To the north of the villa's main entrance, which leads through the remnants of a triumphal arch into an elegant atrium (forecourt), is the villa's baths complex. Accessible via the palaestra, which has a splendid mosaic depicting a chariot race at the Circus Maximus in Rome, is the octagonal frigidarium, where the radiating apses contained cold plunge pools, and a tepidarium, where you can now see the exposed brickwork and vents that allowed hot steam into the room.
Peristyle & Great Hunt
The main part of the villa is centred on the peristyle, a vast covered courtyard lined with amusing animal heads. This is where guests would have been received before being taken through to the basilica.
Of the rooms on the northern side of the peristyle, the most interesting is a dining room featuring a hunting mosaic called the Little Hunt – 'little' because the big hunt is over on the eastern flank of the peristyle in the Ambulacro della Grande Caccia. This 64m-long corridor is emblazoned with dramatic hunting scenes of tigers, leopards, elephants, antelopes, ostriches and a rhino – animals that the Romans eventually hunted to extinction in North Africa. The first figure is resplendent in a Byzantine cape and is flanked by two soldiers, most likely Maximianus himself and two members of his personal guard.
Sala delle Dieci Ragazze
Just off the southern end of the Ambulacro della Grande Caccia, in the Sala delle Dieci Ragazze, is the villa's most famous mosaic. It depicts nine (originally there were 10) bikini-clad girls working out with weights and dinky dumbbells, in preparation for the Olympic games.
On one side of the Ambulacro is a series of apartments, the floor illustrations of which reproduce scenes from Homer and other mythical episodes. Of particular interest is the triclinium, with a splendid depiction of the labours of Hercules, where the tortured monsters are ensnared by a smirking Odysseus.