Monday, November 16, 2015


I've had a few emails from friends wondering if I'm anywhere near Paris.  Just want to let everyone know that I'm safe in Rome.  But I'm grieving with the rest of the sane people in the world for the people of France who have lost family and friends in the brutal assault of the most lovely city in Europe.  

I haven't been posting anything on my blog for two reasons.  For one, I've been pretty busy with language school.  It's a very good school, and I'm learning a lot.  But my apartment isn't in the greatest neighborhood, and I've been told by women in the area that I shouldn't walk alone at night here.  I don't get out of school until 1 p.m., so by the time I walk a mile back to the apartment and have lunch, it's 2:30 p.m.  It takes about an hour round trip on public transportation to get into the Old City to sightsee or visit a museum, so that leaves little time for anything.  I've seen the major sights here on earlier visits, but I had a list of lesser known places that I hoped to have time to check out. Then there is the threat that other major cities in Europe will be ISIS targets, and that's enough to keep me in my obscure suburban neighborhood where I feel safe.

The other reason I haven't posted is that I can't figure out how to upload photos to my blog.  I was able to do this on my old PC, but now I have this beautiful new MacBook, and I haven't had time to go through the tutorial on how to use it.  I will eventually figure it out, but for now just don't have the time.  I'm going to ask one of the young students in my class for some help this week.  A blog post without pictures is pretty boring, I think.  

The language school I'm attending is a good one, and I'm learning a lot.  The classes are taught in Italian, and that's a challenge.  I'm having the new experience of being the slowest one in the class.  It's humbling, for sure.

I've connected with a couple people here through a social website called  I met a really interesting man who was both a sports and a travel writer for the Denver Post and then retired in Rome two years ago.  He's traveled to 100 countries and has some really interesting stories, as you might imagine.  I also met an interesting woman who was born in the Czech Republic, whose parents fled the country to Ethiopia as political refugees after WWII when the communists came into power.  After one of the earlier military coups in Ethiopia, her family was stripped of their passports and forced to leave that country also.  She lived in the States for a while and also in Rome a couple of times.  This Saturday, she's going to guide me around Ostia Antica, the location of the harbor city of ancient Rome.  So I'm making new friends, which is the most enjoyable part of traveling for me.

On Sunday, I'm going to visit my friends near Bari in the Puglia region of Italy for a week, and then at the end of the month I fly to ChiangMai, Thailand, to spend at least two months there.  These are places I've been before, so my posts won't be as frequent until I start to visit new places, but there will be a few.  SO STAY TUNED FOR MORE (WITH PHOTOS)!

Sunday, November 8, 2015


It's a good thing I bought a weeklong pass for transportation around Rome (which includes buses, trains and the subway),  because it took five trips on the metro for me to find my way to the train track that would take me to Tivoli, where I wanted to tour the beautiful Villa D'Este.  At the least, it was a good re-orientation to the metro and train systems in Italy. I actually remembered to validate my ticket before I got on the train. 

Tivoli is situated on the Aniene river, about 30 minutes to the east of Rome by train, in the Monti Tiburtini hills where the climate is fresher than Rome's. For this reason, the area was popular from ancient times onwards with Rome's moneyed classes, who built summer retreats in the area.  Modern Tivoli has around 50,000 inhabitants, and spreads out far beyond the crumblingly picturesque historical center. The fourth century BC town wall is still visible, as are temples from the second century BC.

When I arrived, I stopped at the train station bar to ask about a bus to the Villa.   There was an Austrian gentleman there asking the same question, and we were told it was an easy walk to the Villa.  We introduced ourselves and decided to venture out together.  Meet Ernst.

The Renaissance Villa d'Este was built in the 1550s for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, the son of Lucretia Borgia. Built over a Benedictine convent, the palace was intended for entertaining and contains lavishly frescoed reception rooms.  The frescoes are well maintained.  Here are some examples of frescoes that adorn the ceilings of the alcove windows overlooking the garden terrace.  

This unusual fresco was at the base of one of those alcoves.

 A small chapel was decorated frescoes all around and above.   

The main attraction for visitors, however, is the breathtaking garden. Designed to impress the Cardinal's guests, the Villa d'Este's gardens are composed almost exclusively of water features.  There are fountains of every description to dazzle the onlooker.  The centerpiece, the gigantic Water Organ Fountain, cascades down a huge drop, into quiet shady pools.

There were six of these large pools at the bottom of this fountain, and I would have been very content perching on the rim of one of them, soaking in the serenity of this beautiful water garden.

The detail on the Water Organ Fountain was amazing.  I thought these two fellows looked a lttle bored with their station.

Here are a few of the other fountains I especially liked.

The view from the garden of the town and surrounding countryside was pretty spectacular.

It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon away from the hustle/bustle of Rome.