The town of Tivoli lies just a little ways west (inland) from Rome in the foothills of the Apennine mountains. It's an easy day trip from Rome and has been for several thousand years. It's also been a popular location for wealthy Romans to escape the summer heat. This is the town of Tivoli as seen from Villa Adriana.
Villa Adriana is enormous and only partially excavated now. It was the home of the Roman emperor Hadrian who reigned from 117 to 138 AD. Hadrian ruled more from Tivoli than from Rome and spent a lot of money and energy on his villa. These ruins are the remains of one of several complexes of baths on the site.
Hadrian was an extremely intelligent emperor and traveled extensively both before and during his reign. He recreated several of his favorite world landmarks in his own villa. This is a replica of the Canopus of Alexandria and the associated temple of Serapis.
Villa Adriana is set a little bit below the modern town of Tivoli. It's a huge sprawling site that requires several hours to see a decent part of. In between ruins are some pleasant olive groves. When we visited, there was a school trip on the premises but it was otherwise fairly empty.
Hadrian was particularly fond of Athens and there is considerable Greek influence in his buildings at his own villa and elsewhere. These are the remains of a fairly traditional Greek theater set down the hill from his villa. Many of the ruins are in excellent condition including an extensive residential section where Hadrian's guests stayed. In that area nearly all of the floor mosaics are still intact.
Perhaps the most interesting site is the so-called maritime theater. An outer wall surrounds a circular area which contains a small island surrounded by a moat. The island has the ruins of several buildings on it. It appears to be a little unclear what this was used for, but may simply have been a secluded retreat.
We had a pleasant lunch at the hotel outside Villa Adriana and then headed up to the center of Tivoli. There is a nice park in the center of town with an impressive view to the Tiber plain below. Rome can supposedly be seen on a clear day. Meanwhile, we've been lax in recording our gelato consumption, so between Rome and Tivoli on this day David had Bacio (hazelnut) , coconut, pine nut
. Melanie had crème caramel, nutella, coffee, panna cota and nocciola
(she likes flavors in the cream - to brown color spectrum).
So like the sign says, Villa d'Este is an impressive formal estate set square in the middle of Tivoli. It can actually be a little bit difficult to find as the entrance is somewhat hidden in an alleyway. The villa itself is nice, but it's the formal gardens that are really impressive.
By gardens, we really mean fountains. There were some flowers and ornamental shrubs and topiary but it's the water features (dozens of them) that everyone comes to see. This alcove for instance has several levels of fountains and a covered walkway behind the bottom waterfall.
The d'Este family were wealthy and politically powerful throughout the Italian renaissance and almost constantly had at least one high ranking cardinal in the church. Ippolito d'Este who came close to the title of Pope several times was responsible for these gardens.
With all the poplar and cypress trees and all the running water it's a lovely cool place to spend an otherwise hot afternoon. There are about 35 different fountain complexes many of which are still being restored to their original functionality.
This set for instance is surmounted by a water organ which plays songs periodically.
Behind the mid level of this set of fountains are a series of grottoes which each contain a powerful (and loud) waterfall. Most of these do in fact date from the 1500s and this is definitely a worthwhile place to take a trip out from Rome.
This is a Smart Car. Obviously the US is not known for small cars but this is about the smallest driveable thing we've ever seen. Here Melanie demonstrates just how small it is. On the other hand, parking is rarely a problem. This is back in Rome where we absolutely have to laud a restaurant now. Trattoria della Stampa is located near the Piazza Barberini between Trevi and the Quirinale gardens. We chose it somewhat at random and are very glad we did so. A relatively small family-run restaurant (like most of them in Rome), there was no menu when we visited. Instead the waiter just came out of the (tiny) kitchen and told us what appetizers, pasta courses, meat courses, etc… were currently available. If we didn't order something they thought we should, they brought it along too so we could try it. The sheer amount of food we consumed here is somewhat alarming in retrospect. We recommend everything, but particularly the matriciana, the veal meatballs, the roast potatoes and the homemade limoncello.