Jefferson’s Monticello


Monticello, the home and estate built by Thomas Jefferson, is one of those slightly out-of-the-way places that has been on my list for a while. I’ve been to Virginia a few times, but always in the D.C. area and I’d never found it convenient to make the trip to Charlottesville to see Monticello. Mount Vernon is lovely, and I’ve been more than once, but I had heard Monticello was beautiful in its own way and well worth the trip. It didn’t disappoint.
Bike Trip Monticello 065
Monticello means “little mountain” in Italian, and fits this former plantation perfectly because it was built on a mountaintop and has incredible views of the valleys and land beyond for many miles. Its easy to imagine the property’s former glory when it included 5,000 acres of surrounding land. The house and gardens are lovely. There is still a vegetable garden maintained on the terrace after more than 200 years.
Monticello gardens on the terraces
Flower beds, pathways and beautiful trees surround the house. Thomas Jefferson is said to have reinvented the home several times over the more than 50 years that he lived here. But he never wanted any outbuildings to disrupt the view from the main home itself. So he wisely constructed terraces and built the cellars, stables, kitchen, and storage areas as well as some staff quarters into the hillside just below the grade and view of the house. While all these essential parts of the home were within 100 feet of the house, they weren’t within “sight” of it.
Bike Trip Monticello 059
Bike Trip Monticello 064
The home is open to the public and is so well-preserved you could almost imagine the occupants just being out for the day. And while here I am told to visit two other homes of former Presidents – James Madison and James Monroe. At this rate, my “must see” list will never get any shorter.

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