In the 1800s, an anonymous traveller noted that Tivoli, a town in the province of Rome “was the favourite place of anyone who enjoyed the beauty of antiquity and nature.”
Tourists already considered Tivoli as the ideal picturesque panorama as far back as the 18th century. The main attractions were its ruins – the villas that once belonged to Maecenas, Horace, and Adrian; the Temple of the Sybil; the Neptune Caves – and the falls of the Aniene river, which joins the Tiber north of Rome and was also known as Teverone.
Historian Orvar Löfgren has reported, “In 1787, a Swedish tourist wrote back to his family that this was the place where one could truly understand the meaning of the word ‘picturesque’: ‘Before I arrived here, I had never fully grasped it,’ he said, going on to underscore how a good painter can never settle for what nature has to offer in a single landscape. No, a painter adds other objects: ‘Some ruins, a castle, a hill, a valley, a forest, a plain, a creek, etc. to make the painting more interesting and varied thanks to a certain composition.’ The tourist came to the conclusion that if nature can give forth something that is equally rich, it is close to an artificial composition and therefore can be described as picturesque. The views around Tivoli featured such a perfect mix of paintable qualities that reorganizing them in one’s mind was unnecessary, and one could simply portray them as they were” (translated from O. Löfgren “Storia delle vacanze”, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2006).