Villa d’Este, Tivoli Italy.

Garden of the High Renaissance.

The Villa d’Este is situated 30 kilometres east north of Rome in the lush, picturesque and historical hilltop town of Tivoli, in the Lazio region of Italy. 

Renowned for its spectacular use of water, the Villa d’Este represents the quintessence of the Italian garden of the late High Renaissance and has elements of the mannerist and baroque architectural styles.

Converted from a Benedictine monastery into a sumptuous palace around 1550, the much-copied Villa d’Este is a masterpiece of Italian Garden. 

Hundred Fountains. Villa d Este. Tivoli. Italy.
Villa d Este. Tivoli. Italy. View along the avenue of the hundred fountains or Le Cento Fontane at the Villa d’Este at the hill town of Tivoli. The wooded walkway is flanked on one side by over one hundred hand carved waterspouts jetting out cooling water into three overlaying canals.

The Villa d’Este is one of the most significant and complex examples of Renaissance water gardens in Europe.

Visually stimulating, spectacular and theatrical, the Villa d’Este has been a tremendous influence on European garden design.

Its grounds, which have varying elevations, are replete with greenery, sculpture and statuary and a myriad of imaginative fountains, grottoes and water features. 

Tivoli and the Villa d’Este is a very rewarding and relatively easy and relaxed day trip from Rome. Whenever I travel there, I usually take the train, which takes about 1 hour from Rome. 

The Villa d’Este is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Click to view the complete Villa d’Este gallery.

All text, images and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Cappadocia, Turkey.

Extraordinary Rock Formations.

Cappadocia is an extraordinary historical region in landlocked Central Anatolia, in the Nevsehir Province of Turkey. 

The area is most distinguished for the remarkable dramatic rock formations and eroded volcanic rock tuff landscape. Formed millions of years ago, the otherworldly scenery is the collective work of lava spluttering volcanoes being eroded over time by wind and water. 

The region is famed for its basalt capped fairy chimneys, natural rock formations in various shapes. Some rock formations have been excavated and hollowed out and converted into houses, hotels, chapels, churches and monasteries. 

Aerial landscape view. Cappadocia. Turkey.
Cappadocia. Turkey. Aerial view from a hot-air balloon of the spectacular rock formations and eroded volcanic rock tuff landscape.

The Goreme open-air Museum is a microcosm of the Cappadocia region. Goreme has some dramatic rock structures and a cluster of several fine christian chapels, churches and monasteries with exquisite frescoes dating from the 9th century onwards and built out of the volcanic tuff.

Cappadocia is one of most magical places in the world to take a hot-air balloon ride and I spent an hour slowly drifting over the lunar like landscape taking several images in the early morning summer light. 

UNESCO lists the Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia as a World Heritage site. 

Click to view the complete Cappadocia image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.   

Palmyra, Syria.

Bride of the desert

An oasis in the Syrian desert, Palmyra was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. 

From the 1st to the 2nd century AD, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilisations, married Greek-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. 

Palmyra prospered in ancient times as a caravan staging post, primarily because of its location on one of the main ancient routes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates and to markets further east, including those on the Silk Route. 

Palmyra reached its zenith of prosperity (earning it the nickname ‘bride of the desert’) around the 2nd century AD, when it was under the mighty rule of Queen Zenobia, who challenged the powerful Roman Empire and nearly bringing the Romans to their knees. 

Tetrapylon. Palmyra. Syria.
Palmyra. Syria. The towering Tetrapylon, with its Corinthian columns, dominates the central section of the Great Colonnade Street. In the background is the hilltop 17th century Arab castle or citadel of Qala’at lbn Maan. The Tetrapylon, which marks and masks the change of direction of the great colonnade, has four independent pylons, each comprising four columns and stands on a moulded square plinth at the four corners of a stepped platform.

Palmyra has many outstanding remnants of its past, including the following;

 The 2nd century theatre which laid buried under sand until the 1950s has largely been excavated and restored back to its former glory. The magnificently adorned stage has a large central door known as the Royal Gate, which is flanked by two smaller ones. Facing the stage is the semi-circle orchestra; 20 metre is diameter and beyond it rises the cavea with its nine rows of seats.

The Monumental Arch which was erected in the early 3rd century AD under Septimius Severus in order to disguise the thirty degrees change of direction of the first and second sections of the Great Colonnade.

 The Temple of Bel which is the most impressive remnant of Palmyra. Dedicated to Bel who is thought to be the supreme God of the Palmyrene pantheon, the Temple is an enormous complex and its major construction was performed over several stages from the Hellenistic through to the Roman periods. 

Unfortunately, several of the ancient monuments that I photographed at Palmyra have been severely damaged or destroyed, one consequence of the devastating civil war.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palmyra, is, without question, one of the world’s great archaeological sites. 

Click this link to view the complete Palmyra

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.