Quintus Axius' Villa
Imagine: a huge, superb villa at the heart of the Sabine countryside; inside, golden and turquoise walls in all of their magnificence, and mosaic floors of the highest quality. This is what the villa rustica (countryside villa) of Roman senator Quintus Axius looked like when Cicero was a guest here in 54 BC.
Great orator Cicero came here requested by Axius himself and had the job to defend the town of Rieti during a litigation against Interamna (today Terni), regarding the water flow in the area. Cicero loved the villa and the Sabine Hills, so much that he compared the area to the wonderful Vale of Tempe in Thessaly, Greece, which shows that Rieti’s valley has always been appreciated for the beauty of its landscape. Moreover, the orator wrote that he had a pleasant walk from the villa to the Septem Aquae, now in Rivodutri’s municipality. Latin scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro also mentions the villa in one of his works, comparing it with the one belonging to politician Appius Claudius Caecus.
But Axius’ villa, despite being the most exquisite one, was not alone in the area. Starting from the 3rd century BC, with Rome conquering the Sabine region, draining the swamp of Lake Velino and carrying out canalization works, the land where Colli sul Velino is today was soon dedicated to agricultural use; many villae rusticae were built, as small farms management centres where a landowner lived with his family and servants.
Quintus Axius, elected senator in 55 BC, was one of the landholders who chose this very region for some relax outside of the duties and chaos in Rome. The estate was divided into two areas, the owner’s and the servants’, who took care of the production and preservation of the harvest. According to legend, the villa even had snakes guarding hidden treasures. No one knows what these treasures supposedly consisted of, but without a doubt the story added to the atmosphere of mystery and exceptionality of the villa, in the past as well as today.
What is left of the villa, sometimes known as the Rhea Silvia Baths, can be found in the area called Grotte di San Nicola. You can still see a 300-feet long solid stone structure with a series of deep recesses, as well as the reservoir still in use today: in fact, the villa’s hydraulic system was connected to the St. Susanna Springs nearby.
Not far from the ruins of the villa there is now the Relais Villa d’Assio.