A visit to the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles — built in the 1970s by oil tycoon J.P Getty — showcases a design style created as an ode to Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum in southern Italy.
A fragrance of herbal freshness and floral sweetness drifts into the gallery through a doorway that opens to the garden beyond. The sound of softly plashing water comes from a fountain adorned with graceful bronze statuary glowing in the sunshine.
These things are lovely to look at, but also to hear and to smell. The whole scene expresses the Ancient Roman concept of luxury as an experience of multi-sensory pleasure.
I’m standing on the threshold between the atrium (main entrance) and “inner peristyle” or colonnaded garden at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. The Villa was the brainchild of American oil tycoon J. P. Getty, who had it built in the early 1970s to house the antiquities section of his vast art collection.
But this is much more than the repository of one man’s amassed possessions. A reimagining of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum in southern Italy, which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, the museum aims to put classical art into the context of classical living. Specifically, it imitates the luxurious country estates where wealthy Romans practiced a lifestyle of cultured leisure in a material environment that stimulated the mind while relaxing the body.
Although Getty had a well-publicised dark side, he nevertheless believed that enjoyment of great art should not be the exclusive preserve of those who could afford to buy it, but available to everyone.
In line with this philanthropic vision, entry to the Getty Villa is free: visitors just need to book a timed ticket on the museum’s website. This is one luxury experience that won’t cost you a cent unless you choose to stay for lunch at the (moderately-priced) museum café, which serves high-quality Mediterranean-themed fare in a lovely al fresco setting.
The museum showcases a panoply of gorgeous objects from the ancient world. Those with a special interest such as statues or vases may choose to linger in particular rooms.
For the rest of us, it’s enough to wander through the galleries in a daze of beauty, stopping now and then when a single object attracts attention. That might be the sculpted fragment of an exceptionally handsome face with a more than passing resemblance to the young Paul Newman.
Or it might be an exquisite bowl of cerulean glass, or a tiny, engraved gem that somehow holds an entire complex scene from the Trojan War. Such small treasures convey the significance of fine craftsmanship in the experience of personal luxury.
Precious objects to contemplate and admire, they reflected the status of their owners while also contributing to the classical ideal of thoughtful leisure.
The Getty Villa’s primary aim is to bring that ideal to life through an immersive experience of art, architecture, and landscape gardening. The building style epitomises the free flow between indoor and outdoor spaces that wealthier Romans valued in their homes. You’re constantly emerging into open-air walkways, courtyards, and gardens.
And it’s the gardens, with their luxuriant plantings and elaborate water features, that most visitors to the Getty Villa enjoy and remember best.
The Villa has four magnificent gardens, all based on Roman models and filled with aromatic plants prized by the ancients. Seats for lounging and fresco-lined colonnades for strolling overlook pools decorated with classical statues that express the very spirit of sensuous indolence the space is designed to foster.
Where to Stay
Presenting the intimate scale and vibe of a private beach house, Oceana Santa Monica offers a modern counterpart to the Roman seaside retreat. An essay in unostentatious luxury, the suites-only hotel sits modestly behind its ivy-clad exterior at the quiet, northerly end of Santa Monica.
Accommodations are spread across three floors wrapped around a central pool and lounge terrace that retain their original vintage 1950s beach-club flavour. Cosy front porches scented with fresh lavender have swing seats overlooking the pool area.
The Penthouse Oceanfront Suites provide exceptionally well-designed living spaces, private balconies with views over Palisades Park to the Pacific Ocean, in-room libraries, and Bottega Veneta toiletries. Farm-to-table dining with produce sourced from the famed Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, complimentary yoga and bicycles add to the overall sense of healthful, luxurious living. A bookable car service is available for the 15-minute drive to the Getty Villa.
Luxury Exclusive News / A Tour Of The Italian-Inspired Getty Villa In Los Angeles / By Roslyn Jolly / /www.luxurytravelmag.com.au / Sedat Karagöz / Istanbul,New York / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office
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