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14 Feb 2022

Anyone keen on installingItalian porcelain tiles will have good reasons to do so. Not only are they stylish, elegant and durable; they are also the inheritors of a long tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

However, while many of the styles that emerged in that time reflected the art, culture and particularly the religious expressions of the day, the use of tiling in Italy goes back far further and was a particularly notable element of Roman architecture.

Indeed, the fact that the use of tiles was revived in medieval Italy is no surprise, because the ample availability of clay and the Mediterranean climate both make tiling a practical way to cover a floor. In addition, Roman styles provided inspiration that medieval craftsmen could draw upon.

Even so, that climatic advantage did not stop the Romans taking their tiles and other favoured architectural styles all over the empire, even to colder and wetter climates like our own.

Indeed, the chilly British climate must have made it all the more pleasant to take a trip to a Roman bathhouse with its mosaic tiled floors and enjoy a hot soak, especially on the northern fringes of the empire around Hadrian’s Wall, where forts like Vindolanda and Segedunum had notable bath houses.

These significant bases of Roman activity have been well known about for some time, but over the past year a major new discovery has been unearthed under a farmer’s field in Rutland. The uncovering of the hitherto unknown Roman villa on the site included a mosaic measuring 36 ft by 23 ft, depicting scenes from Homer’s classical tale of The Iliad.

Highlighting the significance of the find, deputy director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services John Thomas said: “This is certainly the most exciting Roman mosaic discovery in the UK in the last century.”

So if you want to fit Italian bathroom tiles, you can enjoy a tradition that has been present in the UK from the bastions by Hadrian’s Wall to the quiet countryside of Rutland.