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A plaster cast model of a dog is displayed among objects excavated from the site of ancient Pompeii.

A plaster cast model of a dog is displayed among objects excavated from the site of ancient Pompeii. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

A plaster cast model of a dog is displayed among objects excavated from the site of ancient Pompeii.

A plaster cast model of a dog is displayed among objects excavated from the site of ancient Pompeii. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

A plaster cast model of one of ancient Pompeii's victims sits among objects excavated at the site of the destroyed city. The recently restored Villa dei Misteri, a luxurious former summer home outside the city's ancient gates, reopened to visitors in spring 2015.

A plaster cast model of one of ancient Pompeii's victims sits among objects excavated at the site of the destroyed city. The recently restored Villa dei Misteri, a luxurious former summer home outside the city's ancient gates, reopened to visitors in spring 2015. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

The dining room fresco at the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls. It depicts more than a dozen figures seemingly caught in celebration. The mystery behind the celebration inspired the home’s name — the Villa of Mysteries.

The dining room fresco at the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls. It depicts more than a dozen figures seemingly caught in celebration. The mystery behind the celebration inspired the home’s name — the Villa of Mysteries. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

The dining room fresco at the recently restored Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls and offers a vivid portrayal of ancient Romans in celebration and ritual. Here, a woman has her hair styled. The villa reopened for visitors in spring 2015.

The dining room fresco at the recently restored Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls and offers a vivid portrayal of ancient Romans in celebration and ritual. Here, a woman has her hair styled. The villa reopened for visitors in spring 2015. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

A visitor to the recently restored Villa dei Misteri in ancient Pompeii looks at a plaster cast model of one of the city's victims. Pompeii was buried under a layer of ash following the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The villa reopened to the public in spring 2015.

A visitor to the recently restored Villa dei Misteri in ancient Pompeii looks at a plaster cast model of one of the city's victims. Pompeii was buried under a layer of ash following the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The villa reopened to the public in spring 2015. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

The dining room fresco at the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls and offers a vivid portrayal of ancient Romans in celebration and ritual.The villa, which reopened in spring 2015, was recently restored.

The dining room fresco at the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii extends across three walls and offers a vivid portrayal of ancient Romans in celebration and ritual.The villa, which reopened in spring 2015, was recently restored. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

Like any other museum, the archaeological site at Pompeii just outside Naples occasionally closes its exhibits for restoration.

One of the latest projects to reopen is the magnificent Villa dei Misteri, a large home outside the ancient city gates that boasts some of the park’s most vivid frescoes. Under restoration for two years and closed for three months before reopening this spring, it’s a worthwhile detour from Pompeii’s more well-established paths.

The villa was a summer home built away from downtown Pompeii’s congestion and closer to the coastline at the time. Its luxuries included a winery, quarters for servants, a garden courtyard and walls that were painted lavishly in deep reds and yellows. Frescoes done in the preferred Greek style depicted beautiful bodies in serene poses.

The treasure here is the triclinium, or dining room, where a single fresco in extraordinary condition stretches across three walls. Against a dark red backdrop, more than a dozen figures appear to be caught in celebration: A man takes a mouthful of wine from a jug, another leans backward in his seat with both arms out and a woman carries a tray, her eyes looking outward toward the viewer.

The mystery behind the celebration inspired the home’s name when discovered — the Villa of Mysteries. Scholars today say it’s most likely a ritual related to the cult of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and merrymaking known as Bacchus to the Romans.

Whatever its meaning, the frescos represent a form of realism that would disappear for centuries with Rome’s decline, only to be rediscovered in the Renaissance.

The Villa dei Misteri ultimately suffered the same fate as the rest of Pompeii, buried in more than 30 feet of ash during the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A plaster cast of one victim’s body inside the villa is a reminder of the devastation.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com

Twitter: @sjbeardsley

DIRECTIONS: Villa dei Misteri is located at the Pompeii archaeological site. The villa is in the western corner of the park, outside the ancient city gates. To find it from the forum, go in the direction of the Temple of Jupiter, past the cafe until the next major crossing, the Via delle Terme. Turn to the left and take the next road to the right, following signs for the villa.

TIMES: Opening hours are the same as the park’s: April 1-Oct. 31, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (last entrance at 6 p.m.); Nov. 1 to March 31, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entrance at 3:30 p.m.).

COSTS: Tickets for the park, which includes Villa dei Misteri, cost 13 euros. Entrance to the park is free on the first Sunday of each month. There is a gift shop on site.

PARKING: Avoid the hustlers along the highway and park by the Porta Marina entrance, which has a gated lot with an automated ticket system. To find it, turn left off the highway when you see signs for Porta Marina and take another left on the road just behind the autostrada entrance. Follow signs. Parking here costs 2.50 euros an hour.

FOOD: There is a cafe on site.

INFORMATION: Online: tinyurl.com/lj84w5y

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