Villas of Ancient Stabiae
Trip Start May 22, 2010
18Trip End Jun 08, 2010
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Ancient Stabiae, villas and farmsteads, lies outside the modern town on the Varano plain. Stabiae was destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption (AD 79) and was only partly excavated in the 18th century. After World War II more ancient houses were found along the coast and in the interior. Many of these villas were richly decorated and placed in splendid scenic positions. The oldest is the Villa di Arianna on the Varano hill, with a 1t-century BC nucleus and 13 rooms overlooking the bay. Villa San Marco on the same site has the remnants of a Roman swimming pool but fewer frescoed decorations. No one knows who occupied these villas (private residence) at the time of the eruption but they are both quite large and very "high end"
Villa di Arianna is the larger of the two.It is a Roman archaeological site (active, working site). The villa is 2000 years old and because it's an active, working site, we can take photos but cannot use a flash and cannot take pictures of the archaeologists unless they give us permission.
This region had experienced the Republican period (500 years) and then moved into the Empire period (for another 500 years). The last 100 years of the Republic and the first 100 years of the Empire are what you can see in Castellammare, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. The history of the Roman Republic is that they conquered everyone over 3 centuries... Italian peninsula, Greek peninsula, Mediterranean, etc. As Romans conquered the Mediterranean world they are drawing wealth back to themselves. Men who lead conquests get to decide who gets the "stuff". This destabilizes the region socially and economically. The Roman Republic ends because they got too wealthy. So much funneling of wealth and power that warlords emerged... enter Julius Caesar, the most powerful warlord.
A new social class emerges in Rome during this period. Senators are the leaders of Rome and were great landowners
Now going back to Ancient Stabiae... This is the site of the Roman elite. These elites would have a town home in Rome and a great estate in the Campania region. The coastline at the time was one long facade of villas with little pockets of EXTREME wealth. Villa di Arianna is 190,000 sq ft (the size of a Super WalMart) and it's a private home. We don't know who owned this home but it was a seasonal home. These extreme wealthy residents followed the Epicurean philosophy. The villas became places of gaining pleasure and losing control... in total excess. The residents of these villas and their guests were treated with every conceivable luxury. Villa di Arianna, along with being a high end Roman site, also has a very political aspect. Ceiling to floor frescoes, colonnaded courtyard, cool breezes off the coast, great views, etc. Basically total luxury. Each villa on the coastline at the time was trying to out do the others. Villa San Marco is slightly smaller at 160,000 sq ft and has the largest known para-style garden in the Bay of Naples (it's about the size of a soccer field).
In AD 79 the volcano erupts burying and destroying the town
After the tour of the Stabiae villas, we went to Gragnano... a town that is famous for its pasta. The town has located just behind Castellammare and has 12 pasta factories. Gragnano has been making pasta for 400 years and is famous because of the cooling airs from the mountain which help the pasta to dry slowly so it's always aldente and never gummy
The decision of locating the factory there, was due to two main reasons: first, Gragnano has always been the historical centre in Italy for the production of pasta and second the logistic of the place was perfect for exporting the product overseas. Gragnano has always been so famous in Italy and abroad for pasta because it is the only place in Italy were this basic ingredient of the Mediterranean diet has an industrial history that dates back 500 years, this was due to natural perfect condition for the production, as the product was dried outside until 1950 and is climate is very stable and mild and the temperature varies very little during all the year. Also the town was founded during the Roman Empire by a wheat trading family called Gens Grania (Grania in latin means Wheat) that established their business in Gragnano due to the presence of mountains around and so of water mills, and the nearby city of Pompei, we could then say that it is over 2000 years that the town deals with wheat, pasta and trade abroad
The Di Martino company was the first to cross the Panama Channel in 1915 with pasta and a silver medal was appointed to remember this event. After that, the history of the Pastificio is marked by progress and growth. The early 80s see the first production increase, achieved thanks to a re-organization. In 2005 the second investment relates to a new plant in Pastorano. So that the company own now, 3 sites. The Gragnano plant is equipped with 4 production lines producing long shape pasta and 2 producing short shape pasta. The production capacity is 145 tons per 24hrs. The number of the employee is 37. The site can manufacture every kind of dried pasta (both short and long) even coloured (tricolour), flavoured, whole wheat and organic.They produce 350 different pasta shapes out of the current 500 which are made in Italy.