Playing Tourist in Our Own Country

The Getty Villa is modeled after the country home of a Roman aristocrat.

The Getty Villa is modeled after the country home of a Roman aristocrat.

Our imminent trip abroad will take us to faraway lands and keep us on foreign soil for what may be years. Before we depart we are taking in sights that are well worth our time, including some trendy vegan restaurants. Our most recent outing was a visit to the Getty Villa in the stylish Pacific Palisades community nestled between Malibu and Santa Monica, California.

Mike in the East Garden of the Getty Villa

Mike in the East Garden of the Getty Villa

Billionaire oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty, was an enthusiastic patron of art and an avid collector particularly of Greek and Roman antiquities. In 1954, he opened the original J. Paul Getty Museum out of his home adjacent to the current villa. By 1968 Getty had decided to build a villa modeled after the Roman country villa, the Villa dei Papiri, believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. The Villa dei Papiri, located in ancient Herculaneum, like Pompeii, was buried under 100 feet of volcanic rock and ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. After partial archeological excavation of the villa, some papyrus scrolls were found depicting the layout of the original villa, thus the name Villa dei Papiri.

The Outer Peristyle provides gardens and shaded walkways for relaxing conversation and contemplation.

The Outer Peristyle provides gardens and shaded walkways for relaxing conversation and contemplation.

The Getty Villa underwent a decade-long renovation and reopened to the public in 2006. The first thing we notice as we approach the villa from the parking garage is that no expense was spared in providing a realistic depiction of Roman luxury. There are reflecting ponds, fountains, arbors, gardens, and statues throughout the villa in addition to a café, bookstore and amphitheater. Visitors are also given access to several balconies offering dramatic views of the grounds and out to the open ocean.

Detailed mosaics typically decorated the floors of Roman villas.

Detailed mosaics typically decorated the floors of Roman villas.

Getty’s art collection is recognized as one of the finest private collections in the world. There is a separate Getty Museum in Los Angeles for displaying artworks. The Villa is dedicated specifically to Greek and Roman antiquities. Museums throughout the world trade exhibits with the Getty Villa and other museums of note.

The special exhibit from the Museum of Catania on display during our visit was Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. It would take a student of art history to adequately describe the sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and fine metalwork on display. Our photographs provide a sample of what we were able to view. Suffice it to say our trip to Sicily last year gave us a special appreciation for the intermingled histories of Greece and Rome.

The Trojan War is portrayed around this sarcophagus. The faces on top are left unfinished until the deceased are known.

The Trojan War is portrayed around this sarcophagus. The faces on top are left unfinished until the deceased are known.

I heartily recommend a half day tour of the Getty Villa. The only charge for admission is $15 for parking. An advance, timed ticket is required at the Villa. Check their website for details. No reservation is required to visit The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and if you find time to visit both sites on the same day the parking fee is valid for both sites.

J. Paul Getty was living in London during construction of the Villa which opened in 1974. Getty died in 1976 without ever having seen it.