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davidx Tivoli - A travel report by David
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Tivoli,  Italy - flag Italy
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davidx's travel reports

Tivoli – retreat for the wealthy

  14 votes
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No – of course all the inhabitants are not wealthy but Tivoli has, at least since the Emperor Hadrian [Adriano,] been a place where wealthy residents have built getaway villas. .

Wall of the Pecile
Wall of the Pecile
In fact this report only deals with two of Tivoli’s villas, the villa Adriana and the Villa d’Este. I should very much like to have seen the Villa Gregoriana but ay the moment [December 2006] it is closed for restoration. This may well have been a blessing in disguise as The Villa Adriana occupies an area nearly as large as the whole city of Pompeii and the Vila d’Este rises almost like a mountain above its gardens. It’s worth remembering that the Villa Adriana is one of the few major sights that can be encompassed on a day out from Rome that is open on a Monday. It was convenient for me to spend the night there and see the Villa d’Este in the morning. Since that didn’t leave me any time for hanging out in other places, I have used the hang-out section to describe the alternative ways of getting there. I suppose a great emperor of the mighty Roman empire could hardly have been expected to establish his villa retreat without ample room for servants and guards, whilst keeping them out of his face as far as was reasonable. Nor can he have wanted to be found failing in any way with his provision of guest accommodation. Tastes must have differed from those now as it seems strange that he should have chosen to locate his villa not on the hill, where the town is but on the plains beneath. Unless you are a walking fanatic, forget any idea of walking from the town – there’s a perfectly good little bus that runs frequently. There’s enough walking at the villa itself. My other piece of advice is to really spend a while looking at the scale model of the villa as it was – in about the only modern building there as you start the long walk in. There is nowhere on the ground where you can gain an appreciation of the whole area. If you want to, you can deposit baggage at a guarderobe just inside the main gate.

Favourite spots:
The private retreat
The private retreat
Remember the Villa Adriana has been pillaged for years, including the removal of stone towards the building of the Villa d’Este roughly 1400 years later. This may explain why the central imperial villa is by no means the most interesting part of the site. All three sets of baths and the very photogenic campolo are more impressive and the long wall of the pecile is striking but I think my favourite area was that called [Heaven knows why] the Maritime Theatre, where a small house was built on a small island in a lake. In Hadrian’s own time this was connected with the land only by drawbridges so that he could draw them up when he wanted complete privacy. Actually it looks more like a moated area and the water itself was no formidable obstacle but a drawn up bridge was a probably as good a notice as any that disturbing emperors was ‘out’ for a time. In December I found myself with this whole area practically to myself – like Hadrian? Not quite!

What's really great:
Fontana del Organo
Fontana del Organo
The Villa d’Este is pretty well in the centre of Tivoli on its hill. It was built in the 16th century to the orders of Ippolyto d’Este, who had previously attempted to become Pope, become Governor of Tivoli and done substantial restoration work on the Villa Adriana. I walked through the rooms in 1998 with their splendid ceilings and gazed longingly DOWN [to the gardens. I hadn’t ventured down to them on account of shortage of time and mainly because I still didn’t have the confidence after my heart problems in 1995. One of my prime targets this time was to make it down there and I did. The gardens, and in particular the majestic fountains, are the chief thing to justify the inclusion of the Villa d’Este in UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. [Villa Adriana of course makes it too.] The most majestic of all is the organ fountain, which sounds four times a day [I missed out on that] as well as looking like an organ. Ask not whence comes the water – and you shall not be disgusted!

Dragons fountain
Dragons fountain
The Organ fountain is by no means the only one of interest at the Villa d’Este. The Rometta fountain surrounded by some identifiable features of Rome, the avenue of 100 fountains, the oval fountain and, in the very centre of the gardens, the Fountain of the Dragons are among the more picturesque but there are literally hundreds in total.
Actually you can cheat a bit by taking a lift up two floors from near the refreshment bar, bookshop and toilets. I had gone half way before discovering this!

Campolo 1 [Adriana]
Campolo 1 [Adriana]
I stayed at the B&B Luigia in the Via Villa Adriano, the nearest accommodation to the villa itself and only just outside it is the stop for the bus. [but see Hang-outs.]
You might prefer to stay up in the town itself – I was sufficiently tired not to bother – but this is quite adequate otherwise – comfortable, friendly and good showers – and it’s not too expensive.

Campolo 2 [Adriana]
Campolo 2 [Adriana]
I think I might probably classified as night morbid! I imagine I should have needed to go into the town for any attractions.

Rometta fountain 1
Rometta fountain 1
Your preferred method for reaching Tivoli will depend on how time and scenery rate with you. The first time I went I took a train from Termini station and I remember its being a very pleasant but rather a slow and tortuous route. Trains weren’t all that frequent.

This time I took one of the frequent buses from Ponte di Mammolo metro station in Rome and it was fairly quick but monumentally uninteresting. The first hill is at Tivoli and, if you are heading for the Villa Adriana, you get out before that! If you do go directly to the Villa Adriana, you have appreciably farther to walk than from the local bus. There is a road sign if you are on the right [in both senses] side of the bus and looking at the right level but nothing else to suggest you’ve arrived so it’s better to ask somebody to tell you.

Rometta foutain 2
Rometta foutain 2
I ate at the pizzeria immediately below the B&B where I was staying. It certainly wasn’t worth going into Tivoli proper just to eat but there were other possibilities not far away and I might have done better to look around. OK but a bit limited.

Other recommendations:
Within the pecile area
Within the pecile area
I can’t stress too highly the need to allow plenty of time at both the villas featured here, particularly perhaps at the Adriana. I was there for three hours – I know because I had to get back to the entrance with my audio guide after that time. I could so easily have used another two – and I didn’t even stop for a rest. There were at least three outlying buildings that I didn’t see and I didn’t even get to the museum. Inside the area called the pecile there’s a large lake with some ducks and seats near it – an ideal place for a picnic.

For more information you could see:

Published on Saturday December 23th, 2006

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Wed, Jan 17 2007 - 03:24 PM rating by bootlegga

Some really great pics in this report David!

Sat, Jan 13 2007 - 04:04 PM rating by mrscanada

I always wanted to go to Tripoli and never made it. Thank you for telling me about it.

Wed, Jan 10 2007 - 01:48 PM rating by mistybleu

A really informative report. And what a pretty part of the world.


Mon, Jan 01 2007 - 10:14 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Leer tus reports es volver a descubrir un lugar que te parecia conocer. Bravo!

Thu, Dec 28 2006 - 06:19 PM rating by eirekay

David, another great report. I especially appreciate your last comment - I hate feeling rushed or like I haven't seen something ~ time is always such a premium!

Tue, Dec 26 2006 - 07:04 AM rating by marianne

What a pleasure to read because I had almost forgotten that we visited when we were in Rome some time ago. We went by train but can't remember anything about that journey so probably it was not too slow or exciting

Sat, Dec 23 2006 - 07:36 PM rating by rangutan

I always heard of this but now you have enlightened all of us, brilliant and sparkling pictures too!

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