The Roman villa of Linguella
Portoferraio, Isola d'Elba (LI)
There are not many places where you can experience so many centuries of history in such a small space, but the Linguella Fortress is one of them. Hidden under the Medici family’s fortress, archaeological excavations have brought to light the remains of a splendid residential maritime villa from the Roman era!
The villa at Linguella occupies the end of a long strip of land bordering the ancient port of Portoferraio. Excavations carried out by the Tuscan Superintendence of Archaeology in 1979, 1990/91 and most recently in the year 2020, have uncovered a number of structures belonging to a bathhouse, partially ruined by the Medici constructions. Despite the difficulty of the excavation and classification of the remains, it has been possible to identify four distinct phases of the villa’s history, ranging from the middle of the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 3rd century AD.
The Linguella villa is a residential maritime villa containing all the typical characteristics of the aristocratic residences on the Tuscan peninsula during the Imperial era. This model was inspired by the more typical Roman villa estates, which were built along the Italian peninsula from the middle Republican age onwards. These villa estates had an agricultural and economic function, but also a residential function, with an area dedicated to otium, a Roman concept describing time spent in recreational and intellectual pursuits. The maritime villas, which in any case had facilities for fish farming and food preservation, were more luxurious than productive, qualifying them as true holiday homes.
A Roman maritime villa surrounded by the sea, in the historic centre of Portoferraio, where visitors can admire enchanting mosaics
From the first phase of the Linguella Villa’s history, dating from the middle of the 1st century B.C., excavations have uncovered some rooms whose walls were made of local limestone with marble slab coverings.
Among the rooms of the second phase, dating from between the second half of the first century BC and the first century AD, one can recognise a circular room with four equidistant circular apses that can be identified as a laconicum or sudatio, i.e. a heated room, probably by means of a metal stove placed in the centre, attributable to a thermal plant. The floor is in “cocciopesto” (terra cotta pieces mixed with lime) and decorated with hexagonal palombino tiles. Other rooms have valuable floors and traces of marble decorations on the walls.
During the third phase, dating from the first half of the second century AD, the site was restructured and enlarged, with walls covered in painted plaster and marble cornices.
The fourth phase, between the end of the second and the beginning of the third century A.D., saw constructions in brickwork and work on the floors, which were covered with polychrome geometric mosaics.
The structures that have come to light in recent decades can be seen in Linguella Park, where the entrance to the Municipal Archaeological Museum is also located.
The archaeological area of the Villa Romana della Linguella is accessible to the disabled.
How to get there
The archaeological area is accessed through a large gate located at the end of Calata Buccari.
There is a small car park in front of the entrance and other car parks available in the surrounding area, in the squares of Portoferraio's historic centre.
The Museum System in Portoferraio
History, Archaeology, Fortress