The so-called Villa Poppaea is an ancient Roman seaside villa (villa maritima) situated between Naples and Sorrento, in southern Italy. It is also referred to as the Villa Oplontis, or more precisely as Villa A by modern archaeologists (Coarelli, et al., 360). The villa itself is a large structure situated in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (the modern Torre Annunziata), about ten meters below the modern ground level. Evidence suggests that it was owned by the Emperor Nero, and believed to have been used by his second and rather notorious wife, Poppaea Sabina, as her main residence when she was not in Rome (Coarelli, et al., 365).
According to John R. Clarke in The Houses of Roman Italy, 100 B.C.-A.D. 250: Ritual, Space, and Decoration, the Villa Poppaea is best understood as a model on which many of the more modest city houses of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum were based (Clarke, 23). This grandiose maritime villa is characterized by “rituals of reception and leisure” through both its physical space and its decoration (Clarke, 23).
Like many of the other houses in the area, the villa shows signs of remodeling, probably to repair damage from the earthquake in 62 CE (Coarelli, et al., 365). The oldest part of the house centers round the atrium and dates from the middle of 1st century BCE (Coarelli, et al., 365). During the remodeling, the house was extended to the east, with the addition of various reception and service rooms, gardens and a large swimming pool (Clarke, 22).
Detailed information about the various phases of construction on the Villa Poppaea can be found in Stefano de Caro’s chapter in Ancient Roman Villa Gardens published by the Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture.