We did it! We finally went on an outing in the car. After my indecision and the dead car battery kept us from any exotic long weekend plans, we decided to do a day trip on Columbus Day to Tivoli. Villa D’Est is closed on Mondays, but we could still hit Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana). Armed with the freshly-recharged car battery, a haphazard picnic, the umbrella stroller, and the lillebaby, we set off around 9:30 am. Adventure ho!
Have I mentioned our car before? It’s a 2003 Audi station wagon. Very low mileage because it used to be the Irish Ambassador’s to the Vatican. (Or something like that.) Instead of shipping a car, we bought it here right before we came. This one is already “lightly Romanized.” No need to put that many dinks and scratches on our beloved Passat we decided.
Even though it is a station wagon, the car is definitely not huge. Poor Henry doesn’t have quite the foot room he deserves sitting behind James. He’s stuck there though because Mac’s rear-facing car seat only has a chance of fitting behind me.
James insisted on purchasing a European GPS before we embarked on any journeys. He didn’t want our hands in the fate of sketchy data coverage on the Google maps. Fine by me. I’m not sure I plan on driving ever so whatever you need to make this happen, Little Mister, is ok with me.
The GPS said it would take us about 30 minutes. It was about an hour. Traffic reaffirmed my desire never to drive here ever. And it wasn’t just the other drivers. There really aren’t lanes. It isn’t even a question of whether there are two or three lanes, but also not knowing where the center dividing line is. Fun!
After navigating the roads out of town and the Autostrade, the GPS tried to lead us astray. Thankfully, following the Italian road signs actually worked out. After some maneuvering, we found the parking lot. We noticed some white tents to the side of the parking lot. I think I said something like “oh, cool, a market, we’ll have to check that out later.” (Foreshadowing: not a market.)
Tickets were a little pricey. 11 euro for adults plus 3 more for parking, but at least kids were free. We made it up what felt like a never ending hill and then there we were. You could see the wall. Of course, we did a quick diaper change before heading in. #placesmysonsjunkhasbeen
Apparently Villa Adriana is the OG Versailles. Warning: liberal paraphrasing ahead. It seems that Hadrian decided Rome was too stinky and gross so he built his own place outside town and then just posted up there permanently. And it is quite the place. 400 acres. We barely scratched the surface, and that is only of what has already been excavated.
One of the better preserved areas we saw was the Canopus. Apparently Hadrian put a bunch of copies of things he’d seen on his travels and conquests.
I spent a good bit of time just trying to picture what it must have been like back in the day. Orchards in bloom, people clustered around doing whatever they did, servants scurrying. I’m pretty bad at picturing, but you could tell it was an impressive place. I did note that it was pretty much 85 in mid-October. So everyone I pictured was pretty sweaty.
We struggled mightily with the how much to push question. I paid my 25 euros. I came all the way here. I wanted to see things, darnit! Henry, however, wanted to roll his car in the dirt. And slide down a hill on pine needles. And the lizards that were EVERYWHERE. After lugging the stroller up too many stairs and wishing we had more food, we were stick-a-fork-in-it done. The kids both passed out on the way to the car. I was looking forward to checking out that market and the picnic in the car.
On the long walk back to the car, we noticed that an area was closed off for “cinema” something or other. There were an awful lot of vehicles over that way. Then we saw dudes on horses. In full Roman soldier regalia. And we heard a director yelling something in English.
So that “market” we saw was the makeshift production village. They had trailers and people with costumes. People eating in a shaded mess area and generally taunting our stomachs. Animals such as donkeys and goats; location of PETA representative unknown. We just sort of wandered through. Nobody told us to get out. Or really seemed to notice us at all for that matter.
Sadly, I can’t tell you what was filming. I really wish I could. It’s not because we were sworn to secrecy. I just don’t know! I’ve tried my hardest (read: light Googling), but I can’t find anything. It could be a local Italian TV show or the next summer blockbuster. I should have spent more time looking for names on trailer doors! Stay tuned for more adventures by car that are mandatory to keep the battery charged.