More Watery Landscapes in Tivoli : The Villa D’Este and The Villa Gregoriana

Perhaps the most famous location in the town of Tivoli itself is the Garden of the Villa D’Este. The sun was shining on my last day at Sant’ Antonio and I decided that I would visit the garden and that of the nearby Villa Gregoriana.

Vd'este 1

Thursday 19 March just happened to be St Joseph’s Day (Father’s Day) and a big celebration filled the town centre of Tivoli. Was this the reason why the Gardens of the Villas D’Este and Gregoriana were practically deserted that morning? Anyway, it was very pleasant to have the gardens virtually to myself.

v d'este2

Cardinal Hippolyte D’Este (1509-1572) became governor of Tivoli and set about establishing a garden. Today it’s approached from the house but originally the entrance was at the bottom of the garden and visitors slowly climbed the hill to take in the wonders of the garden. Upon reaching the top, where the Cardinal would be waiting, you’d be in a ‘sense of breathless awe’. (According to Monty Don in the 2011 series of BBC programmes visiting Italian Gardens).

d'este gardens view

The View from the Villa

D’Este had great wealth but the one thing he wanted above all was to be Pope. He failed in 1549. So he demolished streets and had water brought to the site by a sophisticated method from a nearby aqueduct. All the water still comes from this same source and using the same methods. No pumps are used and the whole is still powered by pressure. The speed and movement of the water are still controlled by different sized pipes and spouts.

V d'este 3

The whole estate took 20 years to construct during which time the Cardinal made 5 attempts to become Pope. Here “Rometta” is his model of Rome – he never did achieve his goal. Here is an expression of power built to impress. But he ran up huge debts: the whole project is said to have cost the equivalent of £100 million in today’s money.

fontana di rometta

Fontana di Rometta

100 fountains

The 100 Fountains – they have the same rhythm and sound as you walk along beside them

pegasus fountain

Pegasus Fountain

Organ fountain

The Organ Fountain Plays Every Two Hours on the Half Hour

It’s a wonderful theatrical performance full of drama and excitement; entertainment and playfulness with surprises and jokes. In addition to the gardens you can visit the mansion atop the hill the mansion is open too – room after room of breath-taking painted ceilings but little else. Like Hadrian’s Villa the Villa D’Este is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I spent over two hours wandering around the gardens and house but felt the call of the Villa Greogoriana and, ultimately, Sant’ Antonio.

VG Grand Cascade

The Grand Cascade

Cascade from window

The Grand Cascade from my window at Sant’ Antonio

The Park of the Villa Gregoriana, for the Villa itself is no more, fills both sides of a wooded gorge where the waters of the River Aniene spill over precipices and lie still in pools in the valley bottom, is perhaps my favourite of the three gardens of Tivoli. Much of it, including the huge waterfall, can be seen from Sant’ Antonio and it appears more natural and less planned than the other two. Sant’ Antonio can be seen from the park.

SA view info

SA view

Sant’ Antonio from the Villa Gregoriana

If you ever plan to visit be sure to wear strong, rubber-soled walking shoes as the paths and steps are uneven and slippery when wet and take your National Trust card with you, if you’re a member. Entry is free to NT members. The FAI in Italy aims to preserve Italy’s art, nature and landscape and has reciprocal arrangements with our National Trust.

Remains of VG

Remains of the Villa of Manlius Vopiscus

Inside the ruins

Roman Wall inside the Villa remains

The park was commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI to rebuild the bed of the Aniene River, which had been damaged by the terrible flood of 1826. It had fallen into rack and ruin by the end of the 20th century, but has been reopened to the public in 2005 thanks to a major landscape recovery project orchestrated by FAI, the Italian National Trust.

It was in 1835, after the Aniene River had burst its banks yet again, that Pope Gregory XVI decided to transform this enchanting but extremely dangerous location into a model of integration between art and nature. The project saw a tunnel being dug through Mount Catillo in order to deviate the river and thus preserve the town of Tivoli. This was then followed by the construction of an extraordinary natural garden dominated by the acropolis with Vesta and Tiburno’s Temples.

