By Jessica Helfond

It’s Week 3 of the program. Classes have picked up the pace, we’ve started getting comfortable navigating throughout Rome, and we have our first field trip of the week. This time, it’s to a different city: Tivoli. About an hour bus ride from Rome, this city sits in the hills, overlooking the Roman countryside. The goal for the day was to visit two villas: Villa Adriana, and Villa d’Este.

Our first stop was Villa Adriana. The massive villa is almost two thousand years old, and was built as a retreat for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. At the entrance, there’s a long pool that reaches all the way to the edge of a cliff. If you look out over the cliff, you can see all of the countryside between Tivoli and Rome, and even see St. Peter’s Basilica on the horizon. It’s no wonder that Emperor Hadrian wanted to build a retreat here. It’s a serene, remote location, far enough away from the chaos of Rome.

The majority of the rest of the villa was composed of the remains of what once was there. There were the remains of various buildings, from temples, to living quarters, and even to bathing areas. In one area, you could even see some of the original marble that the entire building was once covered in. It was a glimpse into the past at what once must have been an incredible building. It’s insane to think that the ancient Romans were capable of building an entire villa that is able to remain two thousand years later.

After visiting Villa Adriana, we drove a short distance to the other end of Tivoli, where we reached Villa d’Este. This villa is unlike any property I’ve seen before. Inside the villa, there is exceptional art on the ceilings and walls, but what this villa is really known for is its gardens. The gardens are terraced all down the hillside outside of the villa itself. However, what makes the gardens even more magnificent than the beautiful greenery is their fountains. The villa employed an extensive irrigation system that connected numerous extravagant fountains all throughout the property.

The fountains range from small to big, anywhere from a small stream out of a wall that you can drink from, to huge spouts of water that reach multiple stories in height. In the fountain pictured to the right, you could even walk up onto small terraces between the spouts of water that looked out onto the remainder of the property. The fountains were so extravagant, there was even one that could make music. As water flowed into the fountain, it ran through the different pipes of an organ, creating beautiful music that played in conjunction with the running water. It was exceptional, and something I couldn’t have even fathomed existing.

We finished our tour of the villa with one more incredible view, standing on a balcony overlooking the countryside between Tivoli and Rome. The day trip was full of unexpected beauty, and was the best way to kick off our second to last week in Rome.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/italian-rome/