When I see the small sign that says “Roman villa” on our way to the grocery store, I know I’m not in Massachusetts any more. David, who grew up with Roman ruins, is pretty blase about this, but not me.

So yesterday we packed a picnic and followed the sign down ever-narrowing country lanes, until we spotted another, less legible sign near a farm. Sweetpea was delighted when we parked the car by the stable, in the wake of two horses, and followed the stony trail down the hill.

And then we were there, sharing the ruins of a 60-room Roman villa with a herd of sheep:

This villa was built in the 4th century A.D. and included multiple bathrooms and central heating. Those Romans knew how to build.

When excavators discovered the place in 1813, they found an intricate mosaic floor in one room:

Some of us, however, were more interested in sheep.

After we were done exploring, we sat in the warm sun and feasted on biscuits and cheese and grapes and plums. Sheep bleated and blinked, and a breeze rushed through the tall grass behind us.

It was a quiet, green hour, the kind where whole centuries slip away, and time stands still.

“I’m glad we came,” David said.

I’m glad, too.