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Capri Villa Jovis

The most magnificent of all Emperior Tiberius' island residences.

The most important of the island's twelve imperial villas, Villa Jovis was built in the First Century AD and discovered in the Eighteenth Century under the rule of Charles of Bourbon. Dominating the promontory that extends from Grotta Bianca Point to Caterola Point, the villa, which covers an area of 7000 square metres, towers over the valley looking out to Cesina. Originally built as a fortress, the centre of the villa housed a number of cisterns designed to collect rainwater, used both as drinking water and as a reservoir with which to supply the baths located to the south, along with an open portico.

These baths were heated by braziers and divided into the traditional frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium. The eastern side of the villa contained a number of reception rooms, while the northern side accommodated the imperial quarters. These were completely isolated from the rest of the building, but connected by ramps and stairways to the triclinium and loggia. The latter, based on a rectangular design 92 metres in length, was primarily designed for taking the air and admiring the breathtaking vista of the Gulf of Naples, stretching all the way from Ischia to Campanella Point.

The remains of the villa reveal two periods of stratification. The first Augustan period is reflected by the use of calcareous stone lined with opus reticulatum and covered with plaster and paint, and also traces of marble mosaic floors, featuring both simple mosaic patterns and opus sectile designs. The second period is instead reflected by the floors covered in marble slabs and walls decorated with glass mosaics.

A pillar and the shoulder of an arch located in the north-west corner of the villa testify to the former existence of a connection between the villa and lighthouse. Standing over 25 metres high, this lighthouse was used as a signal tower to communicate with the mainland (similar lighthouses were located on Cape Miseno and Campanella Point), and also as an astrological observatory. Suetonius recounts how the lighthouse collapsed following an earthquake just days after the death of Tiberius. The lighthouse was later rebuilt by Domitian and remained in operation until the Seventeenth Century.

The ruins of Villa Jovis as they appear today, were largely uncovered during the 1800s and 1900s. Although many of the findings unearthed were lost, others may still be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Church of St. Stefano in Capri and the Church of St. Salvatore. Some of the red and light blue vitreous paste found at the site was used to adorn the mitre and necklace of St. Costanzo. The villa also features several later architectural additions, namely the Church of St. Maria del Soccorso, dating back to the Eighteenth Century, and two guard batteries.

How to arrive:

From Piazza Umberto I, take Via Le Botteghe, Via Fuorlovado, Via Croce and Via Tiberio, or, once again starting in Piazza Umberto I, take Via Longano, Via Sopramonte and Via Tiberio (45 mins).

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