This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the various ‘villa’ sites in the region of Rome in order to differentiate the various intentions that lay behind their construction over time. This includes an analysis of the coastal villas near Ostia, the estates in the Alban Hills, the socio-political function of Imperial residences and how each site can be used to understand the social climate of the hinterland beyond the capital up until the end of the 2nd Century AD, but there have also been some examples taken from a 3rd Century context as well, which have been used on a largely comparative basis. The main focus remains the development of villas around the capital into the first two centuries of the Roman principate. The author analyses the chief characteristics of the layout of central Italian villas of the élite, using specific case studies of villas that have been excavated and/or recorded outside the city of Rome. This analysis aims to uncover correlations between the literary definition of “suburbia”, the identification of villas as ‘suburban’ – as opposed to rural or maritime.