Monday, August 10, 2009

Hadrian's villa and the Villa d'Este

Spent a gorgeous Saturday this weekend visiting Important Monuments in Tivoli, one of the ancient cities near Rome.

The home of the Emperor Hadrian (yes, of the Wall fame) who, upon succeeding to the greatest throne in the world, took a look around the Palatine and said, "Well, bugger this!" and set off to build

a pleasure palace in the hills. (This looked way better close up. There were fish, big carp, in the pool.)

Spent a good three hours treking all over this site.

Batteries died in the first five minutes though.


But after that, we took the bus up the hill (all the best things in Italy are on the tops of these absurd tufa hills. It's a wonder the Romans didn't invent the chair lift) and I spent a happy couple of hours wandering around the Villa d'Este. There were shops and restaurants and things so we ate lunch, got some ice cream and bought batteries.

Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a fine example of Renaissance architecture and the Italian Renaissance garden.

(Recommended listening while wandering around Renaissance water gardens: Arianna Savall accompanied by her father Jordi Savall)

The Renaissance villa was built on the site of an old Benedictine nunnery, but recent diggings-bout have revealed that the nunnery had been built over a Roman villa, the floor of which is preserved in one of the rooms you can go into.

I didn't read many of the blurbs (of which there is a goodly number, in English as well as Italian), preferring just to have the experience and save the lookings-up for Wiki later.

The Villa itself surrounds on three sides a sixteenth-century courtyard sited on the former Benedictine cloister.

The fountain on a side wall, framed within a Doric,

contains a sculpture of a sleeping nymph in a grotto[3] guarded by d'Este heraldic eagles, with a bas-relief framed in apple boughs that links the villa to the Garden of the Hesperides.

It's got some magnificent frescoes,

of course,

Rooms and rooms of them, but really, no one goes there for that.

It's all about the water gardens.

More tomorrow.

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