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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Albertian Villa Medici in Fiesole: terraced grounds on a sloping site.

A villa was originally an upper-class country house, though since its origins in Roman times the idea and function of a villa has evolved considerably. After the fall of the Republic, a villa became a small farming compound, which was increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity, sometimes donated for reconstructing as a monastery then gradually re-evolving through the Middle Ages into luxurious, upper-class country homes. In modern parlance it can refer to a specific type of detached suburban dwelling.



An old Italian aqueduct wall surrounded by flowers near a villa.

A villa was originally a Roman country house built for the upper classes. According to Pliny the Elder, there were several kinds of villas: the villa urbana, which was a country seat that could easily be reached from Rome (or another city) for a night or two, and the villa rustica, the farm-house estate, permanently occupied by the servants who had charge generally of the estate, which would centre on the villa itself, perhaps only seasonally occupied. There was the domus, a city house for the middle class, and insulae, lower class apartment buildings. Petronius Satyricon describes a wide range of Roman dwellings. There were a concentration of Imperial villas near the Gulf of Naples, especially on the Isle of Capri, at Monte Circeo on the coast and at Antium (Anzio). Wealthy Romans escaped the summer heat in the hills round Rome, especially around Tibur (Tivoli) and Frascati (cf Hadrian's Villa). Cicero is said to have possessed no fewer than seven villas, the oldest of which was near Arpinum, which he inherited. Pliny the Younger had three or four, of which the example near Laurentium is the best known from his descriptions.

Roman writers refer with satisfaction to the self-sufficiency of their villas, where they drank their own wine and pressed their own oil. This was an affectation of urban aristocrats playing at being old-fashioned virtuous Roman farmers, but the economic independence of later rural villas was a symptom of the increasing economic fragmentation of the Roman Empire.

In Roman Britannia

Numerous Roman villas have been meticulously examined in England.[1] Like their Italian counterparts, they were complete working agrarian societies of fields and vineyards, perhaps even tileworks or quarries, ranged round a high-status power center with its baths and gardens. The grand villa at Woodchester preserved its mosaic floors when the Anglo-Saxon parish church was built (not by chance) upon its site. Burials in the churchyard as late as the 18th century had to be punched through the intact mosaic floors. The even more palatial villa rustica at Fishbourne near Winchester was built uncharacteristically as a large open rectangle with porticos enclosing gardens that was entered through a portico. Towards the end of the 3rd century, Roman towns in Britain ceased to expand: like patricians near the centre of the empire, Roman Britons withdrew from the cities to their villas, which entered on a palatial building phase, a "golden age" of villa life. Villae rusticae are essential in the Empire's economy.

Model of Fishbourne Roman Palace, a governor's villa on the grandest scale

Two kinds of villa plan in Roman Britain may be characteristic of Roman villas in general. The more usual plan extended wings of rooms all opening onto a linking portico, which might be extended at right angles, even to enclose a courtyard. The other kind featured an aisled central hall like a basilica, suggesting the villa owner's magisterial role. The villa buildings were often independent structures linked by their enclosed courtyards. Timber-framed construction, carefully fitted with mortises and tenons and dowelled together, set on stone footings, were the rule, replaced by stone buildings for the important ceremonial rooms. Traces of window glass have been found as well as ironwork window grilles.

In Late Antiquity

When complete and self-sufficient working villas were donated to the Christian church, they served as the basis for monasteries that survived the disruptions of the Gothic War and the Lombards. An outstanding example of such a villa-turned-monastery was Monte Cassino. From the sixth to the eighth century, Gallo-Roman villas in the Merovingian royal fisc were repeatedly donated as sites for monasteries under royal patronage in Gaul, where Saint-Maur-des-Fossés and Fleury Abbey provide examples, and Germany, where a famous example is Echternach, and Kintzheim was Villa Regis, the "villa of the king".


