Mosaics of cortesele di Villa

Franchini Agricola is committed to promoting a heritage of immense value.

Our fascinating story continues.
From Antica Corte Forlago to the Roman mosaics of Cortesele di Villa

“The mosaic under consideration is Roman, from the old times, valuable for the elegance of the friezes, for the abundance and variety of the colours, and in general for the accuracy and solidity of the work”.

Stefano De Stefani, Negrar di Valpolicella (adapted), “Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità“, p. 432, 1887.

After a series of excavations on a small section of the ‘Cortesele di Villa’ field (located in Villa, small hamlet of Negrar di Valpolicella), very old sections of a mosaic pavement were found in 1877. These sections were then sold to the Archaeological Museum of the Roman Theatre (Verona) for 650 lire (approx. 1200 €), where they can still be seen today.

In 1890, however, the villa was not discovered. Indeed, until 1922 little or nothing was known about it and only its existence was assumed, precisely from the removed mosaics […]. Only in that year they discoved that it was not just one floor, but an entire villa. 

Stefani Bertoldi, “Villa Bertoldi e un mosaico romano” (adapted and translated), Letter to ‘L’Arena’, 12 September 1962.

After some ploughing work in the area of the Cortesele di Villa field, other sections of the mosaic floor of the Roman villa came to light. A first reconstruction of the main room was carried out by the archeologist Tina Campanile (the first woman admitted to the Archaeological School of Athens) in an area of approximately 270 square metres. The archaeologist was crucial since she was the first to attempt a reconstruction of the mosaics in the main room of this ancient and lost villa.

In regards to the part explored in 1922, another room can now be identified […], the ‘pars rustica’, used for the processing and preservation of agricultural products, in particular the famous ‘Rhaetian wines’ of the Roman world.

Giovanna Tosi, “La villa romana di Negrar di Valpolicella” (adapted), Annuario Storico della Valpolicella, 1985.

The last excavation of the 20th century, again for the construction of a new house. Once again, the presence of a large villa is revealed with the discovery of another room, now interpretable as the vestibulum (the entrance to the villa) and a new mosaic floor. The excavation work did not continue due to a lack of resources and the field was filled in once again. This very field and its vines, some planted many years earlier, will later be purchased by Giuliano Franchini.

After some surveys by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Verona (the archeological institution of Verona), curated by Dr. Gianni De Zuccato, the news and photos of mosaics found under a vineyard in Valpolicella reach the most renowned newspapers of the world.

A new public and private desire to discover the entire villa for the creation of a future archaeological site is now more than ever alive.

The last exciting harvest is carried out on the historic vines of the field. In an attempt to save these vines from the excavation, they are moved and transplanted to another field owned by Giuliano Franchini, as they are considered part of this valuable and historical heritage.

The excavations interrupted in 1975 begin again after more than 45 years, towards the end of 2021, this time with the full intention of reaching the last missing part of the villa. This excavation highlights what had been identified as the pars fructuaria, i.e. the area used for processing agricultural products. It is no coincidence that during the excavations a particular stone was identified, which seems to be part of a wine press used in ancient times for the production of Rhaetian wine.

Excavation work continues on the remaining part of the field, (i.e. the very part belonging to our winery) which brings new and interesting discoveries.

Underneath the new field section, which had never been excavated before except for a small part in 1975, the enthusiasm for discovery is revived.

New and splendid mosaics are found depicting birds, amphora-like vessels and even people. Two mysterious figures, that of a woman and that of a man with a ruined face, come to light again. The identity of these two figures depicted is still unknown, but it is possible that they were two inhabitants of the villa in Roman times, depicted in one of the many mosaics on the floor of the peristyle.

The pars fructuaria is also completely uncovered. Here one can see long slabs of white marble and also areas used for wine-making: the calcatorium and the lacus. In the calcatorium, the grapes were pressed with the feet, while in the lacus, the grape must was collected.

These latest discoveries reconfirm Valpolicella Classica as one of the most important wine-making areas since Roman times.

DE STEFANI, Negrar di Valpolicella, in Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità, 1887, pp.431-432.

CAMPANILE, Negrar di Valpolicella. Avanzi di una villa romana con magnifici mosaici, in Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità, 1922, pp.347-361.

TOSI, La villa romana di Negrar di Valpolicella, in La Valpolicella in età romana, in Annuario Storico della Valpolicella, 1983-1984, pp.91-102.

Carta archeologica del Veneto II, n. 190, 1990, p. 75.

PIACENTIN, La villa romana di Negrar: storia delle ricerche, in Annuario Storico della Valpolicella, XXVII, (2010 – 2011), pp. 53-76, Vago di Lavagno (VR) 2011.

DE ZUCCATO, Villa romana delle Cortesele di Villa, Progetto per un percorso condiviso di riscoperta, salvaguardia e valorizzazione,2020, pp. 1-42

Foto aeree: Video by Archeoreporter