Wednesday, July 23, 2014

151. ... A day in the country ...

Today's excursion is a two hour train ride up into the hills behind Rome to the very picturesque town of Tivoli ( known as Tibur during ancient Roman times ... ).  This is a very historical region with traces of settlement going back to the 13th century BC. The region became a popular resort area for Roman aristocracy with many elaborate summer villas built along the ridges over-looking the Roman Campagna ( the low lying area surrounding Rome ) including Hadrian's Villa Adriana built in the 2nd century AD.

Through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the city had a somewhat turbulent time with various regional leaders and armies fighting over this strategic outpost, however it always remained  a popular retreat from the heat of Rome's scorching summers, and many grand villas were built here. 

But today I am more interested in greenery than ancient ruins, so first off it's a visit to the famous gardens of the Villa d'Este to wander the cool shades.

Vila d’Este is most famous for its water features – but upon arrival I am informed that the hydraulics are not working today … !!!! … so I wander around these beautiful gardens looking at empty ponds for a couple of hours !!! … then just as I am about to leave, the fountains come alive … obviously someone has cleared the problem.



 Roman Campagna

The Villa d'Este is a Renaissance UNESCO listed villa and garden. The property was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, son of Alfonso I d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia and grandson of pope Alexander VI. He had been appointed Governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III, with the gift of the existing palace, which he had entirely reconstructed to plans of Pirro Ligorio. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, Cardinal d'Este created a palatial setting surrounded by a spectacular terraced garden in the late-Renaissance mannerist style, which took advantage of the dramatic slope but required innovations in bringing a sufficient water supply, which was employed in cascades, water tanks, troughs and pools, water jets and fountains. 



Drawing inspiration (and many statues and much of the marble used for construction) from the nearby Villa Adriana ( the palatial retreat of Emperor Hadrian ) and reviving complicated Roman techniques of hydraulic engineering to supply water to a sequence of fountains, the cardinal created a lush fantasy garden. Its architectural elements and water features were to have an enormous influence on future European landscape design. 

In the eighteenth century the villa and its gardens passed to the House of Habsburg after Ercole III d'Este bequeathed it to his daughter Maria Beatrice who was married to Grand Duke Ferdinand of Habsburg. Unfortunately over time the villa and its gardens were neglected, the hydraulics fell into disuse, and many of the sculptures commissioned by Ippolito d'Este were scattered to other sites. 

Le Centro Fontane

The picturesque sense of decay was reversed during the tenure of Cardinal Gustav Adolf Hohenlohe in mid to late 19th century; the Cardinal hosted many leading artists and celebrities of the time to the luxurious Villa - including Franz Liszt, who evoked the garden in his Les Jeux d'Eaux à la Villa d'Este and gave one of his last concerts here. 
Villa d'Este was purchased for the Italian State after World War I, restored, and refurnished with paintings from the storerooms of the Galleria Nazionale in Rome.. The garden plan is laid out on a central axis with subsidiary cross-axes, refreshed by some five hundred jets in fountains, pools and water troughs. The water is supplied by the Aniene River which is partly diverted for a distance of one kilometer through the town, into a cistern under the villa's courtyard.



 Fountain of the Great Cup - Bernini - 1660

  The hydraulics come alive ...

After that I wander across town to Parco Villa Gregoriana for a long walk – 3kms – through a very pretty valley gorge …

In 1835, after the Aniene River had burst its banks during heavy rain, Pope Gregory XVI decided to transform this beautiful but extremely dangerous location into a model of integration between art and nature. The project involved a tunnel being dug through Mount Catillo in order to deviate the river and thus preserve the town of Tivoli from future flooding. This was then followed by the construction of an extraordinary natural garden dominated above by the acropolis with Vesta and Tiburno’s Temples.

Ancient Roman ruins believed to be over 2000 years old ...

The ancient Acropolis high above the valley ...


The Valley of Hell

Acropolis - 1st century BC

After that brief and enjoyable commune with nature through the peaceful valley gorge, it was back into the township of Tivoli, onto the train and eventually back to crowded hot glorious Rome ...