Archaeological site of Montetorto
Just a few kilometres from the city centre, Montetorto is worth visiting. Second of its kind in Italy, it houses the remains of a rustic Roman Villa (1st century BC -4th/5th century AD) which was a centre of wine and oil production.
A site of interest because of its uniqueness in Italy
The remains of an ancient Roman rural villa from the I century BC can be found just a few miles away from the town center, on the sweet hills of Montetorto, amongst olive trees and beautiful vineyards. On that area there was a broad agricultural complex dedicated to oil and wine production. Still, entering the site, you can look at the large rooms where once were wine- and oilpresses, the drainage channels, the collection tanks and the storehouse with dolia to preserve the final products. A few centuries later, the villa was abandoned and later on transformed into a working center for pottery and metals, but it has never lost its ancient charm. It is a “must-see” for history and nature lovers.
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- Roman rustic villas
- Montetorto - The winepress
- Montetorto - The Oil press
Roman rustic villas
Monte Torto production plant was a well-structured and apparently free-standing agricultural complex. Up until today the excavations have not yet been able to establish whether it was part of a larger settlement system linked to a noble rustic villa. The rustic villas (“ville rustiche”), which were originally small family-run farms producing only what they needed, became important buildings in rural areas. Over the years, as Rome increased its power and after every victory thousands of slaves were transferred to Italy to be exploited for various works, these rustic villas became bigger and more sumptuous. Their agricultural activity no longer had the only purpose of feeding the owners, but mainly aimed to produce a surplus of goods to be sold in distant markets.
These perfectly organized villas were scattered all over the countryside on central Italy, from Campania to Etruria, where the famous Villa di Settefinestre, near the present Ansedonia, represents the best and most well-known example of the villa perfecta described by Varrone in De Re Rustica. In this building both residential and agricultural aspects are harmoniously balanced, with the former being linked to the pleasures of otium, and the latter associated with profit. The owner lived quite permanently at the villa, while his vicar, a farmer named vilicus, who controlled slaves and kept them working, was entrusted with the management of the place. These noble villas were divided into two distinct parts: the pars dominica or urbana and the pars massaricia, which was in turn divided into the pars rustica and the pars fructuaria
The pars dominica was composed of a number of rooms arranged around a peristyle. In some cases it was also provided with thermal baths. It was the residential area of the dominus, his family and potential guests. The rooms were built after architectural criteria similar to the ones used for the rich city domus, which included wall decorations made up of frescoes and mosaic floor coverings. The pars rustica, with more sober decorations and furniture, hosted the farmer, the slaves and their supervisors. Finally, the pars fructuaria was meant for the agricultural production, and in addition to warehouses, granaries, stables, fences, it included artisanal mechanisms and raw material processing systems, such as torcularia for grapes and olives pressing, a fundamental activity for the economy of Monte Torto.
Montetorto - The winepress
About 10 km away from the Roman colony of Auximum was the rustic settlement of Montetorto, located half way up the homonymous hill, on the left side of the Musone river, which is the most fertile, healthiest and sunniest side, along a byway of the Nuceria-Ancona. The systematic excavation campaigns carried out between 1982 and 1996 by the Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Marche made it possible to bring back to light one of the most interesting wine production complexes of the Roman age in our region. Its life phases span between the end of the first century BC and the sixth century AD, although the oldest finds prove a frequentation of the area already in the Republican Age, from the third century BC onward. The complex is a large wine and oil production center dating back to the early Imperial Age, with spaces for wine- and oil presses and annexed rooms for preserving, storing and delivering the products.
The winepress area is certainly the best preserved one: it is still possible to see its opus spicatum floor interrupted by two circular crushing bases (arae) and by two rectangular stone supports (lapides pedicini), where the vertical uprights of the press had to be inserted.
The arae are encompassed by drainage channels, which are connected to one of the two collection tanks (structile gemellar), whose bottom is covered with a thick lead sheet. On the eastern side, the site also preserves a crushing basin (calcatorium) where an initial crushing of the grapes took place.
This procedure separated must from pomace, which was afterwards processed in the winepress together with grape solids. The cella vinaria, which has not been completely excavated, was a subterranean room suitable both for wine fermentation and for housing the “worm-screw” press mechanism (“a vite senza fine”)
Montetorto - The Oil press
The oil press system is larger and more complex, with a few overlaying floorings, the oldest of which is an opus spicatum floor, which was later restored with some cocciopesto pours, probably due to the landslide movements that have been subverting the area since ancient times.
The place, which was occupied by pressing areas and lapides pedicini, presents waterproofed tanks for oil collection), an oil room to store the harvested olives and a wide storehouse with big dolia to preserve the products.
After being in a state of abandonment at the beginning of the second century AD, in the middle and late Roman Imperial period (between the second half of the third century and the first decades of the fourth century AD), Montetorto sees the development of a modest rustic and residential settlement, which partially reuses the wall structures of the previous period. The archeological evidence is more significant between the fourth century AD and the first half of the sixth century AD. At that time, some residential, craft and production buildings were erected, often overlapping the early Imperial Roman complex.
The settlement started to decline after Greek-Gothic war, ending up being abandoned in the second half of the sixth century AD, after the arrival of the Lombard.