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Definition: villa from Philip's Encyclopedia

Large country house of the Roman Empire and post-Roman period. In ancient Rome, they were the private residences of important citizens. They had spacious reception rooms, often with mosaic floors and sometimes even underfloor heating.


Summary Article: VILLA from The Columbia Encyclopedia

Although used to designate any country residence, especially in Italy and S France, the term villa particularly refers to a type of pleasure residence with extensive grounds favored by the Romans and richly developed in Italy in the Renaissance. The Roman villa of the empire is described in several contemporary literary accounts and particularly by Pliny. Favored locations were at Tivoli near Rome and along the shores of the Bay of Naples. The dwelling quarters, consisting of several low buildings, included recreation facilities and lodgings for the servants. The farmhouse type (villa rustica) had barns, orchards, and vineyards, and the type used as a pleasure retreat (villa urbana) had formal gardens adorned with fountains and sculptures. The luxurious villa of Emperor Hadrian near Tivoli, of which extensive ruins remain, is said to have covered more than 7 sq mi (18 sq km); many works of art were exhumed there during the Renaissance. In the late 15th cent. the classic villas, rediscovered along with the rest of the Roman past, furnished the Renaissance nobles with patterns for pleasure estates of their own, e.g., the Villa Madama, Rome, designed by Raphael and the many villas built by Palladio in N Italy. Many of these villas had hillside locations, which called forth the fullest ingenuity of the garden designers. Their pictorial compositions blended with the variable elements of nature the formal qualities of the house, the incidental garden architecture, and the fountains. Baroque villas displayed the most fanciful variety of garden frivolities—grotesque sculptures, grottoes lined with rock and shell decorations, fantastic water displays, and ingenious transitions between different levels. Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore is a striking example. Among the finest villas are the Farnesina; the Villa d'Este at Tivoli; the Villa Farnese at Caprarola by Vignola; the Borghese Villa; and the Villa Doria Pamphili.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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Word Origins

[17 century] Latin vīlla denoted a ‘country house’. It was a condensation of an earlier *wīcslā , which in turn was derived from *wīcus ...

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