europe, italy, Rome

Rome Day 2: An Unexpected Change of Plans

Pop Pop and I had an unexpected turn of plans Saturday afternoon. After returning to our apartment from the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and St. Peter’s Square to pick up my things and leave for St. John’s University, I received a text from my program director. Apparently my class’ plane leaving John F. Kennedy Airport was delayed by four hours due to inclement weather, causing them to miss their connecting flight in Dublin. He soon texted me again explaining that they would arrive at St. John’s around 12:30 a.m. Pop Pop and I had just scored one more day together!


The new question: What should we do? After a bit of reading in a book Pop Pop found in the apartment, he suggested that we visit Tivoli, a town situated at Aniene River and the Sabine hills about 30 kilometers northeast of Rome. Apparently, it was easy to reach using public transportation. After two metro trains and a rickety bus, we arrived in Tivoli. We were a bit confused about where to go, but luckily the information booth was a few steps away from the bus stop. We received a map and were on our way to the main attraction, Villa d’Este.

View from Villa d’Este

Villa d’Este is a famous Italian villa and garden commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este in 1509. It is famous for its hillside terraced with gardens and water fountains of extravagant grandeur. The villa changed ownership a number of times after d’Este’s death and went into a periods of disrepair until Cardinal Allesandro d’Este (1605) and later Cardinal Gustav von Hohelohe (1851) launched programs to bring the villa back to its former spirit. The latest reconstructions came after the first and second world wars. It was astonishing to learn that the intricate fountains have been running naturally with gravity for about 500 years. At the end of our visit, we were treated to the beautiful music of a hydraulic organ playing at the Fountain of the Organ.

Fontana dell’Organo

When we were finished at Villa d’Este, we tried to visit the Roman amphitheater, but it was closed due to construction. Pop Pop expressed interest in seeing Villa Adriana, which was another bus ride away. I was blown away to find out there are multiple villas in Tivoli. Did rich people hundreds of years ago not have anything but time and money to build these magnificent places? We arrived at Villa Adriana and I was surprised to see it was much different than Villa d’Este. Villa Adriana is the ruins of a retreat built for the Holy Roman Emperor in the first century AD. I was in absolute astonishment to be walking through 2,000-year-old ruins. The villa is said to be as large as ancient Rome and one of the finest and largest examples of ancient Roman ruins. The grounds were beautiful and varied, with remains of apartments, banquet halls, columns, statues and more.

Ruins of Villa Adriana

I am so thankful I was able to see Tivoli, a town so close and important to Rome that I did not even know existed. After we finally arrived back in Rome, Pop Pop and I were tired, thirsty and ready to eat. We ate at the same great place as last night, 3Quarti, and had another lovely dinner. We headed back to out apartment so appreciative we got one more day together. We both turned in early to get some rest for the day I finally meet with my class.


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