Just over two hours away from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC is the quaint town of Charlottesville, Virginia. But follow a winding road up a mountainside and you’ll find yourself deep in the forest, surrounded by trees, and at President Jefferson’s home.
Monticello (meaning “little mountain” in Italian and pronounced in Italian rather than the with the typical English pronunciation) is both secluded and out in the open. Nestled on top of a peak in the Southwest Mountains it is surrounded by forest but you can see the land around the swell in the earth.
This is certainly a day-trip worth taking for book, history, and nature lovers. Once you’ve arrived you park in the various parking-lots by the visitor’s center and then have the option of either walking through a wooded path to Monticello or taking a bus. I opted for the walk despite the heat (it is cooler there than in DC due to the elevation but still hot during the summer!) and made my way up the winding path to the house.
Along the way, and you have this opportunity on the bus as well, you can stop at the family graveyard where Jefferson’s body is buried. It’s tucked into the woods, surrounded by trees, and with a rather imposing metal fence around it. Jefferson wanted to be buried there and honestly it’s a rather lovely and peaceful location for one’s final resting place.
Emerging from the woods I walked up a path in the blazing sun and then beneath a row of trees and beside a large, sprawling garden. Nestled at the edge of the garden and overlooking the valley and orchard was a little brick building with large windows which Jefferson would retreat to read in. How lovely is that?
Besides the beautiful garden (my favorite part) there is the long, wrap around driveway leading up to the house itself.
Note: you are not allowed to take photos within the Jefferson house but you can go crazy on the grounds. Within the house, unfortunately, there is a lot of stuff that is copyrighted or belonged to museums so they are quite against taking photos or videos. So just check out this link instead: House Image Gallery.
The inside of the home is beautiful and quite shocking. From the outside you suspect the house to be much smaller than it is but within it’s quite the opposite. Most of the rooms didn’t even have lights as Jefferson installed many skylights which provide more than enough light.
While the Library of Congress has many of Jefferson’s books on display, there is still a library at Monticello itself (the man loved books!) and some are his original copies that he would read. You also get a taste of his meeting rooms and where he would wine and dine. Really, it’s fantastic and worth the ticket.
My friend and I had gone to Monticello in the dead of summer while it was ridiculously (and typically) hot for Virginia. We had been witnessing temperatures in the triple digits for most of the summer and were concerned about our trip to Monticello due to the heat and walking around. Luckily, Monticello is at a higher elevation so it’s a bit cooler there than in DC.
Note: If you are traveling to Monticello from out of the area, check the weather! It may be cooler there, foggy, cloudy or rainy while elsewhere it certainly is not. We found ourselves to be enjoying the weather!
Jefferson would have been such a nerd if he was around in this day and age. The dude loved food and reading and you can see it all by visiting his home. Bring some cash if you’re one to like little mementos or “old-time” objects as the shop has plenty of merchandise. It was hard for me to pick what I wanted! And there are two shops you can buy items at: one is just outside of the Monticello main building and another is at the entrance to the historic park where you can buy your tour ticket and hop on the bus to take up the mountain.