Want to travel back in time? Visit the Getty Villa in Malibu and enter the world of first century Italy. The elegant museum is a model of a home in Herculaneum, Italy that was buried by the same volcano that wiped out Pompeii. The architecture and art are exactly what you would have seen had you entered this villa 2,000 years ago.
To get the most out of your visit, take the Architecture tour. Led by enthusiastic docents, the tour gives you an overview of the culture of ancient Italy and what it would have been like to live in this home.
The art inside the rooms is genuine; the sculptures outside are replicas, for obvious reasons. Our guide explained that the Romans painted the eyes of their bronze sculptures white and inlaid them with jewels. Semi-precious jewels once adorned the Getty Villa reproductions, but they “disappeared.” I found the white eyes rather spooky.
As you stroll through the villa, be sure to look up at the ceilings and intricate décor.
The floors of tiles and marble are artworks in themselves.
An exhibition of Roman mosaics kept me fascinated. Imagine the patience and planning that went into placing these tiny pieces of stone into place to make a large wall mosaic.
The formal gardens outside add not only beauty but a source of food. Sadly, the pool has no water in it due to the California drought. The boxed hedges and paths still provide a peaceful beauty.
The name of the house is Villa dei Papiri, which means “House of Papyrus.” The name comes from the discovery of piles of papyrus scrolls at the excavation site in Italy. So of course you will find papyrus in the garden.
J. Paul Getty collected ancient art, purchased 64 acres of land in Malibu in the 1940s, and built this museum in the 1970s. It was closed for renovation for a while and reopened in 2006. If you are in the southern California area, spending an afternoon at the Getty Villa will transport you back to old Italy, to a genteel and art-filled way of life. And the drive to get there, along the sparkling Pacific Ocean, is certainly enjoyable.
Want to visit?
Open Wednesday through Monday 10:00 to 5:00
Location: 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Admission is free; reserved parking is required and is $15; see website
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