Picture it, a luxury villa in Italy built for a goddess by a Roman emperor with the perfect seaview of the Amalfi Coast. Imagine it built over 2,000 years ago and you are still able to visit it today.
I had seen signs for Villa Oplontis many, many times while riding the ailing Circumvesuviana train between Sorrento and Napoli. The day I stepped off at Torre Annunziata was the day I stepped into a dream, the dream of Poppoea Sabina, thought to be the second wife of Nero. Wow, if she was the second wife, just imagine what the starter wife received?
The archaeological site sits off the beaten path, about 5 miles west of Pompei, and was buried by the infamous eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in August 79 A.D. However, in my opinion, an amateur archaeology buff, this Villa is more well-preserved than its more famous ancient neighbor.
After a short descent, you walk into a world of ancient wonder, where zebra stripes still line the walls of each hallway, where dinosaurs can be seen painted on the nursery walls and where the sacrificial altar still stands in the massive kitchen.
Sabina had every Italian luxury in the sprawling, open-plan vacation villa. Yes, this was her holiday home. Her bedroom had the perfect view of the Bay of Naples and the deadly Mt. Vesuvius (although a concrete seawall now protects the villa), while her baby nursery utilized an acoustically ground-breaking, non-electrical intercom.
Each room’s walls were painted with murals of the physical objects in that room or adjacent courtyards, with the artisans leaving behind a painted photograph of the ancient splendor. The open plan brought light into each darkened corner. It is an astonishing place to visit.
TOURIST TIP: Torre Annunziata is one of the roughest neighborhoods in Naples. Leave the bling and tourist fanny packs at home. Step off the train; turn left; and follow the signs direct to Villa Oplontis. It is a site you will never forget and worth missing the de rigueur stop at Pompei.