As you walk through the thick woodland of Parco Villa Gregoriana you will discover the delightful combination of the majestic landscape and the tranquillity of the paths that meander through it. En route, you will get to the caves of Neptune and of the Sirens, which form part of an incredible series of gorges and cascades, and to the Great Waterfall, with its whirling mass of water that seems to fall directly onto those who stand and gaze at it.”

cave of sirens

The Cave of the Sirens

Valley of Hell upper viewpt

valley of hell 2

valley of hell 3

valley of hell 4

Views of the Valley of Hell from Upper Viewpoints

According to the leaflet/map guide to the gardens “Goethe was among those who were amazed by the area. ‘I was recently in Tivoli, where I admired a breathtaking natural spectacle. The sight of the waterfall there, along with the ruins and the whole landscape, greatly enriches the soul’. Goethe visited during the heyday of the Grand Tour, when Italy was the destination of choice for upper-class travellers from all across Europe, affording them and unrivalled classical education.” And this was long before Pope Gregory XVI’s re-creation of the original garden.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Goethe’s Italian Journey

Probably my favourite of the museums and locations I’ve visited in Rome on previous trips is the Keats-Shelley Museum by the Spanish Steps. It’s a quiet oasis of 18th century England amidst the crowds of tourists milling around the Piazza di Spagna. It’s a few years since I was there and I didn’t repeat the visit on this recent trip.

K S House

Keats Shelley House, Rome, on Second Floor with Landmark Trust Apartment Above

Spanish Steps in March

Crowds on the Spanish Steps – in early March

Babbingtons

Babington’s English Tea Room by the Spanish Steps

But I did discover the existence of the Casa di Goethe in my LV Guide Bari, Milan, Naples, Rome 2012. So my final port of call in the City of Rome itself (after fortification at Canova) was a visit to the Casa di Goethe on the Via del Corso nearby. I wrote a little bit about Goethe earlier this year. Here is another place of peace and calm and amazingly right on the Via Del Corso.

via del corso

In September 1786, Goethe started out on the longest journey of his life. He was 37 when he achieved his dream of visiting Italy. He later wrote in his journal “Italienische Reise”, that he had spent the happiest period of his life there. On his arrival in Rome he stayed on the Via del Corso with his painter friend Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, scion of a dynasty of renowned artists. This huge apartment, which gives onto the Piazza Del Popolo, is still redolent of Goethe’s time here during his Grand Tour of 18th-century Italy. It has superbly painted coffered ceilings which are set off by the white of the walls. On display are writings, letters, annotations, and drawings, as well as the paintings of his friend Tischbein.

g in roman countryside

The most famous of them, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, was painted on this very spot in 1787, although the version seen here is only a copy, the original being in the Staedelsches Kunstmuseum in Frankfurt. It never fails to impress all the same. This sumptuous collection of artworks and documentary material gives us an idea of what the journey to Italy meant at the time for artists and cultivated travellers. The Casa di Goethe also offers temporary exhibitions that encourage German-Italian cultural relations. By appointment it’s possible to visit the Library which holds a number of first editions of Goethe’s work.” [LV Guide Rome 2012]

welcome

Welcome to the Casa!

This is the only German Museum on foreign soil and it was opened to the public in 1997 with support of the German Government and German cultural associations. Regular events are held here – readings, lectures, conferences, discussions and concerts – followed by gatherings and discussions in the library over a glass of wine. The Museum is also able to offer scholarships (sponsored by DaimlerChrysler) to literary figures, publishers, scientists, translators, and artists, allowing them to spend a few months in Rome collecting ideas and inspiration for their own work or finishing off projects. The work doesn’t have to be related to Goethe.

library

Goethe Library in Rome

The first few rooms are dedicated to the temporary exhibitions; currently Thomas Mann and his Italian novella Mario and the Magician. Displays relate to the historical and political background as it was written during the rise of Nazism and Fascism. The notes were all in German and as time was tight I didn’t spend much time in these rooms but moved on to the rooms occupied by Goethe at the front of the building.

ceiling 1

ceiling 2

ceiling 3

ceiling 4

Painted Coffered Ceilings

The restored painted wooden ceilings, which date back to Goethe’s time, contrast well with the pale walls which show off the displays and pictures. No furniture or furnishings dating back to Goethe’s time here. To me they are reminiscent of Swiss and German chalet decorations.

I was glad that I bought the excellent illustrated guide book. The first section, as in the rooms themselves, tells the story of Goethe’s time in Rome and Italy. There then follow pages of quotations by Goethe himself from his letters and his journal Italian Journey and by his friends and colleagues. Many of these quotations also accompany the room displays.

cast of jupiter

“I could not resist buying the cast of a colossal head of Jupiter . It now stands in a good light facing my bed, so that I can say prayers to him the first thing in the morning.” (Italian journey 25 December 1786

Piranesi print

Piranesi Print of the Caius Cestius Pyramid

“Water pipes, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, the stadium, temples! And then the palaces of the Ceasars , the graves of the great – with these images I have fed and strengthened my mind.” to Carl Ludwig von Knebel 17 November 1786

bust by trippel

1787 bust of J. W. v. Goethe by Alexander Trippel

In goethe's room

Goethe’s Room

G at window

Tischbein ‘s watercolour of Goethe at the window

1991 and 1992 were excellent years for the acquisition of many Goethe related papers, books and artefacts by the Casa including the Andy Warhol iconic contemporary adaptation of Tischbein ‘s portrait. Also some autographs of Goethe’s including a letter card written in his own hand and giving his rome address and the Goethe library of publisher Richard Dorn.

