Come with me down a long corridor on a California winter's day.
And emerge into the sunshine of a Roman villa.
Walk with me down this long stoa.
There are curvy paths and gardens to get lost in.
Roses bloom in California in December.
And persimmons hang from branches.
The pool leads away toward the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
And celebrities are sighted.
It was a day spent at the Getty Villa in Malibu over Christmas.
The art, the Greek and Roman antiquities, the museum collections were all fascinating, but it is the perfect replica of a Roman villa's gardens and grounds that were most enjoyable.
John Paul Getty built it in the 1950s to house his immense art collections. He insisted on making an exact reproduction of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. He built it not to simply view what an ancient Roman villa looked like, but to wander in, to walk through, and to experience how wealthy ancient Romans actually lived. Getty never saw it, he died before it was opened.
A second museum, the Getty complex, was later built on a hilltop in L.A. to house even more of his vast collections. Both the complex in L.A. and the original villa in Malibu are well worth visiting.
I had just read Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum. It's a fascinating expose of the very dirty business of museum collecting, focused on the scandal that rocked the Getty several years ago, and sent its curator to jail.
I love it when I get to see a place I have read about and that has consumed my imagination.
It's snowing here today in Connecticut, but our Christmas visit to ancient Rome in California is still a lovely memory.