Sunny Days Saved for Villas

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I just found out the other day that winter is Rome’s rainy season. So a little word of advice…BRING AN UMBRELLA EVERYWHERE YOU GO! For at least three weeks now, it has rained every single day. The weather ranges from cloudy, potentially threatening days, to the in-between drizzle (“Is this enough rain for an umbrella or should I throw on the hood?”) to a completely drenching downpour. Aside from the gray sky, you never know what you’re going to get, so make like a boy scout and always be prepared! Apparently, however, this season’s precipitation is more than the usual amount for the area, as it’s already caused water damage along the Tiber River and flooded some subway stops and closed highways. But even so, I guess 50 degrees and rain does beat being in the States where it’s 30 below and snowing, right?

So when last Thursday and Friday’s weather was 60 degrees and sunny, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend the entire day outdoors…even if that just meant sitting around. Sunny and clear days have been such a rarity! The view from the observatory overlooking the Piazza del Popolo on Thursday was breathtaking. A friend and I spent maybe three hours sitting there and on the Spanish Steps just soaking in the sun.

View from the top of the Piazza del Popolo on a sunny day.

View from the top of the Piazza del Popolo on a sunny day.

And fortunately, the beautiful weather continued into Friday for my History of Art in Rome class’ excursion to Tivoli. We left from the Residence at around 9am and after about an hour’s drive, arrived at Hadrian’s Villa. Emperor Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from 117-138 AD during the Golden Age. Villas during the time period were known for their panoramic views, lavish art (Hadrian was a world traveller and was especially interested in Hellenistic art), gardens, and vaulted sub-structures to accommodate the uneven, hilly terrain. They were built for scenic and luxurious social or private purposes, such as for dinners or hot baths. Hadrian’s Villa in particular was built as a sort of getaway retreat for himself. It was absolutely beautiful as it still stands today, so I can’t even imagine how magnificent it looked in its heyday 1800 years ago. We walked through the Poecile, the Small Circular Temple, Vestibule, Canopus, Golden Square, Thermae, Greek and Latin Libraries (which were really dining halls), and the Villa of the Island. The architecture and art design of the villa was primarily Greek influenced, like the Doric columns from 5th Century Greece that lined the Small Circular Temple, but there were also other cultural influences, like an Egyptian Nile crocodile statue, which really showcased Hadrian’s travel. The villa was also built to showcase sunlight during different hours of the day and had many moats and water structures. Everything was so peaceful and lush; it was the perfect day to visit!IMG_0675IMG_0738

After Hadrian’s Villa, we visited Villa d’Este, which was built around 1572 in the Renaissance period by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, and modeled after Hadrian’s Villa; many of the relics from Hadrian’s were actually moved there. Villa d’Este, though only 500 years old (just in comparison to 1800), was AMAZING. It’s been well preserved, so all of the statues and fountains remain today and are nestled in an elaborate and plush terraced garden. The water network is remarkable, reviving Roman hydraulic engineering techniques, like water pressure and gravity. It was hard to capture the magnificence and romanticism of the entire villa in pictures…and I’m having trouble even expressing its beauty in words!

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We really lucked out with such a nice day in Tivoli. The views in the villas would definitely not have been so gorgeous had it been raining. Looking at the weather for the rest of the week now, Rome is back to its typical showery days. I guess I’ll just have to wait in anticipation for another occasional, but much appreciated, sunny day.

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