We took advantage of this being a return trip to Rome to day trip out of the city to travel in the surrounding area a little. Our first day trip from Rome took us to Tivoli, home to three famous villas from different eras. We only had the shortest of strolls through Tivoli itself, to get up the hill from the train station. So all I can say about that is that it looked nice..?
We visited two villas, our first, Villa d’Este, was built for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este during the second half of the sixteenth century and features a garden containing the most fountains I have ever seen. The villa itself has painted ceilings and walls, and even an exhibition on Renaissance fashion while we were there, but the main attraction is its garden.
So many fountains! One of the garden’s features is a fountain, of course, containing an organ that has its doors open at set hours during the day and someone sit down to (badly) play. Villa d’Este is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Just me, taking advantage of the organ fountain playing a few trees over to have an other-person-free photo with a fountain.
The fearsome statue above is Diana, goddess of the hunt, depicted as Ephesian Artemis (Artemis being the original Greek name for Diana). She is wearing what had been interpreted as breasts, eggs, or bulls testicles, but is now said to be ‘the iconographic descendants of the amber gourd-shaped drops’ that were discovered during excavations done somewhere in the 80s. I was looking up Wikipedia for that bit and it isn’t so clear..
Our second villa was built by the Emperor Hadrian, known as Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana. The sight is massive, more the size of a small village than a villa, especially when compared to Villa d’Este. The Emperor governed Rome from his villa, which goes some way to explaining its size. Statues and marble from this villa were used in the building of Villa d’Este.
We came across an amusing piece of internet advice board opinion. Someone had wondered if, should their day trip or accompanying child attention span prove too short, would it matter if they missed out on such and such villa. They had heard it was a ‘must see’. The response came from someone who had similarly travelled to Tivoli for a day, had been only to one villa and could therefore confirm that you don’t have to see both. Bless his/her heart, I wonder if they interpreted ‘must see’ as ‘they will make you go and you can’t leave until you do’. Or something of the kind.
We have a terrible habit of wandering without maps and guides, and Villa Adriana was no exception. The architecture of the buildings is meant to be of note as it was inspired by the many travels of Hadrian, but I’m not confident that we covered all ground, or even that we knew what everything was when we saw it. Like Pompeii and Herculaneum, everything of interest found in the grounds was removed and now lives in museums.