Every time I go back in Rome I end up visiting Tivoli and at least one of its three amazing attractions: Villa Adriana, Villa d'Este and Villa Gregoriana.
A rural Roman complex, an impressive Renaissance Villa and a naturalistic park in the "Romantic style" with a tall waterfall and lush vegetation. Three not to be missed spots that would make Tivoli a must visit destination in any country, but not in Italy given the proximity to the more highlighted Rome. Can you imagine that the first two are even in the UNESCO heritage list?
Tivoli is about 30km far from Rome, but well connected by cheap and frequent trains. Plus the first Sunday of the month the entrance to Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este is free for all (as of January 2019).
So the first Sunday of January, an icy morning for Roman standards, I just grabbed my bicycle and pedaled towards Villa Adriana.
In less than two hours I was there to enjoy this historical site kissed by the winter sun. Hadrian's Villa was build during the reign of Emperor Hadrian in the II century A.C. as his rural residence and it was filled with fountains, artificial water basins, thermal baths and suburban walks.
Probably it's not the best preserved Roman settlement you cans see nowadays, compared to Pompei or Ostia Antica, but they are also really different, since the former two were fully functional cities with private residences, and any kind of service.
But Villa Adriana has some unique features you can't find in other Roman archeological sites: the relation with nature, with many olive trees filling every empty space in between ruins, and the predominant role of water and reflections in the artificial lakes.
If you look closely while exploring Villa Adriana, it is still possible to admire the heating system used to warm up the water of the thermal baths, with burning chambers, water canals and ducts.
Unfortunately most of the sculptures that were adorning this suburban villa are distributed in museums around the globe, sometimes replaced by concrete copies, taking out a bit of its beauty.
Considering it was a winter day, it didn't take long until the sun started to set. The landscape became even more attractive with a low reddish light infiltrating through the olive branches. I was really grateful for this day and to be able to enjoy this place. I still got 5 full hours to roam around, but I had no time left to visit again also Villa d'Este and Villa Gregoriana as I was originally planning. But even the five hours spent inside Villa Adriana in Tivoli, were well worth the effort of pedaling 60km back and forth from Rome!