Before I left the Rome area I wanted to visit Tivoli in the hills just to the east of Rome. There are two sights of note there, first of all the Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) which was a huge palace complex built in the 2nd century. It has been studied for some centuries and was one of the sources of classical architecture which the neoclassical architects of the Renaissance learnt from. To the untrained eye it is definitely just a ruin of brick walls, admittedly some of them very big, but the complex stretches over a huge site of 300 acres, and is surrounded by olive orchards .It is not particularly well interpreted for the visitor, apart from a model, but you can walk over the whole site , which has many huge parts of building still standing ,scattered around ,and to me it seemed as if you might be wandering over a 'romantic ruin' ,through the olive trees, almost as visitors on the grand tour must have done 300 years ago.
The second place I visited was the Villa D’Este , built by Cardinal D’Este in the mid-16th century, and particularly famous for its water garden. Some of the stone and statuary for this were actually taken from the Villa Adriana, although a form of crude archaeology and recording was also undertaken by the cardinal too. The Renaissance Villa itself is not in great repair, and is empty, but has many rooms colourfully decorated in relatively work-a-day 16th century frescos, which although no doubt interesting ,fell a bit flat on me after the Vatican. It is the water features and garden which make the villa famous, and is listed by Unesco as a world heritage site because of its huge influence on future garden design, through the Renaissance , and onwards. I had wondered about staying the night in Tivoli, but the town itself is not a particularly nice place. From a distance it seems to be an old hill town, but on drawing nearer the buildings on the hill turn out to be modern apartment blocks.
My trip to Tivoli was not without incident, as I fell foul of the Motorway toll system, like so many appear to do. The Rome ring road motorways are not tolled, so I joined the system without the need to pick up a ticket. As I approached the ticket barriers near Tivoli, at the start of the tolled section, and where I should have collected a ticket to continue, I instead decided to come off the motorway at that point and took the sliproad off to the right before the toll booths. This led down not to a way off the motorway but to another toll booth section, but only for those paying, not collecting tickets!. So I was stuck. I put on the flashers, while I wondered what to do. The last time ,some years ago ,in Portugal I went through a telepass channel by mistake(there is no barrier in these lanes)I collected a fine at the other end equal to the toll for the longest motorway drive I could have managed, so I didn’t want to repeat that. At that moment a Police car pulled up and advised me to go through the telepass channel but first ring the assistance bell on a little post (which I didn’t know existed)I did get a voice at the other end , but it didn’t seem to understand my problem. In the end I just went through. When I came off the motorway just 5km later, luckily there was a manned toll booth. When I tried to explain the issue, I was resigned to my fate when a charge of 75 Euro appeared on the screen. He looked at my number plate, tapped into his computer, and obviously found where I did join the system as he then just asked me for 1 Euro 80 c. But then I was given a long printout, saying I still owed 73 Euro 20c which must be paid within 2 weeks: But it does state the toll station where I made my mistake, and one of the payment options is to pay at any toll booth-so I am guessing that he would have asked for the whole 75 Euro then and there if I really was supposed to pay it.Watch this space …
My next destination is to be Urbino, before moving on to San Marino, so I decided that I might as well get most of the distance covered this afternoon, and thus drove a total of 350 km. I retraced my steps up the A1 motorway, skirted Arezzo, and then passed the little village in Umbria where I spent a pleasant week two autumns ago, Monterchi, before heading over the hills from Sansepulcro.There is a good but very mountainous road that climbs east over a high pass in the Apennines, where there was just the faint vestige of snow left, before making a long descent to Urbania, a small town 20km short of Urbino, and I am using Urbania as an overnight stop as it has a free dedicated camper stop. “Urbania” sounds as if it should feature in some dystopic film by Fritz Lang ,but was named in the 16th century not after its neighbour, Urbino, but after the Pope at the time ,Pope Urban. It is a mostly modern town, and not very exciting but does have the Duke of Urbino’s old summer residence. The camper stop has free electricity, if I were to need it (I have learnt that I can do without), and waste dumps, but it is by a main road and shares the car park with the bus station. But every place is the same when you’re inside the van!