As the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the fourth and fifth centuries, the villas were more and more isolated and came to be protected by walls. Though in England the villas were abandoned, looted, and burned by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the fifth century, other areas had large working villas donated by aristocrats and territorial magnates to individual monks that often became the nucleus of famous monasteries. In this way, the villa system of late Antiquity was preserved into the early Medieval period. Saint Benedict established his influential monastery of Monte Cassino in the ruins of a villa at Subiaco that had belonged to Nero. Around 590, Saint Eligius was born in a highly-placed Gallo-Roman family at the 'villa' of Chaptelat near Limoges, in Aquitaine (now France). The abbey at Stavelot was founded ca 650 on the domain of a former villa near Liège and the abbey of Vézelay had a similar founding. As late as 698, Willibrord established an abbey at a Roman villa of Echternach, in Luxembourg near Trier, which was presented to him by Irmina, daughter of Dagobert II, king of the Franks.


In post-Roman times a villa referred to a self-sufficient, usually fortified Italian or Gallo-Roman farmstead. It was economically as self-sufficient as a village and its inhabitants, who might be legally tied to it as serfs were villeins. The Merovingian Franks inherited the concept, followed by the Carolingian French but the later French term was basti or bastide.

Villa/Vila (or its cognates) is part of many Spanish and Portuguese placenames, like Vila Real and Villadiego: a villa/vila is a town with a charter (fuero or foral) of lesser importance than a ciudad/cidade ("city"). When it is associated with a personal name, villa was probably used in the original sense of a country estate rather than a chartered town. Later evolution has made the Hispanic distinction between villas and ciudades a purely honorific one. Madrid is the Villa y Corte, the villa considered to be separate from the formerly mobile royal court, but the much smaller Ciudad Real was declared ciudad by the Spanish crown.


In 14th and 15th century Italy, a 'villa' once more connoted a country house, like the first Medici villas, the Villa del Trebbio and that at Cafaggiolo, both strong fortified houses built in the 14th century in the Mugello region near Florence. These first examples of Renaissance villa predate the age of Lorenzo de' Medici, who added the Villa di Poggio a Caiano by Giuliano da Sangallo (begun in 1470) and the Villa Medici in Fiesole (since 1450), probably the first villa created under the instructions of Leon Battista Alberti, who theorized in his De re aedificatoria the features of the new idea of villa. The gardens are from that period considered as a fundamental link between the residential building and the country outside. From Tuscany the idea of villa was spread again through Italy and Europe.

Rome had more than its share of villas with easy reach of the small sixteenth-century city: the progenitor, the first villa suburbana built since Antiquity, was the Belvedere or palazzetto, designed by Antonio Pollaiuolo and built on the slope above the Vatican Palace. The Villa Madama, the design of which, attributed to Raphael and carried out by Giulio Romano in 1520, was one of the most influential private houses ever built; elements derived from Villa Madama appeared in villas through the 19th century. Villa Albani was built near the Porta Salaria. Other are the Villa Borghese; the Villa Doria Pamphili (1650); the Villa Giulia of Pope Julius III (1550), designed by Vignola.

However, many among the most beautiful Roman villas, like Villa Ludovisi and Villa Montalto, were destroyed during the late nineteenth century in the wake of the real estate bubble that took place in Rome after the seat of government of a united Italy was established at Rome.

The cool hills of Frascati gained the Villa Aldobrandini (1592); the Villa Falconieri and the Villa Mondragone.

The Villa d'Este near Tivoli is famous for the water play in its terraced gardens. The Villa Medici was on the edge of Rome, on the Pincian Hill, when it was built in 1540.

Besides these designed for seasonal pleasure, usually located within easy distance of a city, other Italian villas were remade from a rocca or castello, as the family seat of power, such as Villa Caprarola for the Farnese.

Palladio's usage

In the later 16th century the villas designed by Andrea Palladio around Vicenza and along the Brenta Canal in Venetian territories, remained influential for over four hundred years. Palladio often unified all the farm buildings into the architecture of his extended villas (as at Villa Emo).

Later usage

Heritage villas, late 19th century, Auckland, New Zealand.

In the early 18th century the English took up the term. Thanks to the revival of interest in Palladio and Inigo Jones, soon neo-palladian villas dotted the valley of the River Thames. In many ways Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is a villa. The Marble Hill House in England was conceived originally as "villas" in the 18th-century sense.

In the nineteenth century, villa was extended to describe any large suburban house that was free-standing in a landscaped plot of ground. By the time 'semi-detached villas' were being erected at the turn of the twentieth century, the term collapsed under its extension and overuse. The second half of the nineteenth century saw the creation of large "Villenkolonien" in the German speaking countries, wealthy residential areas that were completely made up of large mansion houses and often built to an artfully created masterplan. The Villenkolonie of Lichterfelde West in Berlin was conceived after an extended trip by the architect through the South of England.

