Sunday, 9 July 2017


Oma went on strike. She vetoed my plans and refused to take public transport to our intended day trip to Tivoli. Thus it was that late last night I booked the most reasonably priced tour available at the last minute to take us to Villa Adriana and Villa D'Este. To be honest, I couldn't blame her. The trip would have required several bus trips and would not have been pleasant in the heat combined with the hours of walking.

The tour left the pick up point right on 9am and surprisingly it did not take us long to get to Tivoli because there was no traffic! Lara, our guide for the day, was great. She was knowledgeable, fun and had the tour going at a good pace. The tour itself was not rushed but that was probably due to the fact that there were MUCH less tourists around. Even though our group was at the maximum of 32, we never felt cramped or crowded at any point.

Our first stop was Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) and as the name suggested was the home of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 117 AD. "Home" was not your average home but hectares of land with sprawling complexes of buildings. Here was where I had to thank my mother upon insisting on a tour as it would have been hard to fully appreciate the structure and function without our guide. Amongst other things, the mighty ancient Romans had heated floors, two libraries (one for greek and one for latin), "gyms", heated baths, cold water baths, as well as a network of underground tunnels for servants and transport of goods because Hadrian wanted everything to appear seamless and nothing out of place (like Walt Disney Worlds utilidoors!).We spent our first few hours here before the day heated up and headed up to the higher town of Tivoli where it was a few degrees cooler for a lunch break.

The scale of the complex. The original estate had even more land for activities such as hunting

The pecile, a "pool" where people can enjoy the surrounds and tranquility. It had a covered walkway surrounding it which was custom  built for "after-meal walks"

To give you some idea of the scale of the "walkways" surrounding the pecile!

Some of the olive trees on site are ancient being around 1000 years old

Heliocaminus, as the name suggest "way of the sun", these baths are heated by the suns rays

The servants' quarters, what you can't see is that the building holes to indicate where the timber floors would have been (ie it is an ancient apartment block!)

Rare remnant of existing original stucco in the corner

Canopus, inspired by Egypt likely from Hadrian's travels. One of the areas that was a direct inspiration for Villa D'Este

He would have been marble in his original glory

Greek inspired architecture. The current statues are replicas of copies of famous Greek statues that surrounded the pool. 
At the town of Tivoli itself was Villa D'Este, another UNESCO world heritage site. Villa D'Este was built to revive the magnificence of Villa Adriana and it was hard to imagine how much grander Villa Adriana would have been in its heyday because Villa D'Este was mighty spectacular! Being much "younger" at over 400 years old, it was in much better condition with fountains that were still working driven by the power of gravity fed by the River Aniene. The organ fountain ingeniously uses the waters to play an organ. Yup you read correctly. The further downhill you went, the more spectacular the fountains got.

Same features of openings to let light into lower levels found in Villa D'Este were also found in Hadrian's Villa

Some of the marble from Hadrian's Villa were used for Villa D'Este. When they didn't have enough, they would paint the rest. Done so well that you would have to look very closely to tell the difference.

The original marble, some still at Villa D'Este whereas Hadrian's Villa's marble all stripped

Rometta Fountain, dedicated to Rome

complete with she-wolf and twins

Hundred fountains

The oval fountain

The famous Neptune fountain with the organ fountain at the top

Amazing views

Not that people there! 

Our tour ended on a good note, with a bus snooze included as we drove in the air-conditioned comfort back to Rome. We showered and drank our "aperitif" at the Hotel Lounge like the Romans. The finger food was more than enough for our dinner and we were glad to be able to call it a day.

The hotel roof top terrace

Mocktails that came with olives, peanuts and chips

And some smoked salmon!

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