The house likely remained in use throughout the Roman era and into the early Middle Ages. The museum suggests that it may have burnt down by then. It was partially demolished, since much of the house’s walls were torn down. The remains were discoverd in 1885, after which the house was excavated and consolidated. Since 1991, restoration efforts have been carried out to preserve the mosaic floors and to make the remains visible to the public.
If you visit the building, you have to get in through a small glass door just to the side and down from the town hall. A small room leads to a corridor that opens up to the building’s atrium: the central room around which much of the rest of the house was organized. In the centre is an impluvium: a rectangular pond into which rain water was collected that fell from the opening in the roof (compluvium) directly overhead. This opening provided light and air to this central part of the house.
All rooms that have been excavated are grouped around the atrium. Some of these are cubicula (perhaps bed rooms) or alae (side rooms). An important room is located directly opposite to the entrance. This is the tablinum: essentially the office used by the master (or, indeed, mistress) of the house.
This room was used to receive guests and to conduct business. A patronus would receive his clients in this room, for example. While most of the rooms have black and white mosaic floors, this room also features the use of some red tesserae (perhaps the result of some redecorating in the late first or early second century AD).
Another important room is located directly adjecent to the tablinum. This is the triclinium or dining room. The name, triclinium, derives from the Greek triklinion, which means “three klinai” or “three dining couches”. In other words, this was a room where guests would recline on couches to eat and drink, either within the context of conducting business or just to have a party.
The triclinium also features the best preserved wall frescoes in the entire building, belonging to the so-called Third Pompeian Style (popular until about the mid-first century AD). The wall-paintings consist of a base divided into panels painted to resemble marble, topped with yellow and red squares that are bordered with decorative elements, such as garlands.
Every visitor to the house receives a small booklet with detailed information about the building. There are also a few informative signs. A few small display cases feature some of the smaller objects unearthed in the building, such as pieces of glass, metal, pottery, and bone. It’s well worth seeking out whenever you are in Umbria.
This article is part of the series, Exploring Umbria.