Friday, May 18, 2012

Encountering Ancient Rome in LA: The Getty Villa

By Eyal Feldman
     Have you thought about what it would be like to travel back in time 2000 years to walk inside an authentic luxurious Roman villa, perched upon a beautiful hillside with a stunning ocean view? Well, look no further than the Getty Villa located in Pacific Palisades of Los Angeles, California. The villa is a one of a kind reproduction of a first century Roman villa, based upon the real Villa dei Papyri in Herculaneum, which was buried under one hundred feet of volcanic ash due to the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvious in 79 CE. It was perfectly preserved and then discovered 1600 years later in 1750 CE, during a time of Renaissance, when people would discover the works of the classical pagan world. 
     The Villa was originally built by twentieth century oil-magnate & billionaire, J. Paul Getty to house his expansive arts and antiquities collections back in 1976. When it first opened the ground floor housed the antiquities while the upper floor was home to various paintings and French decorative art which are now housed at the main Getty Museum in nearby Brentwood, another great place to visit while soaking up the world class culture that Los Angeles has to offer. Since the museum's remodeling and reopening in 2006, all of the it's contents are of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan artifacts spanning from 500 BCE to 400 CE with items such as marble and bronze statuary, jewelry, tombstones, a mummy and funerary masks, pottery, coins, and various glassware.

    These rare exhibits portray a sampling of what life was like for the upper classes of the 1st century, how they lived,  loved, and worshiped. The Villa's architecture, layout and collections are wonderful, but to me the real jewel is the Villa itself, with its many beautiful gardens, pools and fountains. It even has a paved road exactly as was the 50,000 odd miles of paved road that connected ancient Rome. The verdant landscaping on this sprawling 64 acre estate are accurate recreations of what actual ancient Roman gardens contained and they grow well in the mediterranean climate of Southern California. At the herb garden you can enjoy the sights and smells of fruit trees, grapevines, various herbs, and vegetables, which would have been grown in a typical ancient Roman household garden.

    You will love the perfect symmetry of the architecture and of the tromphe l'oeil paintings that adorn the walls. Since the Villa is situated up and away from any roads, the silence is broken only by sweet birdsong and ocean breezes through the trees. This is a very peaceful place with so much to explore, just make sure to take advantage of the guided Garden and Archetecture tours of the Villa and it's grounds. Each of the tours are 45 minutes long and are a great way to explore and learn about the fascinating culture of the ancients. A few helpful tips are reserving your entrance tickets online at the Getty Villa website the day before your visit and print out and bring the tickets to be scanned when entering the museum property. The entrance fee is totally free for everyone, although parking is $15 for the day (totally worth it) and there is a nice cafe to eat and sip coffee and a museum gift shop to buy a little memento.  So get over to Los Angeles because it is always fun and at the Getty Villa you can travel back in time to lose yourself just drinking in the beauty of the ancient world.
My bf looking cute in the inner peristyle 
Enthroned Zeus, King of the Greek gods
Authentic decorated walls, ceilings and columns of the outer peristyle
Hercules with Namean lion and club
A funerary mask for a second century woman


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Anonymous said...

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