LOVE Island contestants are set to compete like gladiators to win the sportiest series yet — with their villa boasting running tracks and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
They must be braced for combat in their quest for romance at the site, which is called Ludus Magnus after Rome’s ancient gladiator school.
Ludus also boasts river rapids and two 50-metre swimming lanes in a vast lake — which are used for Olympic training.
The water also has its own “love island” in the middle, with a sandy beach surrounded by trees.
The estate sprawls over 25 acres in a wine valley near Cape Town.
The mansion has 17 bedrooms and a treehouse, as well as a T-shaped swimming pool.
Ludus’s owner Regis Maniora, 43, from Luxembourg, and his wife Ilaria, 41, took it over two years ago and revamped it.
They are both high-level triathletes and wanted it to reflect their sporting background.
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A source said: “The challenges on Love Island always make for fun TV and this place is a producer’s dream.
“It’s absolutely stunning and has so much going on. It will set the standard for future series.
“There’s bound to be plenty of fun and games on the winter edition and Ludus Magnus provides the perfect opportunity for a huge range of activities for the contestants to get stuck into.”
The original Ludus Magnus was built between 81 and 96 AD by the Emperor Domitian to supply gladiators for the Colosseum — where slaves battled to the death to try to save their lives in front of baying Romans.
The eco-friendly Love Island villa has its own boreholes and streams for water and runs off the grid — being powered by 266 solar panels.
It also has its own resident springboks and four rescue donkeys.
For standard punters, staying in the mansion costs in excess of £430 a night.
But it is understood the owners are charging the show’s producers £8,000 a day to rent the whole estate.
One insider said: “A team of gardeners have been brought in and there are carpenters and electricians building all sorts of new things for the show.
“And, of course, there will be cameras and microphones installed to capture everything.
“At the end, the whole villa will have to be put back to how it was.
“So it will have had a huge revamp and redecoration costs to add on top of the five months’ guaranteed rental.”
Producers have also decided to spice things up by having the Casa Amor villa just feet away from the main house.
During the series, the girls and boys get divided, with one group sent to Casa Amor to meet sexy new arrivals to test their loyalty.
The villa is usually miles away but this time will be right at hand.
One source told The Sun: “Casa Amor’s inhabitants have always been able to relax in the knowledge that the people they’re coupled up with are miles away.
“Well, not any more — if there’s any wild partying going on, the main villa may well be able to hear it.”
Mike Spencer, executive producer of Lifted Entertainment, said the upcoming series is going to kick off “an epic year of love”.
The summer series is filmed in Majorca, with five million viewers having tuned in to watch this year’s opening episode.
‘Break from reality’
But she shocked fans in August by announcing she was quitting the show, later saying: “There’s nothing more I can do with it.”
Maya was revealed as the new host in October and said: “I’ve always been such a massive Love Island fan and I’m so excited to be hosting one of the nation’s favourite shows.”
But the show was put on hold for two years due to Covid. Paige and Finn split the £50,000 after winning, but the option for victors to steal the lot was axed this year.
The couple are one of the show’s success stories, still together after their win.
Summer 2022 winners Davide and Ekin-Su also appear to be going strong — despite him getting into a cab with two Icelandic beauties in summer.
They enjoyed a trip to Winter Wonderland last week and spent Christmas in Rome.
Ludus’s owners Regis and Ilaria Maniora were not available for comment.
But a video introducing the villa in 2020 on the Ludus Magnus Facebook page said: “As if in an ode to the Roman athletes of old that trained at the original grounds, the estate boasts a running track, a dam that doubles as an Olympic training pool, a riverside deck, mountain bike trails and hiking paths.
“Ludus Magnus acts as a playground for the athleisure-seeking without sacrificing on the serenity a person requires from a break from reality.”