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The History Of The Villa, From Romans To Holiday Home

Mar 19, 2008
Holiday homes and apartments have increasingly become more popular over the years, with people wanting to stay in an accommodation that feels more homely. Spanish villas are amongst one of the more popular accommodations, as Spain is a popular destination and the rental prices are relatively cheaper than any other region.

Historically villas were used for very different reasons. Unlike the Spanish villas as we know it today, these were built for the Roman upper classes as a country home. There were in fact many different kinds of villas, that represented the wealth of each individual and each had their own purpose. In comparison to the villas today, they were used mainly for upper class or servants dwelling.

The numerous villas that were prominent during the Roman period were, the villa urbana, villa rustica, the domus and the insulae. The villa urbana was situated near the Roman city that could be reached within a day or two. This is where the upper class and wealthy Romans would reside in. The villa rustica was a farmhouse estate, which would house servants who were in charge of the estate, but only housing the servants seasonally.

The domus was a city house, that the middle classes would reside in, this was much smaller in comparison but with no specific functions. The insulae was a dwelling built for the lower classes and resembled apartments rather than a normal house. The self sufficiency of a villa is one that has been passed to many Italian or Spanish villas of today, which is why one of the significant features of a villa is having the freedom to use the facilities independently is highly regarded.

Many of the upper class Romans and writers regarded this self-sufficient way of living in a villa as a high point of living, because they were able to drink their own wine and press their own oil. The Roman aristocrats were known for living a life of luxury with many of the servants completing these simple tasks for them; however, their escape to these villas was an experience of living the life of an urban farmer.

When the Roman Empire began to collapse in the fourth and fifth century, villas became more isolated and had to have walls built around it to keep them protected. Following the Anglo Saxon invasion of the fifth century, many of the villas in England were looted, burned or abandoned. Others were donated by the wealthy magnates to monks, who converted many of the villas into monasteries - some of which still stand today.

The original uses and meaning of a villa was no longer just a large country house of an estate. The Spanish had adopted this term for the naming of specific places, which would best describe chartered towns rather than chartered estates. However, the renaissance period saw the revival of the true meaning of villas, which was a country house for the wealthy. This was used seasonally, in Italy specifically Tuscany, whereby people would use this as a holiday home. This idea of villa influenced many of the dwellings across the rest of Italy and Europe.

The eighteenth century once again took on the term of villa in England, however this very quickly became overused as it also described detached housing on a large plot of land. This term was used less when the concept of semi-detached housing came about, and urban villas were used to describe bungalows post world war I.

Nowadays the term villa is used to describe a large luxurious holiday home mainly in places such as Spain and Italy. Italian and Spanish villas are more common for people to enjoy as a short break, with the continued idea that these are in keeping with self-service facilities for guests.
About the Author
Anna Stenning is knowledgeable about the world of Italian and Spanish villas and their history, having visited many villas on holiday. For more on Spanish accommodations and properties visit http://www.cloverestates.co.uk/
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