With the changes of social values in post-colonial Britain after World War I the suburban "villa" became a "bungalow" and by extension the term is used for suburban bungalows in both Australia and New Zealand, especially those dating from the period of rapid suburban development between 1920 and 1950. The villa concept lives on in the German speaking countries, southern Europe, Latin America and particularly on the American west coast, where villas are associated with upper-class social position and lifestyle.

Modern architecture also produced some important examples of buildings called "villas":

In Sydney, Australia, "villas" is a term used to describe a type of townhouse complex which contains, possibly smaller attached or detached houses of up to 3-4 bedrooms that were built from the early 1980s.[citation needed]

Today many vacation rental properties are referred to as villas. This is especially true in Pakistan and in the French influenced islands of the Caribbean such as Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Italian villa < Latin villa (country house)



Wikipedia has an article on:




villa (plural villas)

  1. A house, often larger and more expensive than average, in the countryside or on the coast, often used as a retreat.
  2. (UK) A family house, often semi-detached, in a middle class street.
  3. In ancient Rome, a country house, with farm buildings around a courtyard.

See also



villa f.

  1. aberration
  2. mistake, error


f1 Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative villa villan villur villurnar
Accusative villu villuna villur villurnar
Dative villu villuni villum villunum
Genitive villu villunnar villa villanna



  • mistak, feilur, brek, lýti, brongl



  1. to stray, to get astray
  2. to err


villa, v-9
number singular plural
person first second third all
Indicative eg hann / hon
vit, tit,
teir / tær / tey
Present villi villir villir villa
Past vilti vilti vilti viltu
Imperative tit
Present vill ! villið !
Infinitive villa
Pres. part. villandi
Past part. a5 viltur
Supine vilt



Etymology 1

A loan from a Germanic language, compare ull, Proto-Germanic wullō (wool).



  1. wool
Derived terms
  • villainen
  • villava

Etymology 2

From a Germanic language



  1. (rare) villa



  • IPA: /ˈvilːɒ/
  • Hyphenation: vil‧la

Etymology 1

From a Slavonic language, compare Croatian vile.


villa (plural villák)

  1. fork
Derived terms

Etymology 2

From Italian villa < Latin vīlla (country house).


villa (plural villák)

  1. villa


Etymology 1

This definition is lacking an etymology or has an incomplete etymology. You can help Wiktionary by giving it a proper etymology.


villa f.

  1. mistake, error
Derived terms
  • villugjarn m., villugjörn f., villugjarnt n.

Etymology 2

From the Latin word villa meaning "villa", "estate" or "large country residence".


villa f.

  1. villa
  • (villa): einbýlishús n., setur n., sveitasetur n.



From Latin vīlla "country house"


villa f. (plural ville)

  1. mansion
  2. detached house, residence
  3. house in the country, villa



Probably contracted from a diminutive of vīcus (row of houses).



vīlla (genitive vīllae); f, first declension

  1. country house; villa
  2. estate
  3. vocative singular of vīlla


  1. ablative singular of vīlla


Number Singular Plural
nominative vīlla vīllae
genitive vīllae vīllārum
dative vīllae vīllīs
accusative vīllam vīllās
ablative vīllā vīllīs
vocative vīlla vīllae

Derived terms

  • vīllāris
  • vīllāticus
  • vīllula




villa f. (plural villas)

villa f.

villas f.

  1. small town
  2. villa




Inflection for villa Singular Plural
common Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Base form villa villan villor villorna
Possessive form villas villans villors villornas

villa c.

  1. house; a free-standing family house of any size but the very smallest



Conjugations of villa
Infinitive villa
Present tense villar
Past tense villade
Supine villat
Imperative villa
Present participle villande,
Past participle villad
  1. confuse (someone); causing a feeling of being lost

Derived terms

  • villa bort - to cause someone to loose his/her way; to confuse someone completely
  • villa bort sig - to loose track of one's location; to get lost


  • förvilla


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Martín Villa Carenzo article)

From Wikispecies

(1950-) Villa

Argentine botanist.

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