Friday, November 5, 2010

Villa Gregoriana - Tivoli, Italy

View of the Temples of Vesta and Tiburnus
View of the Temples of Vesta and Tiburnus

The first thing to know about Villa Gregoriana is that there isn’t really a villa there. Just wanted to clear that up because we went there expecting that. Silly tourists we are! There was a Roman villa at one time located there and now you visit only some of the basement and foundation. The real attraction of the ‘villa’ is the surrounding park area and the water features. Both the diverted Aniene River and the Bernini Waterfall or Stipa canal (Cascata del Bernini o Canale della Stipa) flow through the park's lush gorge setting. 

The Aniene River was diverted through nearby Mount Catillo in the 1800s to spare Tivoli from further devastating floods. Those diversion tunnels are called the Gregorian Tunnels (or Cunicoli Gregoriani) and you can only currently get a look at them whereas at one time it looks like you could walk into them. The tunnels are so named because the project was authorized and financed by Pope Gregory XVI who, in 1835, watched the opening of the waterfall. The old river bed and the gorge it flowed through are essence of the Villa Gregoriana park. In the course of the old river bed, the other water feature of the park, the Bernini waterfall, flows. This water flows briefly underground creating a natural bridge called the Ponto Lupo Clearing.

We entered Villa Gregoriana at the Largo Sant’Angelo entrance of the park and exited at the Piazza Tempio di Vesta. Finding the entrances can be a little tricky. The attached brochure shows all the itineraries. We especially enjoyed the Grotta della Sirene, Grotta di Nettuno, and the Miollis Tunnel. The later was created in 1809 by the French General Miollis, then governor of Rome, to create an easy access point for visitors to the Grotta di Nettuno. The tunnel/gallery features windows carved out of the stone. Very civilized. For our visit we purchased the audioguide and were very happy with the information. The audioguide often plays clips of classical music by composers inspired by Villa Gregoriana – great for invoking a mood. 

The villa was a key stop as part of the Grand Tour. Staying in Tivoli center – which is compact – you can easily walk to Villa Gregoriana which is located on the northeast side of Tivoli. Since we were staying in Tivoli (at the Bed & Breakfast Palazzo Maggiore) this was a nice walking day for us. We visited Villa Gregoriana in the morning, ate lunch, and visited Villa D’Este in the afternoon and felt that was a pretty good pace. For places to eat in Tivoli, see the entry on Villa D’Este. 

Villa Gregoriana Brochure
Villa Adriana Brochure Villa Adriana Brochure Villa Adriana Brochure Villa Adriana Brochure

Temple of Vesta, Up Close and From a Distance

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