Tivoli: the Green Lungs of Ljubljana

In the immediate vicinity of Ljubljana city centre there is a vast park at the foot of Rožnik and Šiška hills, called Tivoli.

Tivoli City Park is part of the larger Tivoli, Rožnik, and Šiška Hill Landscape Park, 500 hectares of protected nature right by the city. While most of the landscape park is covered by forest, Tivoli park itself is a manicured legacy of Austrian, French and Slovenian landscape architects, horticulturists and artists.

Tivoli Castle – Podturn manor, Švicarija – the Swiss House, and former barton of the manor.

The history of Tivoli begins in 13th century, when a fortified tower Turn was built up the hill by the Dukes of Carinthia. The tower was destroyed during the siege of Ljubljana by the army of Celeia in 1440.

The current manor was built in the 17th century atop the ruins of a previous Renaissance castle. The mansion was initially owned by the Jesuits, then by the Diocese of Ljubljana and used as the bishop’s summer residence, surrounded with orchards.

Tivoli manor and the intricate paths below it.

In the mid 19th century the manor was acquired by the Emperor Francis Joseph I, who presented it as a gift to the veteran marshal Joseph Radetzky. Radetzky renovated the mansion in the Neoclassical style, giving it its present appearance, and spent much of his retirement here. The sculptor Anton Dominik Ritter von Fernkorn put four cast-iron dogs on the stairs leading to the manor. The dogs lack tongues (due to casting process) and soon a typical apocryphal story of artist-forgets-tongues-and-kills-himself was born.

Today the manor hosts the International Centre of Graphic Arts.

Tivoli park at the edge of the city.

Tvioli park itself was created in the tumultuous period of Napoleonic wars. After winning the War of the Fifth Coalition and the Battle of Wagram the French Empire signed the Treaty of Schönbrunn with Austria, acquiring Carniola, Dalmatia and parts of Croatia among other territories.

From those former parts of Habsburg empire Napoleon created the Illyrian Provinces, an autonomous province with Ljubljana as its capital.

Tree-lined paths of Tivoli.

Ljubljana bloomed in this short but importand period as the capital of Illyrian provinces. To the rather backward town the French introduced their arts, their literature, their architecture – and their horticulture.

Jean Blanchard, an officer, engineer and landscape architect laid the first plans for Tivoli park in 1813, creating tree-lined paths for strolling between the town and the Tivoli manor in the true French joie de vivre style.

After the collapse of the French Empire the Austrians returned. While many French works and policies (too liberal!) were immediately overturned, the park was restored and expanded by the governor Cristoph Latterman. Tivoli flourished – in 1835 a guesthouse in alpine style called Švicarija (the Swiss House) was built above Tivoli manor, in 1880 a pond was dug, in 1909 the renowned painter Rihard Jakopic built an exhibition pavillion, a swimming pool was added, a botanical garden with a glasshouse, and after the WWI the famous Joze Plecnik gave the park its present form.

Ticistan – the birdplace – where birds and squirrels congregate, eager for handouts from strolling townspeople.

There is abundant wildlife in Tivoli. Great tits flutter around singing and checking people for breadcrumbs (over 16.000 of these cute birds nest in Lubljana, and surely this article would get more clicks if the title was “Tivoli is full of Great Tits!”). Semi-tamed squirrels love to grab the nuts (ha!) from the hands of strollers, woodpeckers drum away, nuthaches cling to the bark; sparrows, chaffinches, ducks, doves, owls, pigeons, swans and crows and many other birds – 68 different species! – are all over the place. In the more secluded places of the Landscape park one can find crayfishes, turtles and – if lucky – the elusive martens can be spotted.

If you find yourself in Ljubljana, Tivoli park is not to be missed. Wander around, feed the birds and the squirrels, have a coffee, walk on the Love Lane … and breathe. Tivoli soothes your soul.

All kite aerial photos shot with Canon A810 on a Rokkaku kite.

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