I'm a male, 41 from UK, first time in Rome, going solo and staying at the Hotel Miani on Via Nazionale near Repubbica Sq for 6 nights
DAY 5 – Final (Full) Day – Tivoli and Villa Gregoriana
Today I’ve decided to go another day trip to Tivoli and the Villa d’est and time permitting Hadrian’s Villa or whatever else I come across in Tivoli.
I saw the Villa d’est featured on the BBC TV programme ‘Francesco’s Italy’ recently and was very impressed.
Again I take the recommended route…
Metro B (P Mammola) > Cotral Bus to Tivoli Main Square
Just to recap, that you have to buy a separate bus ticket for the Cotral Buses (Still have to stamp ‘em on board). The price was 1.60 euros for a single trip, so you may as well buy two (one for the return trip).
I had a little problem in finding the bus and had to ask a bus driver. It’s quite a big bus station with three large bays and on two levels.
As you exit the ticket office go left and up the escalator to the next floor up and the bus was on the right. I didn’t see the number but I asked the passengers on board to re-confirm it.
Fortunately I had a couple of sweet old English ladies sat in front of me who were also going to the villa.
The journey takes a good 45 mins and again it’s not very scenic until you hit the hills.
More grim blocks of flats and graffiti. Again hardly a single house enroute.
The Villa d’est is pretty much how I expected it. There are some beautiful, ornate fountains and water features and a few surprises, which I won’t spoil. It was also fairly cool with the water (albeit waste water!) and shade with the trees (YES, it was another baking hot day out in the open!)
TIP: I have found that it’s best not to get too much detail and research about some of the places you intend to visit. Yes, get the main details like directions, cost, opening times etc but not too much else as it would spoil some of the surprises (this was the same at the Capitoline museum as well as Ostia and now Tivoli which to me all had several surprises).
There are also some excellent views from the villa and lots of photo opps (WOW1).
DON’T drink the water in the fountains or even splash in it or at someone in jest, as it’s basically sewage water. There is however the usual drinking water taps in the gardens which are clearly labelled.
A wonderful place and well worth a visit. Highly recommended.
The café was the usual pre-heated affair and separate lines for tea & coffee.
There’s a lovely terrace to eat on and at no extra charge as its self service (BLISS!)
Burger, wedges and my usual afternoon fix of tea all came to a reasonable 8 euros (ish)
One thing I’ll say about the toilets at all these places I’ve visited is that they’ve all been clean and that goes for the cafes and bars I frequented in Rome.
It’s now about 2.00pm and I’m debating on spending my last afternoon back in the Rome centre or exploring Tivoli a bit more. I feel it’s a bit late to visit Villa Adriana, so I’ll leave that until I come again (next year?).
I visit the Information Centre and the girl recommends the Villa Gregoriana (a UNESCO Heritage site) which she says is only a short walk away. I must admit that I hadn’t heard of this place and it doesn’t seem to get much of a mention in any of my guide books ore even the numerous web pages I have visited.
She gives me a town map (essential) and some bumph which are all in Italian as they were out of UK versions!
Also there’s a lovely big castle just up from the main square similar to the one at Ostia but again it’s CLOSED! I must bring my ‘siege ladders’ next time I come for these castles ;)
The walk though the Tivoli old town is quite pleasant. There’s some really old medieval (?) buildings, the usual cobbled streets, small piazzas, old church etc, marred only by blackened, pollution and graffiti walls (AGAIN!)
Some 15 mins later I eventually come out of the old town and over a bridge spanning a valley.
To the left is a ruin of an old round Roman temple which is fairly well intact
I cross the road bridge which has a very narrow foot path and follow the road signs and map and the entrance to Villa Gregoriana is just left of the roundabout.
There’s a small entrance fee (can’t remember exactly how much, about 6 euros)
Now from the Italian bumph I had on the place, I didn’t really know what to expect (a blessing in disguise) there was just a few photos of some greenery, caves and some waterfalls.
***SPOLIER ALERT Villa Gregoriana - DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING SECTION IF LIKE ME YOU WANT TO DISCOVER IT FOR YOURSELF ******
It is well worth doing but be warned there is a LOT of hard uphill walking along the way.
Take plenty of water as I don’t think I came across any drinking water taps. But it is mostly shaded and cool on the route.
At first there’s a lot of welcome shady trees obscuring your view and it’s not until you come to the first view point where you will be greeted with the most wonderful view of a HUGE valley and a man made water fall just below (WOW2). I think the valley is more commonly (ominously!) known as the ‘Valley of Death’ and it’s over 500ft in depth.
On I venture down the path which has various junctions that are well signed that allow you to slightly veer off to other vantage points, but you will always come back to the main path.
