Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, a small town near Rome, was more impressive than I had suspected.
I dragged myself out of bed before 10am, the time at which the hundreds of residents of my industrial-size hostel were supposed to leave their rooms each day, took the Metro Linea B to the last station, Ribbibia, turned right and went through the pedestrian tunnel, turned right again and tried to enter the snack bar to buy tickets to Tivoli, but it was closed and I realized that it was Sunday and my Googled instructions had now left me on my own.
Luckily I was in Italy where there is always a way, even if it takes a lot of waiting and worrying. Finally I got on the blue CO.TRA.L bus at the next Metro station and I was off. To get to Hadrian's Villa, one can either get off on the way, just before the final uphill drive to Tivoli itself, and walk a few miles down a side street. Or one can go all the way to Tivoli and get a bus that goes all the way to the gates of the ancient palace. I missed both and ended up in a deserted bus station deep inside Tivoli on a scorching day. Of course, I had been contemplating profound things such as the future of architecture until I realized the driver and I were the only people in the bus.
So I walked back through the town in which all the ice cream shops were closed. Finally I saw the CO.TRA.L bus going down and I got on it. I got off at another spot and realized this was some other villa, so again I got on the next bus, after asking several people for directions (Ciao! Parla Inglese? Great! Do you know how I can get to...).
This time 2 American couples, who were as lost as I was, were harrassing the bus driver to make sure he would inform them about the correct stop for Hadrian's Villa. In the end, we still had to walk what felt like 5 miles in the sun at noon. But I was excited to finally get there. I had five hours before I had to meet Sucharita at Roma Termini.
The villa was grand and spectacular. I got an audio guide (something Andrea Fraser has taught me never to do) but soon got bored of hearing what the spaces might have looked like. I was taken by the amazing beauty of the place in ruins. Interesting compositions, even on the small digital camera I was now using, made me really happy, so I rushed from room to room, and through hallways and arches, and over bridges and pools. I finally began to understand the significance of the classical orders. They were exquisite, even in ruins.
I found an echo of this lack of interest in the historic and a preference for the visual in Andre Gide's book, where Olivier discusses a poetry passage in a Bachot exam:
"I should have said that La Fontaine, in painting himself had painted the portrait of the artist -- of the man who consents to take merely the outside of things, their surface, their bloom. Then I should have contrasted with that the portrait of the scholar, the seeker, the man who goes deep into things, and I should have shown that while the scholar seeks, the artist finds, that the man who goes deep gets stuck, the man who gets stuck gets sunk -- upto his eyes and over them; that the truth is the appearance of things, that their secret is their form and that what is deepest in man is his skin."