Tivoli – Hadrian’s Villa – Villa d’Este

Tivoli – Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este

 Wednesday 29 August

I’m so excited! 
Villa Adriana sprawls over the area of ten football fields. In the second century Hadrian built his “villa” as a pleasure palace for him and his young lover.  It’s amazing how much remains and how much is still being excavated. At the entry is the first pool. It is unspectacular, other than a 50 metre pool was probably not an easy thing to build back then. The grounds open up to a maze of underground tunnels and perfectly built arches made of red brick. The palace is extensive and overlooks a stadium where games and sports were held. There is a vast structure thought to be a warehouse with servant quarters

The piece de resistance is the Canopus pool. It is about 75 metres long with a few white marble arches and remains of statues. The arches would have extended round the pool. One beautiful grecian style soldier is still standing. There is water in the pool and fish and turtles swim in it. At the other end, the hillside from which the pool was cut, are the remains of rocks that were the basis of a series of waterfalls. A fountain was a central feature in this area. The water would have been warmed by the sun as it flowed down the rocks and sat in a small holding pool under a hole in the rocky dome above.

We sit and eat our picnic lunch in solitude by the Canopus pool. There have been very few people here. I am surprised because it is so wonderful here, but glad because it is peaceful and tranquil.

Further on there are Large baths, a central one heated by the sun, again shing through a hole in the roof. The surrounding pools have underground heating. There are underground tunnels for people to move through. Next to the large thermal baths are smaller baths, identical to the first. The engineering is ingenious

We spot an Unexpected exhibition about Hadrian and Antonius who were lovers til Antonius drowned when he was 24. Hadrian had many likenesses made of Antonius, and the shape and style of these sculptures became the norm for centuries, soft, flowing lines that you can see in Michaelangelo’s David. There is an absolutely fabulous statue of Antonius. Unfortunately we may not take photos. His face is very young with perfect features, he is standing somewhat languidly, his arms loose. He is slightly taller than Peter. 

Other sculptures in the exhibition include a bust of Hadrian and a statue of his wife. They are superb.

Apparently when Antonius died, Hadrian deified him and built monuments to him. All that remains of the elaborate Golden square with gardens and obelisk are the four corners, and even those are great to look at.

The receptionist has booked a cart to drive us round Villa d’Este because the fountains are on terraces on a steep slope.

The attraction is Spectacular if only for the number of fountains. Some are grand, with statues and waterfalls, some with statues. The Organ fountain and the Neptune fountain seen together superb. Other notable fountains include the Four Dragon fountain and the Diana fountain. But there is water everywhere. Single founts stretching along in a line, small ponds, and water trickles down balustrades beside steps.

I expect only to see the gardens outside but Inside the palace are fabulously decorated rooms open to the public.

Before we go and see them we have lunch on the palace terrace overlooking the gardens, the surrounding area, and in the distance, Rome. There is a warm breeze where we sit under an arched corner.

The rooms have high frescoed ceilings, each one different in style, two with wooden beams that are still highly decorated. The other rooms have more elaborately painted ceilings with frescoes framed by ornate arches.  Frescoes line the walls. Glass cases show some of the table ornaments and furnishings. Oh, how the rich live!

And now we drive to Civita di Bagnoreggio!

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