The “Nonii Arrii“ Roman Villa

Piazzale S. Maria del Benaco,
25088 Toscolano Maderno (Bs)

Located a few meters before the entrance to the paper mill in Toscolano, the Roman villa of Nonii Arrii is one of the most important residential buildings present in the Roman time on the shores of Lake Garda.
The complex extended itself at a short distance from the shore of the lake, to which overlooked with its main façade. The general layout, dimensions, architectural and decorative features  insert it in the group of villas on the shores of the lake, whose best-known examples are the villas of Sirmione, ("Grotte di Catullo") and Desenzano del Garda.
The earliest archaeological findings in the area date back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the late nineteenth century were carried out extensive excavations, then reinterred. The richest part of findings stretched "below the church (the current parish), near the shore of the lake, where they are the pirest’s home, the former farmhouse, orchard, gardens and fields of Prebenda." From here "emerged continuously columns and marble statues, tombstones literate, vast mosaics, lead pipes, tiles, pottery, medals, coins, capitals and cornices finished, plaster painted with bright colors and bright, a good variety amount of marbles .. . "
The villa belonged to Nonii, probably one of the most important and influential families from Brescia, who had business interests and vast estates in the area of the lake and near the hill and mountain.  The finding of an inscription in the area of the villa,  with a dedication by Marcus Noniu Macrinus to the Dii Conservatore fot the health of his wife Arria, has led to the belief that it belonged to Marcus Nonius Macrinus. His political and military career was served under the Emperor Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.  consul in 154, he was governor of Upper Pannonia, pro-consul of Asia in 170-171, and governor of Spain, but always maintened a bond of privilege with his native city. The finding of the funerary monument of Marcus Nonus Macrinus along the Via Flaminia in Rome in 2008 has provided more information about him. It seems that Arria was related to Arria Fadilla, mother of Antoninus Pius and she was probably a descendent of Flavia Sabina, grand-daughter of the Emperor Vespasian. Arria certainly must have belonged to an illustrious family as her name was conferred on der descendents who, in fact, from that moment onwards, were called the Nonii Arrii.  It is therefore, amongst the villas around the lake, the only case in which it was possible to identify without doubt, the owner, at least during the second century AD, although the building also can be subsequently remained the property of the rich and powerful family from Brescia.
The villa was used for an extended period, from the 1st century A.D. until the first half of the 5th century, the date to which its destruction can be attributed. Over the centuries, it underwent modifications and transformations but the original orientation of the building remained unchanged. The layout of the villa presented two side wings advancing forward, facing the lake, with the central nucleus featuring a long portico, set back from the north and south sides.
The building of Toscolano, which finds comparisons with some of the most important villas of otium present along the sea-coast, recalls the model of elongated villa with spectacular prospectus that goes back to the house of Augustus on the Palatine and that will prevail especially in the villas of the western provinces . But examples of villas with rooms overlooking a front porch open on the sea there are in other areas in Italy, the villa of Minori on the Tyrrhenian coast to that of Barbariga (residential summer) or Monte Collisi on the island of Brioni Maggiore, to mention only the best known  and grandiose examples.

from May till end September free entrance every Saturday and Sunday 10-12 am 3-6 pm