First stop.. VILLA D’ESTE.
The prospect of getting to Tivoli by public transport was looking beyond daunting so we checked out private tours…OUCH MUMMA MIA $$$$$ so the blobs opted for a driver for the day and the Audio guide to do the rest, much much cheaper and not much more than the Tour Bus. A winner all round. So of into the cool hills 30km East to where the centuries of wealthy Romans escaped the infernal heat of a Roman summer.
Our first stop was to The Villa d’Este a 16th century Cardinals summer palace built on the side of the Tivoli township with magnificent views back towards Rome which captured the cooling winds from the sea.
The villa itself is elaborately decorated for a country retreat but it is the gardens that steal the show.
Water is the key feature here and the effect is amazing, it is so cooling and relaxing. No wonder it was called “Valle Gaudente” The Valley of Pleasure seeking……say no more !!!!!!!
Cascading down a series of tiered levels with intersecting pathways every corner you take another fountain comes into view.
There are grotto’s everywhere, even inside the Villa and the fish ponds and water course are reminiscent of The Alcarzar of Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada, two magnificent Moorish Palaces from the 12 century in southern Spain.
There were 16 fountains we counted as well as a wall of over 300 spouts stretching over 100m long.
We had a very average lunch out under the loggia in the courtyard of Pallacorda, at least there was a brilliant view and cool breeze.
Second stop…VILLA ADRIANA.
It was then time to wake up the driver and head down to the plains to Emperor Hadrian’s country Palace named after his wife Adriana.
The term Villa is a major understatement as the complex stretches out over 1km long by 500m wide and was within grounds of 300 hectares.
The scale is enormous and it looks like one of those mythical palaces from film makers imaginations but it was for real.
It took 16 years to build and Hadrian only lived for 6 more years after it was complete…must be karma for those poor souls he wiped out.
There were 3 separate Bath complexes, 7 pools for swimming, 4 libraries and over 10 km of covered walkways around the buildings.
The ruins like all Ancient structures were abused by invasions, neglect and the builders of Renaissance and Baroque Rome as a quarry so very little of the extreme opulence is left to see, but it’s easy to get the picture.
These photos just cannot show the enormity of this place, it just has to be seen to be believed .