4th Oct 2014
After a couple of days in the city it is time for an escape to the countryside. I had a few places to choose from as there are many places within short striking distance of Rome to tempt a traveller. When writing up itinerary in England I ended up flipping a coin between Lake Nemi and Tivoli.
Tivoli won out, so I headed out early to get the Metro to Ponte Mammolo Station which also has a bus terminus. After queueing for bus tickets (only to be told that Tivoli bus tickets were sold from the tabacco kiosk…) I got on a ridiculously cheap bus to Tivoli. Tivoli has three main tourist draws. The Villa d’Este is a sumptuous Renaissance concoction with beautiful gardens. Villa Gregoriana isn’t actually a villa at all, instead it is a landscaped yet wild looking wooded park, and the Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) is a massive Imperial countryside retreat.
I had scheduled in to visit Hadrian’s Villa first. I knew that the site was huge, so I relegated the Villa d’Este to be a possible bonus if time allowed. Anyone who has been to Tivoli will probably be gasping in horror, but as much as I love a bit of Renaissance I am a true Classics nerd. My priorities always lie with what is oldest! The other two sites are close to the centre of Tivoli, perching on the top of a hill. Villa Adriana is actually closer to the foot of the hill. The bus ride is pretty enough but the exciting part of the journey is the section of road that winds between two huge quarries. These are travertine quarries, a stone that has been used since antiquity. So keep your eyes peeled and get ready to gaze into the quarries where the stone used for countless temples and the Colosseum came from.
Word to the wise (not me on this occasion!) if the bus driver tries to be helpful by stopping next to a petrol station at the bottom of the hill and yells at the tourists for Villa Adriana should get off and walk “that way” DO NOT LISTEN TO HIM. It is a loooong, crooked walk through unattractive backstreets with little to no signage before you get anywhere near the Villa. STAY ON THE BUS to the main square and take a second bus that will drop you off right in front of the ticket office. It is well worth the extra euro or so it will cost.
I fell in love with this place within thirty seconds of seeing the first bit of architecture. My tip is to go and view the model of the Villa near the Pecile before you do anything else.
Having visited Hadrian’s mausoleum the previous day, I was keen to see where Hadrian chose to live (when he wasn’t extensively travelling the empire and building a heck of a lot of walls…)
Built in the early 2nd century AD, the villa is enormous. Only 18 miles from Rome, it was close enough to govern from and Hadrian increasingly conducted his business away from the bustling capital. I’ll allow the pictures to speak for themselves…