Located near us in the town of Tivoli were two UNESCO world heritage sites. The first being Villa d'Este, and the second being Adrian's Villa. We found ourselves with an unusually pleasant afternoon for the beginning of February so we packed a picnic and headed to explore the remainders of Emperor Hadrian's grand estate.
|The original massive arched entrance to the villa.|
There is something completely magical about fresh meats, cheese, pesto and bread, under olive trees on the grounds of a 1900 year old Roman estate. I breathed, deeply, let in sink in, and then pinched myself, it was real.
The grounds themselves were virtually empty, at least enough that anyone who heard us coming could retreat to a quieter spot. We picnicked by one of the grand pools and discovered it was full of fish and turtles. The unsuspecting reptiles had climbed out to enjoy the warming sunshine. Finding ourselves alone in the area, we pounced. Amazingly enough we enjoyed repeated success and were completely enthralled.
The villa itself was built as a personal residence for the Emperor Hadrian, who was said to dislike Palentine Hill, where the emperors traditionally resided near the Colosseum. Hadrian was one of the "good" emperors and oversaw much of the construction himself. He made it his official residence around 128 AD and kept in touch with Rome, about 18 miles away through an advanced postal system. Some other emperors also used it as a residence from time to time, but it eventually fell into complete disrepair. Most of the statues that decorated the grounds were taken elsewhere, so our kids tried to take their place.
|A very few incredible statues remained. We strategically |
placed ourselves to cover the buns of stone. :)
The buildings and the grounds themselves are unbelievably grandiose. It's hard to imagine what this 250 acre masterpiece must have looked like at it's peak.
|Ancient olive tree and Roman baths in the background.|
|Maggie wove spring lawn daisies through|
On the walk back we found huge amounts of dried oak leaves. The yearning for fall festivities we never got could now be quenched.
Tessa, "Today we went to a villa. First we saw the ancient statues names Tessa, Max, Eli, and Jonah. We found the baths, houses, ponds, and the domes. We also had an epic storming the castle game at a playground. I felt like an expert on villas."