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Marina De Franceschini. All about the Author: studies, research, publications


Figure 1 - Marina De Franceschini in the Hall of the Philosophers
at Villa Adriana

Marina De Franceschini archaeologist, and independent scholar, studied and graduated in Humanities at the University of Genoa (Italy) with professor Gioia De Luca, and a thesis on Roman buildings dedicated to the Roman imperial cult.

She then obtained a Master of Arts in the United States at Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), studying with professors Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway and Gloria Ferrari Pinney; the thesis was on the mosaics of Villa Adriana at Tivoli (Rome).
Subsequently she attended the School of Specialization in Archeology at Pisa (Italy) with professor Andrea Carandini.

 The thesis for the Master of Arts was the starting point of her research on Roman villas.
After studying Villa Adriana for a long time on the books, visiting the site she became aware of the fundamental importance of fieldwork, with on site survey and analysis of the Villa.
She then expanded her American thesis (focused only on mosaics), applying for the first time in the imperial villa the principles of archaeometry, studying and cataloging each building with room-by-room catalogue entries, listing building techniques, decoration, water and thermal plants, and so on.

 This long work of research and documentation was awarded the Prize «l'Erma di Bretschneider», with the publication in 1991 of the book Villa Adriana Mosaici, pavimenti, edifici [Figure 1] from which the information provided in this site is partly taken.

It is still a fundamental text for the study of Villa Adriana: it collects previous antiquarian information, listing mosaics and opus sectile floors – previously unpublished. It provides a new key for understanding the Villa, its function and meaning, and is the starting point for new studies and research.

Figure 1 - The first book on Villa Adriana.
Villa Adriana, Mosaici, pavimenti, edifici.

In the following years she studied the Roman villas of the Roman regions of Veneto and Istria with professor Eugenio La Rocca at the University of Pisa (Italy); in 1998 she published the book Le Ville Romane della Venetia et Histria [Figure 2].
The villas are set into their historical, economic and territorial context: cities, roads, ports, rivers, centuriation and agricultural production.
The capillary and rational organization of the territory created by the Romans – which replicated throughout Italy the model of Rome – is being reconstructed.
The Romans built cities with a river port combined with a seaport, for the transportation of agricultural products by boat, which was faster, cheaper and more efficient compared to road transportation.


Figure 2 - The Roman villas of the X Regio Venetia and Histria

In 2005, in cooperation with the Superintendency of the City of Rome and professor Eugenio La Rocca, she published the book Ville dell'Agro romano [Figure 3], a catalog of one hundred villas located in the surroundings of Rome.

The book explains the typology and evolution of the Roman villas over the centuries, focusing on their productive and thermal plants. It also catalogs floors (mostly mosaics) and findings, especially sculptures. The research proved that the villas appeared in a very ancient age and were active until the V-VI centuries AD.
The large monumental pavilion villas, such as the villa dei Quintili or the villa dei Sette Bassi, were an exception. The majority of the villas was much smaller and featured a residential part with a decoration of a certain quality together with a ‘rustic’ part devoted to the agricultural production: oil, wine and food.

Figure 3 - The book on Roman villas surrounding Rome
Ville dell'Agro romano

In 2003 Marina De Franceschini cooperated with the University of Trento (Italy) and professor Mariette de Vos in a project for the survey and study of the Palestra at Villa Adriana, resuming a previous study dating back to 1994.

Starting from 2005 she created and directed the Accademia Project , [Link alla Sezione: Progetto Accademia…] to study the area and the building of the Accademia – one of the lesser known buildings of Villa Adriana –– which is still in private ownership, thanks to the courtesy of the owner, Mrs. Daniela Bulgarini.
   The Accademia Project started with a new survey, using information technology (Total station, Geo-Resistivimeter and Laser scanner) during several campaigns with architects Umberto Pavanello and Giorgia Andreatta and archaeologists Anna Maria Marras, Caterina Ognibeni and Birgit Costazza of the University of Trento (Italy). [Figure 4]


Figure 4 - The team of the Accademia Project at work with Laser Scanner. 
Umberto Pavanello, Caterina Ognibeni, Birgit Costazza and Anna Maria Marras
We were the first to use the Laser Scanner for the archaeological survey at Villa Adriana: at that time few scholars understood its potential. The first results of the Accademia project were published in several articles and disseminated in conferences. 

Other surveys of the subterranean corridors were made by Anna Maria Marras using geo-resistivity: she reconstructed their network which partially coincides with what was drawn by Piranesi.

