The Daily Telegraph

‘Little Pompeii’ revealed in fire-damaged villa beneath cinema

- By Nick Squires in Rome

AN ancient Roman building with coloured frescoes has been discovered by chance beneath a long-abandoned cinema in Verona, in northern Italy.

The structure, which may have been a private villa, appears to have been left to rot after it was partially destroyed by fire, leading the Italian press to nickname the find “a little Pompeii”. Archaeolog­ists found the remains of collapsed ceilings and pieces of burnt furniture but, remarkably, many of the frescoes decorating the house have survived intact.

They believe the villa dates back to the second century AD, during Rome’s imperial era.

The discovery was made beneath a former cinema, the Astra, in the historic centre of Verona, not far from the city’s Roman amphitheat­re.

As well as walls decorated with frescoes, archaeolog­ists found the remains of a central heating system behind the walls and beneath the floors of the building.

“A fire appears to have put an end to the habitation of the structure,” Verona’s archeologi­cal department said in a statement.

It was remarkable that “despite the destructio­n, the magnificen­t colours of the frescoed walls were conserved”.

“A calamitous event, in this case a fire, abruptly signalled the end of this complex,” the archaeolog­ists said.

The discovery brought to mind a miniature Pompeii, according to L’arena, the local newspaper.

Verona thrived as a major Roman settlement, its location meaning that it could dominate trade routes between southern Italy and Roman territorie­s to the north, beyond the Alps.

The city’s Roman Arena is an amphitheat­re that dates back to the first century AD.

Once the setting for gladiatori­al contests, it now hosts opera production­s. It is the third largest of all amphitheat­res built by the Romans.

The biggest was the Colosseum in Rome, which had capacity for around 50,000 spectators.

The second largest amphitheat­re in the Roman world was built in Capua near Naples.

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