This morning we went for a long ride on the Rome Metro, then at a transportation hub we transferred to a local bus for a 45-minute ride into the country, toward the tiny village of Tivoli. Today was the only hot day of our entire 5-week adventure in Europe, but the morning at Villa d’Este wasn’t too bad as we were amongst so many misty fountains and huge shade trees.
The Villa d’Este is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “The Villa d’Este in Tivoli is one of the most remarkable and comprehensive illustrations of Renaissance culture at its most refined. Owing to its innovative design and the creativity and ingenuity of the architectural components in the gardens (fountains, ornamental basins, etc.), it is a true water garden and a unique example of an Italian 16th century garden. The Villa d’Este, one of the first giardini delle meraviglie, served as a model for and had a decisive influence on the development of gardens in Europe.” (from the whc.unesco.org website)
The Villa d’Este is a fantasyland of water in every form imaginable. The sound of water gushing, dripping, gurgling, splashing and so on is everywhere. Like I said, it was a hot morning already, but we were kept cool by the misty spray of so many fountains and the huge overarching trees. “The fame and glory of the Villa d’Este was above all established by its extraordinary system of fountains; fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 metres of canals, channels and cascades, and all working entirely by the force of gravity, without pumps.” (from Wikipedia)
My favorite fountain was The Oval Fountain (Fontana dell’Ovato), which was also one of the first fountains constructed in the garden. “A massive stone basin against the semicircular back wall cascades water into the fountain, and sprays it into the air, while water jets into the basin from vases in the hands of statues of Nereids, and also sprays in fan shapes from vases in niches in the semi-circular wall behind the fountain.
An artificial mountain rises above the fountain, symbolizing the Tiburtine landscape; the mountain is pierced by three grottos, each pouring forth water, and is decorated with statues representing Albunea, with her son Melicerte, by Gillis van den Vliete (1568), and statues representing rivers Ercolaneo and Aniene, by Giovanni Malanca (1566), all of which pour water into the Oval Fountain. An upper walkway above the fountain leads past the ring of basins and cascades. The fountain also has its own grotto, the Grotto of Venus, designed by Pirro Ligorio, and built in 1565–68. It served as a meeting place for guests on hot summer days.” (from Wikipedia)
Another favorite was The Hundred Fountains (Cento Fontane) “The Hundred Fountains were another celebrated marvel of the gardens in the Renaissance. They are located between the oval fountain and the Fontana di Rometta, and there are actually nearly three hundred spouts fed by three parallel canals, one above the other. Along the edge of the upper canal there are spouts in the form of lilies, the emblem of France, alternating with the d’Este eagle, boats and obelisks; all spraying water in a fan shape. The water is captured by the second canal, which feeds it into spouts in the form of masks, from which it reaches the lower canal.” (from Wikipedia)
“The Fountain of the Dragons (Fontana dei Draghi) was designed by PIrro Ligorio to illustrate the story of Hercules fulfilling one of his labors by stealing the golden apples of the Garden of the Hesperides, which were guarded by the dragon Ladon.” (from Wikipedia)
Next came the Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno) and the Fish ponds (Peschiere). The Fountain of Neptune was built in the 1930’s after a fountain, originally designed by Gian Lorenzo (or Gianlorenzo) Bernini, was allowed to deteriorate.
“The three fish ponds (Peschiere) cross the garden from the Fountain of Neptune. They served originally to provide fresh fish, duck, and swan for the table of the Cardinal, and also, in the plan of Pirro Ligorio, were intended to connect two fountains; the Fountain of the Organ and the cascade and the Fountain of the Seas.” (from Wikipedia)
From Villa d’Este we took a taxi (we couldn’t locate the proper bus) to Villa Adriana or Hadrian’s Villa. The Villa was the vast (250 acre – larger than the city of Pompeii!) retreat of the Emperor Hadrian. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Hadrian’s Villa as a World Heritage Site in 1999.
The Emperor Hadrian disliked life in Rome or in his villa on Rome’s Palatine Hill, so governed from Villa Adriana. When the emperor was not at his villa, he was traveling throughout the Roman Empire, from Brittannia (Hadrian’s Wall), to Egypt and on to Judea. There was a staff of around 1,000, who went to work through a vast underground network of tunnels far beneath the villa. The villa was also self-sustaining with its own farm, and was connected to the Roman aqueduct system for its water supply. Hadrian was the emperor who rebuilt the Pantheon in Rome after it was destroyed by fire in 81 A.D., so he was a master builder and architecture lover and it shows at his Tivoli villa.
“Hadrian’s Villa is a vast area of land with many pools, baths, fountains and classical Greek and Roman architecture set in what would have been a mixture of landscaped gardens, wilderness areas and cultivated farmlands. Watch this entertaining video in which the Emperor Hadrian takes us on a tour of his villa.
The buildings are constructed in travertine, brick, lime, pozzolana, and tufa. The complex contains over 30 buildings, covering at least a square kilometre, of which much is still unexcavated. Villas were typically sited on hilltops, but with its fountains, pools and gardens, Hadrian’s villa required abundant sources water, which was supplied by aqueducts feeding Rome, including the Aqua Anio Vetus, Aqua Anio Novus, Aqua Marcia, and Aqua Claudia. To avail themselves of those sources, the villa had to be located on land lower than the aqueduct.
The complex of the villa contains many structures from different cultures. For example, the villa has a small Nile river running through it that relates back to the Egyptian Nile river. Also, the villa had Poikilos, which are Greek figures that were seen in ancient Greece. Within all the structures in the villa, there is also a grotto called Hades. All these structures relate back to where Emperor Hadrian visited during his reign.”
“The architecture goes beyond the mere naming of its structures naming after places and monuments seen by Hadrian on his extensive travels across the empire. Certain buildings clearly attempt to recreate specific features of landscapes or architecture that had personal significance for the emperor. Thus, the area known as the Canopus, named after the Egyptian city where Hadrian’s lover, Antinous, drowned, features a long, stately reflecting pool, representing the Nile, which was lined with copies of famous works of sculpture including the caryatids of the Erechtheion, a statue depicting the Egyptian dwarf and fertility god, Bes and a crocodile.
The Pecile is modeled after the Stoa Poikile in Athens, a city favored by Hadrian. The structures freely mix traditional Greek and innovative Roman elements. The island enclosure (known as the Maritime Theatre) uses the classical Ionic order, albeit in a novel way; the triclinium of the so-called Piazza d’Oro and the Serapeum were covered with Roman segmented concrete domes, probably designed by Hadrian himself.” (from the Wikipedia website)
After Villa Adriana, we wondered back through the village to catch the bus back to Rome. We stopped to ask a man working on his motorcycle for directions, as the bus stop was not coming up on my iPhone. After a long walk we finally located the place where the bus stops and lo and behold, there was the bus coming up the road toward the stop! We made a run for it and barely made it on. Unfortunately for us, the bus was crowded and we had to stand most of the way back to Rome.
That evening we ate at a small Roman Enoteca, the Terre e Domus Enoteca della Provincia Romana. “A genuine enoteca is primarily directed at giving visitors the possibility to taste these wines at a reasonable price and possibly to buy them. An enoteca is often run in collaboration with growers or growers’ or tourism organisations in the village or region. The reason such establishments were named to connote ”wine libraries” was that they were intended as a hands-on source of information on local wines rather than as regular outlets for larger quantities of each wine, or primarily intended for established customers.” (from Wikipedia)