Monday, July 2, 2018

Rome diary: Our back-yard park

The Villa Doria Pamphilj park in Rome has pretty much everything, including a rose garden and a 17th -century villa that gives the park its name. 

A villa so grand must have a fine entrance, and here it is. The villa itself is closed, but you can walk through these gates and explore everything around it.
Not far away from the  villa with its accompanying Roman walls, statuary and water features are vast areas of  wild grasses, left unmowed. Everyone is free to make their own trails. 
Graceful statues along fenced greenery; you know you're in Rome.
Water courses and water features dot the park. This is part of a main channel that runs up from a lake. I like the bird about ready for takeoff.
It has a wall, over which, from the right spot, you can see the dome of St. Peter’s through the trees. It has an elaborate 17th-century villa, closed to the public, but very viewable from the hill above, with its water-lily pond and boxwood garden the size of a small field. It has vast stands of umbrella pines. A lake. Water courses. Fountains and water features and statues galore. Playing fields and wide treed paths for walkers and cyclists. It has history: some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat in Garibaldi’s battle with the French forces in 1849-50 were fought near here.

But what Mariken and I liked best about the Villa Doria Pamphilj park, a five-minute walk from our apartment in Rome, were the wild areas. Along with the manicured spaces, it has vast slopes and sweeps of unclipped grass, knee-to-waist-high, where dogs and kids and even old folks can do whatever they want.

One evening at dusk, Mariken took me back to my rural childhood and we plowed down a hill through knee-high grass and weeds to a steep bank of wild brush. No path there, either, so another plunge through the trees, dodging rocks and roots barely visible in the dying light. When we came out to the path below, it took us through a stand of umbrella pines. A full moon rose. The city glowed in the distance, so close but far. Moonlight shone through the trees. It was one of those moments.

The villa from above, with its huge clipped boxwood garden. The shaded-looking area is actually a pond with water lilies. The maintenance on this place must be amazing.

One of the many water features is this elaborate fountain. You can see the villa in the background.

Near the villa, a curved wall of no discernible purpose, with a statue in the centre.

The panels on that curved wall are amazing. They show groups of children behaving badly. Here, one hits another with a stick.

Another of those panels. It looks nasty.
It's not just enough to have a villa; you must also have water features and statues and elaborate carvings at its base.

More of the villa's elaborate detail.

Squint at this a certain way, and you will see two figures made of rock. Male and female. I think.

Another angle on that rockwork fantasy. Which has a water course at the bottom, just in case anything might be lacking.

A view over the villa garden, with the fountain at the centre.

This staircase with wide, very shallow steps by the villa may have been built so horses could climb it.

The umbrella pine forest.

Wide treed pathways allow plenty of space for walkers and cyclists. They don't have to be paved, painted green, or have any signs telling people what not to do.

The playing field is spacious and a little unkempt, but there's lots of room and once again, no signs about restrictions on its use.

Back to the water features. I love the way Romans combine nature and statuary, as if they automatically belong together.

Speaking of nature, this fountain has a mass of greenery on top that water pours through.

Trees in bloom in a more manicured area of the park.

One of the few signs telling people what to do, and not. Notice how short it is.

Mariken with feet in fuzz. Some trees were giving off fuzz that turned the pathways white the day we were there.

The wall surrounding the park, with ivy.

The wall in the park where St. Peter's dome makes a surprise appearance through the trees. If you squint, you may see a little blob of white in the centre of the photo.

Another wall in the park. Beyond it is a roadway, dug deep down.

And, the lake. A pleasant diversion point in the park. From here, a right turn takes you to the villa and down the Janiculum hill. Turning left takes you to the water course and through the rest of the park.

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