Badeker's Sicily says of Piazza Armerina, ' as a city it is relatively young, established in 1080 by a Norman Count. For Sicily 1000 years is 'young' considering the Greeks were there in other parts of Sicily over 2000 years ago. This shows how far back the history of Sicily goes, it is amazing and for us, the US is only 200 or so years old. Until we go and explore Sicily, we really can't appreciate how ancient it's history is. Piazza Armerina is in the interior of Sicily, a 2 hour bus ride from Catania, though it could be accessed from other cities. Most people, if not all, goes to Piazza Armerina does so to visit Villa Romana del Casale, some 6 km away. No one hangs out in Piazza Armerina but it is a very pleasant place, 'Lonely Planet' did suggest spending a night and waking up to a very quiet and almost surreal place, ancient and beautiful.
The old quarter is very pretty, old buildings stacked on 3 hills with a very beautiful baroque church at the top of one of the hills, narrow and winding streets makes it a wonderful place to explore and spend a few hours. It is good for our souls, to contrast our fast pace and modern life with wandering in ancient cities which time forgot (almost). That's why I love Europe.
During the summer, there are buses that travels between Piazza Armerina and Villa Romana del Casale. We arrived around 1 pm and couldn't find any public transportation to Villa Romana del Casale. It was a picturesque ride from Catania. There was an elderly man, with a private car, hustling us, said he'll take us to the Roman villa and back for 30E. We, thought it was a little steep, decided to turn him down and proceeded to walk around town looking for an alternative.
We were around the old part of town where we found an official taxi driver. He said he'll take us there, wait for 1 hour while we explore the villa, then take us back to town, all for 25E. We jumped into his cab and off we went. We toured Villa Romana del Casale while our cab waited and after an hour, we hopped back in his cab and went back to town.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Piazza Armerina, had a snack of pannini and cappuccino, taking photographs, all the while, waiting for the bus to take us back to Catania.
This was our first full day back in Sicily, jet lag or not, we hit the ground running. It was drizzling on and off the whole day. On arriving in Catania, we went straight into rush hour traffic. We were in the front row seat of the bus, we had a front row seat of how to drive in Catania. It is a free for all, big and small alike and somehow they managed. Wow, we, with our American sensibilities can never drive like that.