Adventures in Tivoli 2: the Villa Adriana

So the first part of the busy, busy trip to Tivoli was the adventures in the Villa Gregoriana to see ridiculous waterfalls. The second part of the day (after a gigantic and delicious lunch!) was to visit the Villa Adriana, or Hadrian’s Villa as we say in the ol’English. Hadrian’s villa is gorgeous, a sprawling park of ruins and olive trees and more ruins. It also unfortunately is a bit of a hike to get to if you don’t have a car, but a long walk never stopped anybody! (Except for all of the times that it does). Since I’m not a classicist, ruins are usually just piles of rocks to me, but they certainly are picturesque:

baths? or something?

The grounds of the Villa Adriana are huge and though the remnants of theaters and fire stations (no joke!) and libraries are fascinating, the Canopus is really the most exciting part, which is a series of columns and sculptures around a pool, also including a sculpted crocodile:

watch out for the cocodrillo!
from the other side

The ways that Classical (and Renaissance/Baroque) villas use water is truly astonishing. Whether it’s in lovely reflecting pools like the one above, or this one:


it’s clear when you visit these places that water, moving or still, is an essential, maybe the most essential, element of the whole construction; which is probably either implicitly or even explicitly linked to the necessity/control of water for political dominance. Or maybe it’s just something in the psyche of Italians, who, after all, live on a huge peninsula. Anyways, while the pools, and sculptures, and ruins were lovely, what struck my fancy most of all was the olive trees. The villa is practically overrun by olive trees. And since it’s getting into fall, the silvery leaves of the trees were heavily interspersed with the little greenish to purplish ovoids that will be harvested in the next few weeks. However, the olive trees at the villa didn’t seem like they were being cultivated and that they were generally left to their own devices:

too many olives!!
hugely too tall!!

I also saw a number of trees which demonstrate the immortality of olives. This tree, which is a bit hard to see in the photo (I know so little about photography, but I do know that the light was not great for photos that afternoon) was barely holding onto the ground and it had more holes in its trunk than actual trunk, but the leaves and the olives still were growing:

look at the holes!!

It was poetically fitting, the wildly growing olive trees amongst the ruins; because like the stones of ancient buildings, olives endure.




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