Coastal villas of Procoio

Seaside villas of Procoio

Modern via di Pianabella leads to the so-called “Procoio” agricultural estate. Here, along a strip of land which was parallel to the ancient shoreline, lie some monumental complexes recognized as elegant roman seaside villas dated to 1st to 3rd century AD. These villas were connected to Rome through via Ostiensis, via Laurentina and via Ardeatina, and were located along the via Severiana, the coastal road running north to south.

In particular, the Procoio area preserves the remains of a bath complex and an extensive seaside villa of the I-IV century AD: the remains include a large two-storey nymphaeum-cistern with water fountain, a heated spa building with a swimming pool (lat. natatio) and a massive buttressed wall.

The cistern, only partially visible today, was part of the baths’ and villa’s water supply system. Even if its purpose was purely functional, its exterior was decorated with recesses and exedras like the façade of a monumental fountain (lat. nymphaeum).

The layout of the imperial baths, expanded under Trajan and Hadrian and restored several times during the centuries contained both hot and cold rooms. The frigidarium consisted of an apsidal room that housed a large cold pool to which it descended through three steps.

Similar in shape though of a smaller size was the calidarium (room for hot baths), that was flanked by rooms preserving the typical traces of a heating system: the suspensurae (pillars to raise the floor and create a gap where hot air passed) and the tubuli (small terracotta tubes inserted in the walls that performed the same function).

The 160 meter long wall reinforced by 39 buttresses, bordered the villa towards the coast and was also a sort of a monumental façade, as evidenced by the remains of pictorial decoration found on its outer side facing the sea.