Together with archaeo-astronomer Giuseppe Veneziano, Marina De Franceschini is the pioneer of the studies of archaeo-astronomy at Villa Adriana.
In 2011 they published together the volume Villa Adriana. Architettura Celeste. I segreti dei Solstizi [Figure 5], on the extraordinary discoveries of their studies.
At Villa Adriana, the buildings of Accademia and Roccabruna and the whole Accademia esplanade were in fact astronomically oriented. On Summer and Winter Solstice remarkable light phenomena are still taking place there, exactly as in Stonehenge or Abu Simbel.

Figure 5 - The book about our discoveries of Archaeoastronomy at Villa Adriana
Villa Adriana. Architettura Celeste. I segreti dei Solstizi.

Youtube video of Roccabruna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKMcHXfjhI4
Youtube video of Accademia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuJOg_hKHUk

In 2016 her new book on the Accademia was released, in English language: Villa Adriana. Accademia. Hadrian’s Secret Garden, History of the Excavations, Ancient Sources and Antiquarian Studies from the XV to the XVII Centuries [Figura 6].
It traces back the history of studies and excavations at the Accademia and Villa Adriana, from the time of their rediscovery in the fifteenth century down to the seventeenth century.

For the first time the book gives a complete collection of ancient plans and antiquarian drawings, in color and large format, such as for example the general plan by Francesco Contini of 1668.
The sculptures and mosaics found during those first three centuries of excavations are illustrated with new color pictures, presenting new discoveries.
The antique texts are quoted in their original version and also translated into English language.
The book was awarded a Grant from the Archaeological Institute of America to pay the royalties of the pictures. It will be followed by a second volume on the history of excavations and studies in the eighteenth century.


Figure 6 - The first book on the Accademia.
History, escavations and studies  from XV to XVII Centuries

In 2016 she founded Rirella Editrice [Figure 7], to publish and disseminate her studies of  Archsaeoastronomy and other studies of Archaeology, in small book with plenty of beautiful color pictures. The frst book of the sieries is about her discoveries of Archaeoastronomy in the Panheo of Rome: the Arc and the Square of Light.

Youtube Video of the Arc and  Square of Light: 

LOGO RIRELLA piccolo.png
Figure 7 - Rirella Editrice

 In February 2017 she spoke about her research at the Accademia of Villa Adriana during the International Workshop at the British Museum in London «New Research at Hadrian’s Villa» [Figure 8], organized by Thorsten Opper of the British Museum, where also the Columbia University of New York took part.

Figure 8 - International Workshop on Villa Adriana at the British Museum

Together with the archaeo-astronomer Giuseppe Veneziano, Marina De Franceschini has opened new paths in the study of archeo-astronomy [Figure 9] in ancient Roman buildings; previous literature mainly focuses on prehistoric, Egyptian, Maya or medieval buildings, and very seldom on Greek and Roman ones.

 They studied the astronomical orientation of other ancient buildings in Rome: the Mausoleum of the Equinoxes (on the Appian Way), the Horologium Augusti, the Domus Aurea.
They discovered it in the Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant’Angelo), and most of all in the Pantheon of Rome, with the extraordinary Arc and the Square of Light which appear twice a year.


Figure 9 - Marina De Franceschini and the Arc of Light in the Pantheon

They also discovered the astronomical orientation of the Villa Jovis of the Emperor Tiberius in Capri, and recently in the Grotto of the Villa of Tiberius in Sperlonga, and in the ancient Aventicum (today’s Avenches in Switzerland), which was the capital of Roman Helvetia.
 In all those buildings archeoastronomy provided a new key to understand their function and symbolic meaning.

Thanks to the cooperation with the Speleologists of the Association Sotterranei di Roma, she explored and studied the network of the subterranean corridors of Villa Adriana (which are not open to the public) focusing on the Great Trapezium and the subterranean corridors linking Roccabruna to the Accademia and the Inferi (Underworld) [Figure 10].

Figure 10 - Marina De Franceschini in the subterranean tunnels of the Great Trapezium

She also cooperated with Professor Jørgen Hansen in the study of aqueducts and water supply system that fed Villa Adriana’s waterworks.

She continues to study the mosaics of Villa Adriana, and discovered many unpublished or unknown ones, tracing back some mosaic table-tops previously known only from antiquarian sources.
The results have been published in several articles and presented during Italian and international Conferences.

Her recent work focused on architectural marbles of Villa Adriana re-used in the palaces of Tivoli. Other studies of Archaeoastronomy in Roman sites are in progress.

Villa Adriana - Progetto Accademia
©2023-24 Marina De Franceschini

e-Mail: rirella.editrice@gmail.com
VILLA ADRIANA di Marina De Franceschini

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