A '''villa''' was originally an upper-class country house, though since its origins in [[Roman Republic|Roman]] times the idea and of a '''villa''' has evolved considerably. After the fall of the Republic, a villa became a small, fortified farming compound, gradually re-evolving through the Middle Ages into luxurious, upper-class country homes. In modern parlance it can refer to a specific type of detached suburban dwelling.
A '''villa''' was originally a Roman country house built for the upper classes. According to [[Pliny the Elder]], there were several kinds of villas, the ''villa urbana'', which was a country seat that could easily be reached from Rome (or another city) for a night or two, and the ''villa rustica'', the farm-house estate, permanently occupied by the servants who had charge generally of the estate, which would centre on the villa itself, perhaps only seasonally occupied. There was the domus, a city house for the middle class, and insulae, lower class apartment buildings. (Read ''Ecce Romani'', Vol.2) There were a concentration of Imperial villas near the Bay of Naples, especially on the Isle of Capri, at Monte Circeo on the coast and at Antium (Anzio). Wealthy Romans escaped the summer heat in the hills round Rome, especially around Tibur Tivoli and Frascati (''cf'' Hadrian's Villa). Cicero is said to have possessed no fewer than seven villas, the oldest of which was near Arpinum, which he inherited. Pliny the Younger had three or four, of which the example near Laurentium is the best known from his descriptions.
Roman writers refer with satisfaction to the self-sufficiency of their villas, where they drank their own wine and pressed their own oil, a symptom of the increasing economic fragmentation of the Roman empire. When complete working villas were donated to the Christian church, they served as the basis for [[monasteries]] that survived the disruptions of the [[Gothic War (535–552)|Gothic War]] and the [[Lombards]]. An outstanding example of such a villa-turned-monastery was Monte Cassino.
Numerous Roman villas have been meticulously examined in England. Like their Italian counterparts, they were complete working agrarian societies of fields and vineyards, perhaps even tileworks or quarries, ranged round a high-status power center with its baths and gardens. The grand villa at [[Woodchester]] preserved its mosaic floors when the Anglo-Saxon parish church was built (not by chance) upon its site. Burials in the churchyard as late as the 18th century had to be punched through the intact mosaic floors. The even more palatial ''villa rustica'' at [[Fishbourne Roman Palace|Fishbourne]] near Winchester was built uncharacteristically as a large open rectangle with porticos enclosing gardens that was entered through a portico. Towards the end of the 3rd century, Roman towns in Britain ceased to expand: like patricians near the centre of the empire, Roman Britons withdrew from the cities to their villas, which entered on a palatial building phase, a "golden age" of villa life. ''Villae rusticae'' are essential in the Empire's economy.
Two kinds of villa plan in Roman Britain may be characteristic of Roman villas in general. The more usual plan extended wings of rooms all opening onto a linking portico, which might be extended at right angles, even to enclose a courtyard. The other kind featured an aisled central hall like a basilica, suggesting the villa owner's magisterial role. The villa buildings were often independent structures linked by their enclosed courtyards. Timber-framed construction, carefully fitted with mortices and tenons and dowelled together, set on stone footings, were the rule, replaced by stone buildings for the important ceremonial rooms. Traces of window glass have been found as well as ironwork window grilles.
As the Roman Empire collapsed in the fourth and fifth centuries, the villas were more and more isolated and came to be protected by walls. Though in England the villas were abandoned, looted, and burned by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the fifth century, other areas had large working villas donated by aristocrats and territorial magnates to individual monks that often became the nucleus of famous monasteries. In this way, the villa system of [[late Antiquity]] was preserved into the [[early Medieval]] period. Saint Benedict established his influential monastery of Monte Cassino in the ruins of a villa at [[Subiaco, Italy|Subiaco]] that had belonged to Nero; there are fuller details at the entry for [[Benedict of Nursia|Benedict]]. Around 590, Saint Eligius was born in a highly-placed Gallo-Roman family at the 'villa' of Chaptelat near Limoges, in Aquitaine (now France). The abbey at [[Stavelot]] was founded ca 650 on the domain of a former villa near Liège and the abbey of Vézelay had a similar founding. As late as 698, Willibrord established an abbey at a Roman villa of [[Echternach]], in Luxemburg near Trier, which was presented to him by Irmina, daughter of Dagobert II, king of the Franks.
