Domus Romana – Roman Villa

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Rabat is a short walk to the south of Mdina. The area has been settled since Roman times. Early Christians used to bury their dead outside the Mdina walls so the area is riddled with catacombs.

Allow yourself plenty of time for Rabat as there is more to see than Mdina, although it doesn’t get the same level of crowds. Do look for the baker’s stall in Parish Square in the centre of Rabat. The owner gives out free samples encouraging you to taste (and then buy). The date and fruit buns and the fruit pastry slice come highly recommended.

The Roman Domus is built over the site of a large first century BC Roman town house on the edge of Rabat. There isn’t a lot of it left but it is the best preserved of the Roman remains in Malta. It had belonged to a wealthy family as not only are the mosaics some of the oldest in Europe they rank alongside those found in Pompeii and Sicily. Later on, the area was used as an Arab cemetery.

There is a small museum and an informative exhibition with information about Roman buildings, mosaics, wall paintings, way of life, kitchen and cooking, collection and conservation of water. There are exhibits of glassware, pottery, oil lamps, hair pins, amphorae, clay drainage channels and examples of wall plaster. There is also a display of Arab tombstones.

The highlight of the museum is the large, in situ mosaic in the peristyle court of two birds drinking from a bowl, surrounded by a geometric border. In the adjacent room of the villa is a mosaic with black, white and green lozenge shape marble tiles giving the impression of receding tiles. There are a few other pieces of mosaic flooring left in situ. Outside the back door of the museum are the excavated ruins of more housing, possibly lived in by the less wealthy.

This was a well worthwhile visit.

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