Adventures in Rome – Day Trippin’ in Tivoli

“Mi scusi! How do you get to Tivoli?”

Renowned for its deep river gorges, and cascading waterfalls, we decided to take a day trip to the nearby city of Tivoli.

Key words: DAY TRIP.

This alleged half-hour jaunt took us all day to get there. Why you may ask?

Well…it’s complicated. Let’s just say that despite our incredible cost savings by staying in an apartment (advantage!), there’s something to be said for having a front desk staff and concierge to answer questions and book excursions (disadvantage!).

We actually started out all right. Sure we didn’t have a guide book or a map of Tivoli, but my hubby, Chris, and I both remembered reading that we could take the train to Tivoli from nearby Termini Station. So we hailed a cab and were promptly deposited at the station entrance. We walked into the bustling building, and the kids and I went to stand in the exceptionally long ticket line. But…

Chris didn’t want to wait.
So he went over to a machine and managed to purchase tickets for four to Tivoli for a mere $9.20 Euros instead of the $48 Euros the cab driver had told us it would probably cost. Hmmm…curious.

It took us another half hour of wandering around the station attempting to communicate in halting/broken Italian/English to figure out the tickets he’d purchased were actually leaving from a different train station. So we hustled back outside and hailed another cab to take us to the new train station, Tiburtina.

Once there, we eventually discovered where we needed to be and boarded the train with several other people. It took off, only to come to a complete stop a few minutes later. We sat there for several seconds. Some people got on. Some people got off. Then the train started again. This happened several times and we realized that although it was called a “train” it was actually more like an above-ground subway (perhaps the rampant graffiti should have tipped us off), stopping at different cities along the way to our destination.

“How will we know when to get off?” Ashleigh asked anxiously, while Chris dozed contentedly beside me.

“Well, I can see different signs out the window every time we stop,” I replied with pretend confidence. “As soon as we see a sign that says ‘Tivoli,’ we’ll know to get off.”

After about half an hour, we came to a stop. I read a sign that said: “Bagna di Tivoli.”

Everybody we had boarded the train with in Rome got up and waited expectantly for the doors to open.

“This must be it!” I said, and we all hopped off the train. It jetted off down the track, while we stood blinking in the bright sunlight, getting accustomed to our surroundings.

The sun shone down hotly on a lone bench. A slight breeze ruffled the grass of the empty fields across from of us. Everybody from the train quickly disbursed, and we found ourselves alone. There was an empty café beside the empty train station. An Italian tumbleweed rolled past. (Okay, not really, but you get the idea.)

As we’d experienced several times since coming to Rome, there just weren’t any people around for question-answering.

I walked into the station, which was actually a small room with a couple of ticket machines and no people, of course. I found a map of the train route and figured out that—surprise, surprise—we were actually NOT in Tivoli. Nope. It appeared that Tivoli was another three stops and several miles up the track. Studying the train schedule, we figured out that another train would pass through the station in approximately 40 minutes.

“Let’s just sit here on this nice bench and wait for the next train,” I suggested. But…

Chris didn’t want to wait.
So we hoofed it up the vacant road and onto the main street. This was obviously a small town. No taxis to be seen anywhere. Unlike the crowded streets of Rome, we stood out like Pizza Margherita in a gelataria. People openly stared as we made our way up the street. You could practically hear them thinking, “You ain’t from here.” (Except in Italian, of course.)

“I guess Bagna di Tivoli doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic,” I commented, nodding politely to wide-eyed passersby.

Suddenly, we noticed a bus drive past with “Tivoli” lit up across its front banner. Several moments later another one came by. We spotted a newspaper stand up ahead and Chris asked the clerk if she knew where we might get a bus ticket to Tivoli. And guess what? For $1 Euro each, we got tickets!

Eventually, a third bus came up the road, and we clambered on board. The bus took off. However, just like the train, it stopped periodically to let people on and off. Ashleigh shot me a look.

Once again, I wondered how we’d know when we were in Tivoli. As we peered out the windows, I noticed we were climbing higher and higher up a steep, winding road. I recalled that Tivoli was described as a hilltop city. So once we hit the town at the top, I suggested we get off the bus. We disembarked and finally—3-1/2 hours, two taxis, one train and a bus ride later—we found ourselves in the center square of the hilly town of Tivoli.

We intended to tour several villas and a nature park in the city, but it was now 3:00 p.m. and we were starving. So we stopped to eat. When we’d finished, Chris caved and asked the restaurant manager for directions to a couple of the sites we wanted to see. (In case he ever tries to deny he stopped to ask directions, I have evidence!)

We chose to start with Villa Gregoriana Park, and hiked uphill about a mile or so to get there. The park is named for Pope Gregory XVI, who saved Tivoli from river damage by diverting the river through a tunnel, weakening its flow, and creating the Grande Cascade waterfall.

The park was very lush and green.

It had a raw, natural beauty that was in complete contrast to big-city Rome. I didn’t realize how much I was missing fresh air, flowers and just being in nature until be started hiking around the Villa Gregoriana.

As promised, it was full of beautiful gorges, refreshing waterfalls, and ancient castle remains.

Here is a ruin of an ancient Temple of Vesta from the Villa’s trail.

Okay, maybe it was worth it. By the time we left the park, it was after 5:00 p.m. Chris wanted to stay in town and do more exploring. But…

Holly didn’t want to wait.
I figured it might be best if we used our remaining time to figure out where the train station was, and when the last train left Tivoli since it was Good Friday. From the park’s ticket counter, we were directed to hike further up the steep hill where we found the train station. Another one-room deal offering no actual humans, only machines. My hubby once again purchased tickets. This time the cost for all four of us was $24.50 Euros to get back to Rome. Hmmm…curious.

Our trip back home was much quicker and less eventful. A quick stop for gelato…

And we finally made it back to the apartment around 7:30 p.m.

We all flopped down, ready to call it a night. Or so I thought. But Chris was still up for adventure. “Let’s head downtown to see the Pope lead the 9:00 p.m. Good Friday procession to the Colosseum,” he suggested.

While massaging my tired tootsies, I cleared my throat to be certain my whine was in full throttle. “Awwww, hon’. Let’s not. It’ll be super crowded and I’m soooo tired now. Plus it’s getting late. I don’t want to be lost in downtown Rome in the dark.”

(Okay, I’m seriously NOT making this next part up.)

The minute the word “dark” was out of my mouth, BAM! All the power in the apartment building went out. We all sat very still. Blinking in the now total darkness.

Chris walked to the window and looked out. “Yup. It’s just our building. Everybody else still has power.”

Unbelievable. I sighed. (A sign?)

“Well kids, we may as well put our shoes back on and go. It’s better than sitting here bored in the dark.

We headed downtown; the streets were flooded with people. Like salmon swimming upstream, everybody was flowing towards the Colosseum, hoping for a glimpse of the Pope. After talking with a police officer, we discovered that unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to see any of the procession from the street, but we saw lots of interesting people.

More priest and nun sightings.

We got back late and tumbled into bed. The power was back on. Yeah!

Stay tuned for one more post, Adventures in Rome: The Final Episode.
Gelato image by Samuraijohnny

1 comment:

Annette Piper said...

Oh dear, that was a fairly eventful day out, wasn't it!!!? Still, you've got to chalk it up to experience I guess :) At least you made it there and back in one piece and got to see some things on the way!