In post-Roman times a villa referred to a self-sufficient, usually fortified Italian or Gallo-Roman farmstead. It was economically as self-sufficient as a ''village'' and its inhabitants, who might be legally tied to it as [[serfs]] were ''[[villein]]s''. The Merovingian Franks inherited the concept, but the later French term was ''basti'' or ''bastide.''
''Villa'' (or its cognates) is part of many Spanish placenames, like [[Vila Real]] and [[Villadiego]]: a ''villa'' is a town with a [[charter]] (''fuero'') of lesser importance than a ''ciudad'' ("city"). When it is associated with a personal name, ''villa'' was probably used in the original sense of a country estate rather than a chartered town. Later evolution has made the Hispanic distinction between ''villas'' and ''ciudades'' a purely honorific one. [[Madrid]] is the ''Villa y [[Court|Corte]]'', the villa considered to be separate from the formerly mobile royal court, but the much smaller [[Ciudad Real]] was declared ''ciudad'' by the Spanish crown.
In 14th and 15th century Italy, a 'villa' once more connoted a country house, sometimes the family seat of power like [[Villa Caprarola]], more often designed for seasonal pleasure, usually located within easy distance of a city. The first examples of Renaissance villa dates back to the age of Lorenzo de' Medici, and they are mostly located in the Italian region of [[Tuscany]] (the "[[Medici villas]]") such as the [[Villa di Poggio a Caiano]] by [[Giuliano da Sangallo]] (begun in []) or the [[Villa Medici in Fiesole]] (since []), probably the first villa created under the instructions of [[Leon Battista Alberti]], who theorized in his ''[[De re aedificatoria]]'' the features of the new idea of villa. The [[garden]]s are from that period considered as a fundamental link between the residential building and the country outside. From Tuscany the idea of ''villa'' was spread again through Italy and Europe.
Rome had more than its share of villas with easy reach of the small sixteenth-century city: the progenitor, the first ''villa suburbana'' built since Antiquity, was the [[Belvedere (structure)|Belvedere]] or ''palazzetto'', designed by [[Antonio Pollaiuolo]] and built on the slope above the [[Vatican Palace]]. The [[Villa Madama]], the design of which, attributed to Raphael and carried out by [[Giulio Romano]] in 1520, was one of the most influential private houses ever built; elements derived from Villa Madama appeared in villas through the 19th century. [[Villa Albani]] was built near the Porta Salaria. Other are the [[Villa Borghese gardens|Villa Borghese]]; the [[Villa Doria Pamphili]] (1650); the [[Villa Giulia]] of [[Pope Julius III]] (1550), designed by [[Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola|Vignola]].
However, many among the most beautiful Roman villas, like [[Villa Ludovisi]] and [[Villa Montalto]], were destroyed during the late nineteenth century in the wake of the [[real estate bubble]] that took place in Rome after the seat of government of a united Italy was established at Rome.
The cool hills of [[Frascati]] gained the [[Villa Aldobrandini]] (1592); the [[Villa Falconieri]] and the [[Villa Mondragone]].
The Villa d'Este near [[Tivoli, Italy|Tivoli]] is famous for the water play in its terraced [[History of gardens|gardens]]. The [[Villa Medici]] was on the edge of Rome, on the Pincian Hill, when it was built in 1540.
List of famous villas
:''Main article [[Palladian Villas]]''.
In the later 16th century the villas designed by [[Andrea Palladio]] around [[Vicenza]] and along the [[Brenta Canal]] in [[Venice|Venetian]] territories, remained influential for over four hundred years. Palladio often unified all the farm buildings into the architecture of his extended villas (as at [[Villa Emo]]).
In the early 18th century the English took up the term. Thanks to the revival of interest in Palladio and [[Inigo Jones]], soon neo-palladian villas dotted the valley of the [[River Thames]]. In many ways Thomas Jefferson's [[Monticello]] is a villa. The [[Marble Hill House]] in England was conceived originally as "villas" in the 18th-century sense.
In the nineteenth century, ''villa'' was extended to describe any [[suburban]] house that was [[free-standing]] in a [[landscape]]d [[plot of ground]], as opposed to a 'terrace' of joined houses. By the time 'semi-detached villas' were being erected at the turn of the twentieth century, the term collapsed under its extension and overuse. The suburban "villa" became a "[[bungalow]]" after [[World War I]] in post-colonial Britain, and by extension the term is used for suburban bungalows in both [[Australia]] and [[New Zealand]], especially those dating from the period of rapid suburban development between 1920 and 1950. The villa concept lives on in southern Europe and in Latin America, where villas are associated with upper-class social position and lifestyle.
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