It’s not until you get a little way down after the trees have cleared a little that you are greeted with a spectacular view of the valley below. Opposite on top of the valley you can see the temple I mentioned earlier. On the same side, further down there is what looks like carved out caves in the hillside. To the left is another (man made) waterfall, there are various paths and vantage points dotted about all over. It wouldn’t look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie AND at the bottom which is a VERY LONG, LONG way down (quite sheer) are not ants, but tiny dots of people walking about in different spots!!
MY GOD that’s a long way down and not only do I have to get down there (the easy bit), I also will have to get back up again (the hard bit!).
This part is more of a deep gorge than a valley.
On I venture taking in more views from different vantage points where you get to see ‘hidden’ parts of the valley from different angles. Although I did take plenty of photos, it was difficult to capture the sheer (literally) size and depth of the valley.
I eventually get to the bottom and the noise of the waterfall is now thunderous. There are a few grottos (‘Mermaid’ and ‘Neptune’) that take you even closer still. The temple at the top now looks further away than ever.
After a long rest and a bit of a chat with some school teachers on a field trip we all make our way up, which we’re now on the opposite side of the valley so it’s a different path and the temple on top of the hill is the goal.
Along the way you eventually come across the caves I saw near the beginning. It’s actually a tunnel carved in the side of the cliff where you walk through and can peer though the ‘caves’ I saw into the valley.
Eventually you arrive at the top to a VERY welcome café. The temple is right next door which you can walk around. There is also a restaurant right next to it which with the views would make for an excellent evening meal on the terrace.
The route up wasn’t as bad as it looks. I think the path gradients have been designed just right. It is tiring, but if I can do it!
There were quite a few school kids around who seemed to find it all a breeze!
I wouldn’t like to come if it’s raining as it could make it a bit treacherous.
I had one last look into the valley from the temple with an immense feeling of satisfaction and wondering how on earth I managed the long, yet VERY enjoyable trek.
Note, You can start and exit the villa at either side, but I recommend you take the route I did as you will have that superb temple and café as your goal and to spur you on, where as the other end (where I started), there doesn’t seem to be anything other than a road!
It was pure luck that I started where I did.
When you exit at the temple end, just bear left and you’re back on track through the old town again. Take the same windy road back to the main square.
**** SPOILER END ****
The bus back is opposite to where you got off although there doesn’t seem to be any ‘Cotral’ signs.
I eventually get back around 7.00 pm and so it’s been a LONG but VERY enjoyable day.
I really feel like I’ve been on an ‘adventure into the unknown’. One of the best (and most tiring) days of the week.
In the evening I get a bus to Piazza Navona and this turns out to be the most enjoyable evening of the week too.
As my legs are tired from the day’s trek I decide just to hang around here for the evening and the street entertainers are on top form tonight.
First as you enter the square there is a human statue like I have never seen before. He has a business suit on briefcase, wind swept hair (with gel) and his suit and tie look like they are flowing in the wind (with the aid of metal wire). He’s in a stride position as if he’s late for work and has a huge white smile on his face. And every time someone puts some money in his point his eyebrows go up and down above his shades. Absolutely hilarious. Needless to say he must have made a pretty penny, which I gave him a couple of euros and took a few pics of him.
There was also a group singing Dire Straits, a hilarious mime artist, a male singer singing Nessa Dorma, a woman with a guitar singing in Italian, some superb ‘break dancers’ dancing on their hands in perfect unison and another human statue as an Egyptian sarcophagus.
What a fantastic evening (apart from the awful ice cream I had from the square, can’t remember the name of the shop but there was a big queues).
I hardly sat down all evening though watching the street entertainers. (WOW3)
Well that was it, I fly back in the morning yet there is so much more I want to see and see again…’A lifetime is not enough’
No doubt I’ll probably be back next year as there are still several places I didn’t get to see…
Travestere, Villa Borghese, morning markets, Pompeii, Castel St Angelo, sample the food more, several churches, museums & ruins etc etc.
I would definitely come when it’s cooler and now that I am more familiar and confident with the public transport then being dead central is not that as essential. I think my hotel (‘Miami) although not in the main centre, it had several bus stops right outside, a metro station just up the road and was within walking distance of the Termini station.
I booked at the last minute so was a bit restricted on where I could stay and when!
I would also get a full Sunday in to make use of the peaceful traffic restrictions.
I would also rent audio guides or maybe join the odd tour group, none of which I did.
Also it would be nice to come back with somebody else to share the moments with, but all in all I had a fantastic time, even though I went alone. There was never a dull moment (apart from the evening at the Piazza del Popolo) and there was so much to see and do I was hardly in my hotel room.
Feel free to ask any questions.
When I got back I had recorded the movie A Dolce Vita on TV whilst I was away which I watched with interest. Also, the following week the channel ‘UK History’ had a ‘Roman week’ showing all sorts of docs/dramas on the Roman empire, Colosseum, Pompeii etc, which was VERY interesting and I wouldn’t have given it all a second thought had I not just been to Rome. I only wish I watched it BEFORE I went, as it would have made sense of a lot of the things I saw.