Day 350: Tivoli VillasJanuary 30 in Italy
Woke up still fairly tired from yesterday, but strapped on the walking shoes and headed out for another long day. Tivoli is a town about 30km to the north-east of Rome, home to two separate World Heritage sites. After an hour on the train and a short walk, we arrived at the first one: Villa d'Este.
This was an old convent and monastery converted into a grand villa by Cardinal d'Este in the 16th century after his failure to become Pope. It's basically the ultimate expression of Italian Renaissance gardens - situated on top of a hill, the gardens cascade down in levels and are absolutely packed with waterfalls, fountains, grottoes and other water features.
Our first stop was at the organ fountain, which uses water to play an organ every couple of hours - a little underwhelming, but a miracle of engineering back in the day. Apparently a visiting Pope demanded to inspect every inch of the fountain's interior, just to check there wasn't a hidden person in there playing the organ!
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the gardens and filming, up and down the hill. Some super impressive stuff in here, very tall fountains and one that included a rough model of the city of Rome (and you could see the city way off in the distance). Quite cool. We largely skimmed through the villa, since it didn't seem like the most interesting part of the site.
Headed outside to discovered that we'd just missed the bus to the next Villa, and the buses only ran about every 50 minutes. So we ate paninis for lunch and bummed around waiting before the bus eventually showed up.
It took us down onto the plains below Tivoli to Hadrian's Villa, an enormous palace complex built by the emperor Hadrian in the second century AD. He eventually ran the empire from here, so it was fully equipped with warehouses, baths, theatres, palaces, guest rooms, temples and shrines, all the usual stuff. Was great to see all of the ruins just sitting around. Not a whole lot of restoration has been done, but they're still in great condition and the site is enormous.
It took us several hours to wander around and we still missed a few things. I hadn't done a lot of pre-research so I didn't realise it was that big! By 3:30pm it was time to go, so we headed out of the park and again had to wait about 40 minutes for the bus back up to the station. Caught a train at 5:20pm just as it was going dark, which meant we didn't arrive back in Rome until 6:30pm. Long trip!
Had dinner at the Mercato Central, the same spot where we'd met our host a couple of days earlier. I had a burger while Shandos had salad, and we split some arancini for sides and then a delicious cherry gelato cheesecake thing for dessert. Home on the tram where thankfully we'd missed peak hour. By now it was nearly 8pm and I was totally zonked. Almost 50,000 steps in two days; super stoked to have a day off tomorrow.Read more