J. Paul Getty had his 1st Century AD replica of a Roman villa, known as the Getty Villa, built in 1968 to house his ever growing collection of ancient art. Although Mr. Getty never saw the completion of this beautiful building, he left a legacy behind so we could all enjoy its splendor.
From the Inn at Playa del Rey, my companion and I drove up the coast via PCH, enjoying the scenic view and cool, ocean breezes. About a mile north of Sunset Blvd. is the entrance to the Getty Villa. Reserve your free, timed tickets on the Getty website (www.getty.edu/visit) for entrance into the Villa. Upon arrival, show your printed tickets to the security guard, pay your parking fee ($15 per car), and drive along the cobblestone driveway into the large parking structure. Take the elevator to the second floor, grab a map and be prepared to be dazzled.
Once you’ve made your way around, you’ll enter at the top level of the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Outdoor Classical Theater. You can walk down the steps to the courtyard or just sit on the stone seats and imagine the wonderful plays they put on here; a full listing of the Getty’s program information is available on their website. You’ll pass by the wonderful restaurant (more on that later), walk down the stairs and enter the main part of the Villa.
Spend your first few minutes in the movie theater, learning about how and why the Villa exists. From there, make your way into the small galleries to feast your eyes on the priceless art and artifacts and wander through the Inner Peristyle and into the East Garden. Tinkling fountains made of artful mosaic await your contemplation.
Apart from the artwork, the piece de resistance is the sparkling pool surrounded by a tree and sculpture lined Outer Peristyle. Walk in the sun or shade out to the terrace to marvel over spectacular views of the vast Pacific Ocean. Be sure to enjoy the extensive Herb Garden, planted with fragrant herbs and fruit trees that would have graced the grounds of the Villa dei Papiri.
My companion and I participated in one of the Getty’s many hands-on art programs (we saw a flier when we got there). We lined up outside the gift shop and were treated to an explanation of the technique of line drawing with a paint brush by a docent, and led to the courtyard to try our own hands. Some were more successful than others, and we were able to take home our “artwork”.
After all that art, it was time for lunch at the casual Café at the Getty Villa. This visit we shared a Mediterranean platter with hummus, olives, cheese and pita bread, and each of us had a bowl of the delicious Soup of the Day (spinach & zucchini puree).
We then took a spin through the gift shop to pick up a memento of our visit (a charming book on creativity for me, angel coins for my companion). We browsed through a large selection of jewelry and gifts and a selection of art books and creative toys.
For our final moments at the Villa, we stood out on the terrace and drank in the tranquility of the peaceful gardens and the vastness of the Pacific.