During a research trip to the libraries of UCLA and my alma mater Fuller Theological Seminary this past August 2015, I finally got my chance to visit the antiquities exhibit of Greek and Roman artefacts at the Getty Villa (not to be confused with the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which houses its medieval through modern works of art). The Villa is a stunningly beautiful campus on the hills of Malibu with a seaside view of the Pacific Ocean in California. Its artefacts are housed in a museum that is designed and (re)constructed after the architectural design of the Roman Village of Papyri (Villa dei Papiri) once owned by Lucius Calpurnius Piso, Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, and home for one of 1800+ carbonized papyri scrolls at Herculaneum. So you can see why, beyond going to Italy directly, I would want to see not only their exhibits but walk through a reconstructed Roman villa itself! Here is my virtual tour of the villa replete with photos.

Welcome to the Getty Villa!
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

   As you enter into the Villa off the Pacific Coast Hwy (#1), you drive uphill into the museum entrance and present your tickets (by the way, you have to plan ahead and reserve a free ticket online before you come to the museum), pay for parking, and then walk up to the museum on a stone road that has the texture and feel of roads from Pompei.
   As you walk up the steps, the first sight you see is a reconstructed Greek theater:

Reconstructed Greek theater at the Getty Villa
(compare it to an actual Greek theater at Epidaurus)
Epidaurus is way more impressive but this was a nice first impression
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

Then you head through the entrance of the villa itself:

Entrance into the Roman domus (house)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

You are then in the atrium area, with the impluvium (sunken part of the atrium which holds rain water) at the center, and each of the surrounding rooms along the walls is its own exhibit.

Atrium with the impluvium at the center and around the walls
are the doors to the rooms with exhibits (Greek and Roman artefacts)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

The designers even included the compluvium on the roof (how the rain water comes in) in the atrium design.

Compluvium (hole to allow rain water through the roof)
of the Roman domus at Getty
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

Once you leave the atrium area, you then enter into the peristylium (roofed area with surrounding colonates) of the Roman house (domus) where additional rooms have more exhibits, and in the center are the basin and fountain. 

First peristylium with long basin (pond) and accompanying
Roman statues (imitations) before you enter the larger outdoor graden
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

But the above is the smaller garden area. Outside is an even larger peristylium and outdoor garden which tries to be as authentic as possible with the kinds/types of plants that are grown in ancient times, including herbs, grapes, and pomegranates.

View of the Peristyllium+Garden from the 2nd floor view of the Getty Villa
 (modeled after the Village of Papyri in Herculaneum, Italy)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

When you walk along the walls, they painted imitations of the kind of frescos you would see if you actually visited Herculaneum. They also have some of the actual frescos but understandably not in the garden areas but in the (protected) exhibits at the Getty.

Fresco of a Peacock from Herculaneum (AD 70) on Exhibit at Getty
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

   In the weeks ahead, I will be posting more photos of the actual artefacts themselves that I took when I visited the museum’s exhibits. The Getty villa actually has quite an impressive display of artefacts from the classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The most amazing exhibit was the mummy masks from Roman Egypt. I posted this photo of one of them on a past tweet but here it is again (below). 

Portrait of a Roman Egyptian woman Isidora,
a wealthy matriarch wearing fine jewelry from El-Hibeh,
Egypt (AD 100-10), painted on the mummy wrappings
Photo by Max Lee © 2015

All I can say, if you get to the southern California area, treat yourself to Getty Villa. It was an amazing day. Having now walked through a reconstructed Roman villa (imitation) of incredible architectual beauty, I am even more eager to some day visit Herculaneum itself and see the actual Roman Villa of Papyri along with other archaeological sites.