where is Piazza Armerina?
Places to Visit Nearby
Like many towns in the region Aidone suffered in the 1693 earthquake and many of its monuments were rebuilt in Baroque style. Morgantina is another town for lovers of archaological sites and here you can see substantial ruins of Greek origins.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.