It was a happy Saturday for me as one more of my articles dealing with Italy was published in the Metroplus Saturday edition. This article was about my visit to Tivoli. I hope you will enjoy the article. My thanks once again to the Hindu Metroplus for publishing this.
The Aura of Rensaissance
(Copy Pasted from the site)
With its architecture, gardens and fountains, this town near Rome takes Sukanya Ramanujan to another era
It is not often that we think of anything in Italy as being more ancient than Rome. But the city of Tivoli, to which I am headed on a bus with a group of other tourists, has traces of settlement dating to the 13th Century BC and was also once a rival of Rome. It is almost unfortunate that today most of us only know Tivoli as a software created by IBM!
Tivoli is about 25 km from Rome. It takes us just about half-an-hour to reach the town, and yet the landscape has changed immeasurably. Situated around hills, Tivoli (or Tibur as it was known in ancient times) has always been a quick summer getaway from Rome. Castel Gandolfo — the Pope’s summer residence is also not far from the town.
Our first destination in Tivoli is the Villa d’Este. A magnificent residence of palatial dimensions, this building exudes the aura of Renaissance. Commissioned in the late 16th Century by the Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este who failed to become the Pope, the villa stretches over the terraced slope of a hill. The series of rooms in the villa is beautifully decorated with paintings by prominent painters such as Federico Zuccari. From the suite of rooms we move to the terrace and it’s at this point we realise that the uniqueness of the villa is the beautiful layout of the gardens and fountains along the slope of the terrace.
The fountains are no ordinary ones. The nearly-a-minute concert of the Organ Water Fountain plays once every few hours because of the water’s pressure. We then make our way through the meandering paths full of waterways and grottos to reach the Hundred Fountains area — there are literally a hundred small fountains installed along the wall! There are many more — the fountain of Neptune, the fountain of Ovato (shaped like an egg) and so on…
Inspired by an ancient palace
The magnificent Villa d’Este and its baroque garden with fountains were all inspired by the grandeur of an ancient palace that existed in Tivoli and it was to the remains of this structure that we head to next. Built by Emperor Hadrian over two decades in the 2nd Century AD and spreading over an area of about one sq.km, the Hadrian’s Villa today survives only in fragments. This is because a lot of the marble and construction materials from the buildings were reused notably in the Villa d’Este itself.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian — builder of the wall across Great Britain and of the Pantheon in Rome — had a keen interest in architecture designing. What is special about the villa is that he took architectural styles from different parts of his empire that he went to and put them together.
We first come across Pecile. Inspired by Greek architecture, it is a large pool surrounded by a colonnaded and once covered walk space where people could walk after their meals. Beneath this space are a large number of rooms — the Hundred Chambers, supposed to have housed the slaves that worked to maintain this palatial villa.
The highlight of the visit is looking at the structure the Canopus. Built to resemble river Nile, this is a long canal lined with statues ending in a grotto-like structure called the Serapium. Hadrian supposedly had a fondness for building dome-like structures — the Pantheon being the most famous. The Serapium also has a domed structure resembling a pumpkin. A small museum in the compound has an exhibition on Antinous — Hadrian’s lover whose death caused the emperor immense anguish, so much so that he found a number of cities in different parts of the Roman empire with the same name: Antinopolis.
It is a strange experience visiting two palaces in the same city that are so different yet linked to each other through history. The Villa of Hadrian — a resplendent building in classical times has faded and remains in ruins but the building has contributed to the design of the Villa d’Este not just in terms of design but also in terms of materials.
Tivoli has a few other spots of interest to the tourist — the Villa Gregoriana, a scenic park with a waterfall and the ruins of the Roman sanctuary to Hercules Victor, amongst many others. One can spend an entire day discovering in the city. But then, it’s time for us to take the bus back to Rome.