Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tivoli - Villa d'Este

at the Villa d'Este gardens
Il Primo maggio (May first) is a national holiday in Italy, a day that celebrates i lavoratori (workers). To honor the occasion, the Italian government reduced the cost of entry to all state museums, parks and archeological sites to one euro. For the past several weeks, I've been working long hours on an online project, but I decided to take advantage of the holiday discount by driving to Tivoli to visit Villa d'Este, another UNESCO world heritage site. That makes three that I've seen in  the past month, which is not hard to do, since Italy has more World Heritage sites (47) than any other country in the world. So far, I've seen at least 16 of them.

Fontana dell'Ovato
The sun was shining and the temperature was balmy when I set out in the morning. Even the thirty-minute drive to Tivoli was lovely, with lush green growth on all sides, the air perfumed by blooming flowers and trees. Fields of  red poppies and yellow daisies were scattered along the countryside.

Le Cento Fontane One hundred fountains
One of the one hundred fountains
However, there's one thing I can't quite get used to: the prostitutes who sit by the side of the road, waiting for their next customer. It's a common sight on the road to Tivoli. Sometimes they have a car, sometimes they are just sitting on a plastic chair, waiting. There appeared to be some brisk business going on along one stretch of road today, where there was a small parking spot. Ohime!

Fontana di Nettuno
I'd been to Tivoli last year to visit Villa Adriana, but today I got a bit lost trying to find Villa d'Este, which is on the other side of the town. But once I located it, found a parking spot near the villa and paid the parking fee, I was good to go. Since the entry fee was only one euro, I decided to splurge on an audio guide, which turned out to be a waste of money, as I could never get the darn thing to work. Though the villa itself is a featured attraction, I wasn't in the mood to be indoors, so I headed outside immediately to view the vast gardens and fountains that the site is famous for. There are literally hundreds of fountains in the gardens, and most of them are in use.
View of la chiesa di San Pietro from Villa d'Este gardens
Italian families were out in full force, taking advantage of the holiday and the weather to enjoy the gardens together. One thing of note: when taking photos of each other, I  noticed that Italian men were usually the first ones to have their picture taken, rather than the women. The man would pose in front of a fountain and have his picture taken, and he was often the only one of the family to be photographed. I saw this happen over and over again,  with both young and older couples. No modesty here!

Wisteria pergola
Several times during the day, la Fontana dell'Organo (the Organ Fountain) provides a short concert of organ music. There's a pipe organ within a chamber that opens up for the concert. I stuck around to check it out, even though I'm not a big fan of organ music. It was a real crowd pleaser!

Fontana dell'Organo
detail of the art on Fontana dell'Organo
After spending several hours in the gardens, the sky clouded over and it was time for me to leave. I still had a long afternoon of work ahead of me. I spent another half hour walking down one of the quaint cobblestone streets in Tivoli, stopping for gelato and a caffè macchiato (espresso with a "stain" of milk).

Scala dei Bollori
Just as I arrived back at the house, it started to rain. Good timing! I feel very fortunate to be living near a multitude of beautiful settings, many within a thirty-minute drive. Now that Tivoli is more familiar, I'm sure to return there again and again.

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