Warhol

Screen Print and Acrylic on Linen 1982

At the very end of the guide book is a list of museums and memorials to Goethe in both Italy and in Germany. Amongst those listed is the grave of his son, August, in the Protestant Cemetery. Interestingly, even though he was an adult at death his father arranged for the following to be inscribed on his gravestone.

GOETHE FILIVS / PATRI / ANTEVERTENS / Obiit / Annor [VM] XL / MDCCCXXX (Goethe’s son / father / above / died / 40 years / 1830)

August Goethe

 

 

Germany : Memories of a Nation

Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading the book of this title that accompanied the British Museum exhibition of the same name and the series of BBC Radio 4 talks by its author (and British Museum director), Neil MacGregor.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/past_exhibitions/2014/germany_memories_of_a_nation.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dwbwz

Memories of a nation

It’s a weighty hardback book, nearly six hundred pages long and with masses of photos and maps. There are 30 chapters. This is no conventional history of Germany. Instead, MacGregor chooses to focus (as he did in his ground-breaking History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition, talks and book which  has generated umpteen spin-offs) on objects and pictures which he feels relate to a “German history [which] may be inherently fragmented, but … contains a large number of widely shared memories, awarenesses and experiences”. Quotations here are all taken from the book.

8 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Each of the chapters was absorbing but several held particular interest for me. I studied German for four years at school to A-level and have visited Germany a few times. So when I read the chapter “One Nation under Goethe” I was straightaway reminded of his “Urfaust” (the earliest form of his Faust work) which we studied for A-level. But most of the chapter presented a picture of the German equivalent of William Shakespeare which I did not recognise.

Goethe and Faust

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Johann Tischbein and my 1968 edition of Faust Part One

The object  MacGregor focuses on is the Tischbein portrait of Goethe (1786-7) which shows the playwright (and polymath) in a classical setting “out of these survivors of a dead culture, Goethe will make something living”. Interestingly, for his fourth birthday Goethe was given, by his father, a toy puppet theatre which can still be seen today in his birthplace museum in Frankfurt. Goethe later wrote that this gift was to change his life. He was to become especially interested in Shakespeare and it was the influence of his (Shakespeare’s) writing that led Goethe to write his first work “The Sorrows of Young Werther“. MacGregor declares “Werther established German for the first time as a European literary language”.

17 An artist for all Germans

Durer self portrait

Self-Portrait – Albrecht Durer (1500)

The artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) created the first and possibly the most celebrated logo of all German logos. I remembered visiting the British Museum as a student to see The Graphic Work of Albrecht Durer in late 1971 or early 1972. This was an exhibition of Durer’s prints and drawings in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth. I remember seeing his Praying Hands drawing and Young Hare etching in a beautiful dark room where only the pictures were lit. More recently I visited a show of his work at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on Merseyside, ‘Durer and Italy’, in the summer of 2010.

knight in armour

20 Cradle of Modernism

weimar_bauhaus_bassinet_large

 [source]

The cradle in question was designed by Peter Keler in 1922 and is still in production today and the modernist movement with which chapter 20 is concerned is Bauhaus. Elegant and simple sums up Bauhaus design established in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Inspired by historic German values it was to “combine the medieval-guild traditions of communal working with the most rigorous principles of modern design and the enormous potential of industrial production”. Funding for the Bauhaus was cut in 1924 when the Social Democrats lost power in Thuringia. In 1925 it moved to Dessau. Although intending to be apolitical, when the Nazis took control of Dessau the Bauhaus moved again and to Berlin but was finally closed in 1933 when it had been “condemned by the Nazis as a centre of cultural Bolshevism”. There is now a Bauhaus Archive in Berlin which I have seen from a tour boat but not yet visited (it’s on my list!).

bauhaus archive

 Bauhaus Archive, Berlin

22 The Suffering Witness

Neue Wache

Here is my photo (2009) of the Neue Wache or “New Guard House” built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Berlin. The sculpture is an enlarged version of “Mother with her dead son” by Kaethe Kollwitz. The light is from the oculus in the roof. The memorial to the fallen of the war lies directly under the oculus exposed to all the Berlin weather.

mother and son

In this chapter MacGregor talks about the life and work of the sculptor and printmaker Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945). The sculpture above, within the Neue Wache, was chosen by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1993 as a “memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny” to be placed in this “austere neo-classical building in the heart of Berlin”.

I also recommend the chapters on Gutenberg (16 In the Beginning was the Printer); on the Hanseatic city-states (13 The Baltic Brothers) and on beer and sausages (10 One People, Many Sausages)!