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Grottos of Catullus

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The term “Grottos of Catullus” identifies a Roman villa built at the end of the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. The name “Grottos” dates back to 1400, when the ruins were visited by the first chroniclers and travellers, to whom they appeared in the form of cave-like grottos.The archaeological complex, studied from the beginning of the nineteenth century and excavated in stages, is today the most important testimony of the Roman period in the territory of Sirmione. Under the big villa, which according to historians belonged to Gaius Valerius Catullus, structures were found from the first century B.C. The residential complex was built at the turn of the first century A.D. but the first real studies on the villa were carried out only in 1801 by a general of Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, the Veronese Girolamo Orti Manara began the excavations, completing further and more extensive research. The material was released in 1856 along with a floor plan that is still essential today. The archaeological site covers an area of about two hectares while the villa has a rectangular plan, of 167 x 105 metres, and is punctuated by long porches and terraces opening onto the lake. Along the west side, the cryptoporticus can now be visited, a long walk once covered. On the south side, under a floor in opus spicatum, there is a large cistern of almost 43 metres long, which collected the water necessary for daily use. The large spa area of the villa consists of several rooms located in the south west, including the so-called swimming pool, which was probably built at the beginning of the second century. In 1999, in the park that houses the remains of the villa, a museum was inaugurated. It houses many artefacts from the excavations of the Roman villa of the "Grottos of Catullus", from other Roman villas situated on Lake Garda and other archaeological sites in the area. The museum is divided into several sections: in the entrance porch the genesis and morphology of Lake Garda are explained; Inside the museum there are three sections: prehistory and early history of Lake Garda, the Roman period, in which exhibits from the "Grottos of Catullus" are also displayed and the Middle Ages. Throughout the archaeological site there are currently about 1,500 olive trees, some centuries old, belonging to three different Garda varieties.

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Piazza Orti Manara 4 - 25015 Sirmione
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