Telling a Story and Being a Tourist…

On Friday 8th June we went to Rome for the night, specifically, so that I could be one of the storytellers at a storytelling event. We’d never attended anything like it before and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I looked on The Moth website and I tried to follow the advice they gave. There were ten storytellers and each one recounted an incident (or two) that had happened to them during their lifetime.

I was nervous but once I got started I found it easy to do and thoroughly enjoyed it. The knack I think is to ‘act’ out your story, it keeps the audience interested. You should also have a bit of a surprise element in there somewhere, a bit of drama, some comedy, throw a bit of everything into the pot and finally, don’t let it go on too long. Thanks to the Beehive Hotel for setting up the evening, I’m pretty sure it will become a regular event.


Every time we drive to Rome we say we’re going to go to the Tivoli Gardens on the way home and then we don’t do it. This time we had decided that we would leave early on the Saturday morning to make our way back to Le Marche and definitely stop at Hadrian’s Villa and then the Tivoli Gardens.

pillars2 Hadriantree

Hadrian’s Villa was easy to find and the parking was good. We paid €11 each for a ticket which entitled us to go through the turnstile and wander around the ruins. We weren’t given a plan of the area, I think that was only handed out if you ordered an audio guide, but there were plenty of ‘you are here’ maps dotted about.

I had imagined the ruins of a big Roman House, what I didn’t expect was that Hadrian’s Villa was actually the size of a village. It took a couple of hours walking to see as much as we could. I loved the lake, which had fish and turtles moving lazily in the warm water. The wall, which I think was the boundary of the estate, is a magnificent piece of architecture. Hadrian certainly knew how to build a good wall.


There were the baths, always a feature in any Roman ruin. It was possible to see from the remains, the extent of the massive buildings, the areas of beautiful gardens, the library, the guest apartments. I love visiting these places and imagining children running around the streets, shop keepers busy selling their wares and the rich Roman men and women strolling along the cobbled paths or sitting in the shade under the olive trees sipping red wine and eating, well, olives I suppose. Life must have been pretty tough for most of the population but I get an overwhelming sense of closeness to history when I touch the old stones and know for sure that another person has been in that very place well over a thousand years before me. It’s the old ‘shivers down the spine’ syndrome.


We left Hadrian’s Villa behind us and went in search of the Tivoli Gardens. Our first mistake was in calling them the Tivoli Gardens, which is in fact an amusement park in Copenhagen Denmark. The Villa D’Este is the place one should be heading for, but even then it is not easy to find. We had to ask at least three times and drove around in circles for about half an hour. The site is smack in the centre of Tivoli but the signs run out and there simply isn’t anything to show you where to park or where the entrance to the house and garden is. It was pure luck that I saw a little arrow indicating a pedestrian walkway to Villa D’Este.

The Entrance to Villa D'Este
The Entrance to Villa D’Este

By this time my husband was becoming a little frustrated to say the least, then he couldn’t find a ticket machine that was working, so by the time we found the entrance his mood was less than amenable. We’d had a good weekend so far but the cash was low, another €11 each to get in and he only had €15. ‘Do you take cards’ he asked.
‘Yes, we take Bancomat, only Bancomat.’
My dear husband had a bit of a hissy fit about the fact that, ‘not only is one of the most well known tourist attractions in Italy virtually impossible to find, you only take Italian bank cards when surely a good majority of your clients come from all over the world!’ the voice was rising and so was the temperature.
I saved the day by finding €10 cash in my purse. Phew!

Eagle Fountain
Eagle Fountain


I’m beginning to bore myself with this blog so I’m going to wind it up by saying that even though we did have enormous difficulty in locating the Villa D’Este, with its wonderful gardens it was definitely worth it. The fountains are amazing and the gardens beautifully laid out. The terraces are steep but it’s easy to walk back up to the top as they have gentle slopes and many steps and if you follow the plan you won’t miss a single fountain.

fountainbig fountain tivoli1

6 thoughts on “Telling a Story and Being a Tourist…

  1. Hi Ninette, Thank you for my breakfast morning story! So funny – went to the two villas on Tuesday! Same thoughts, started with Hadrian and then ran out of directions for Este! classic italian signalling, but we had parked car in Tivoli and was then easy to do it. Lovely, empty, just as you say – patticularly Hadrian. Are you around after 20th (think Geoff goes soon) – I have some time alone and it would be good to catch up. What about coming here for lunch on the balcony and then perhaps a walk on the beach? Will have rentals in so cant use the pool, but we can enjoy the sea. Let me know whats best. xxx

    1. Thanks for your comment. It would be lovely to see you. Give me a call after the 20th. Can’t do 22nd as have a ‘show’ for my students in Petritoli.

  2. Lovely account & photos, Ninette. We always do the same when arriving in Rome, saying ‘We must go there one day!’ Now you’ve given us a few tips, it’ll seem easier to get there. Thank you! x

  3. Ninette
    We once took a day tour from Rome, we too loved the villa and the gardens but the latter was a bit touristy, the day turned into an Italian farce when returning in the traffic to Rome at the toll booths. We loved the day especially the traffic farce! My comment is a question – What was your story at the story telling?

    1. My story was about the night my father was killed in a road accident on November 28th 1963, just 6 days after Kennedy had been shot. It’s 50 years ago this November and I was 13 years old. I tried to tell it without making it too heavy or depressing and I think I succeeded. The difficulty was to tell the story and make it interesting, hoping the audience would not guess what was going to happen. I enjoyed doing it and I was given some compliments afterwards so I hope I didn’t do too bad a job!

      I think we visited both sites in Tivoli at the right time of the year, not too crowded.

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