While in Rome, make sure to visit the surrounded towns like Tivoli and escape the hustle and bustle of the Capital. The city is located 30 kilometres northeast of Rome and has a vast range of fantastic attractions and sites to visit. In the past Tivoli was a prosperous town, loved by the Romans, and visited by noble families. The Romans considered it a great place to built holiday homes. So travel back in time to ancient Roman days, as you find here magnificent historical villas like Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, that are on UNESCO world heritage sites list.
Let’s start our journey with the Villas that are the highlights of this town.
Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) was a retreat for the Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD), and it became one of the largest and most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is also one of the best kept and most visited archaeological sites in Italy. The area covered 120 hectares, but nowadays, the space that can be visited is approx. 40 hectares. Italians would say it was “una città nella città”. The site consists of baths, libraries, temples, gardens, fountains, and over 30 buildings in total. While the villa was designed on two levels. The upper floor was quiet and welcoming, used for the emperor’s official practice, meantime the lower floor was designated for slaves work. You will still find here some well-preserved structures like Grandi Terme, the Quadriportico, the Teatro Marittimo, and the Piazza d’Oro. One of the significant parts is the Canopus, and I am sure it will leave you breathless. The Canopus is a large rectangular pool surrounded by columns and statues. At the bottom, you will see a portico.
Villa d’Este is the symbol of the Italian Renaissance and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a real gem of architecture, landscape and water displays. The complex stretches for 4 hectares and includes a residential palace (the Palazzo d’Este), a garden, avenues, and around a hundred fountains. The fountain water comes directly from the River Aniene through a 600-meter underground channel. Villa d’Este consists of 51 fountains, 398 spouts, and 64 waterfalls and their impressive water system is organised by hundreds of meters of canals. The villa was built on request of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, a former governor of Tivoli and one of the wealthiest cardinals around. The work was carried out by architect Pirro Logorio, and it took about 20 years. The first thing you’ll see in the villa is the courtyard; it holds the very first fountain (the Fountain of Venus) that is still well intact from the original construction. Here you’ll also see the beautiful mosaics and impressive apartments of the Cardinal. The multi-floor building, which is now a museum.
The third villa, the least famous, is called Villa Gregoriana. It is a natural park, a romantic complex of lush vegetation, woods, footpaths, waterfalls, and caves. A scenic spot, nestled in a valley, surrounded by Roman ruins, as well as secluded spots to relax admiring the famous Tivoli waterfalls. Pope Gregory XVI commissioned the villa in the XIX century. After the Second World War, Villa Gregoriana became the property of the state and was left in complete abandonment. This changed in 2002. Since then, the whole area is under the protection and management of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano; FAI (the Italian Environmental Fund). In 2005 Villa has reopened to the public, and, to date, it is considered one of the essential heritages – a place where nature and human work merge. Villa Gregoriana is famous for its Great Waterfall, created by the River Aniene, the Grottoes of Neptune, and Grottoes of the Sirens. Nearby you will find the Gregorian Bridge, also commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI and which today connects the park to Tivoli’s old town centre.
Make sure to stop at The Temple of Vesta positioned in the western part of the Aniene Valley. From here, you can cherish the moment and look at splendid views across to the Villa Gregoriano and the Tivoli waterfalls. The Temple itself features a beautiful design with many columns that are lit up after dark, and the effect is impressive.
Now let’s go back to Tivoli town, which has the medieval structure still visible today. In the city centre, you will find the Rocca Pia (medieval fortress, built during the 15th century, to strengthen the defence of Tivoli). It brings to mind the military function carried out by Tivoli to protect the city of Rome. It is excellent to start your walk here. The fortress is closed to the public, but you can still admire it from outside. From this point, you can continue to another place full of charm and history: the Roman Amphitheatre of Bleso.
Then continue the visit to Piazza Garibaldi with the sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro. This square is a central point in the town and features some beautiful architecture and a large modernist sculptured arch in the centre of the Piazza. Here nearby stands Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a beautiful place of worship, with its magnificent facade and unusual bell tower. Inside there are many famous artworks, so it’s worth stopping here for a while. At the southern end of the square, you’ll find a beautiful garden and the Panoramica Di Tivoli – observing deck that looks out onto the countryside and sunsets. A truly breathtaking view. Instead looking northeast of Tivoli, you can find the Monte Catillo natural reserve, a protected area since 1997, covered with lush forest.
Follow the itinerary next to Piazza Palatina, via della Sibilla (where you see Temples of Vesta and Sibilla). Finally reach Piazza Rivarola, via San Valerio, Piazza del Duomo with The Cathedral of Tivoli – Duomo of San Lorenzo Martire, the main religious building in the town. The Cathedral was constructed in the 12th century in a Romanesque style.
We need to mention that this area is also famous due to its Thermal Baths established since ancient times. Thermae Aque Albule are located in Tivoli Terme. The water from the spring is sulphurous and hypothermal, with a constant temperature of 23°. Chemical analyses in the 19th century confirmed the therapeutic capacity of water at Acque Albule. And that sulphur is a powerful natural antibacterial ingredient with significant anti-inflammatory effects. The Acque Albule are equipped with four sulphurous water pools suitable for swimmers and includes little waterfalls providing a natural hydro massage. It’s a great place to have a spa treatment or use one of their facilities.
Tivoli is a town full of attractions, and it’s not possible to see it all in one day. That’s why we recommend using one of the itineraries to plan your day:
Itinerary “Strada delle ville”
Villa d’Este – Ponte Gregoriano – Villa Gregoriana con Cascata – Santuario della Madonna di Quintiliolo – Villa Adriana
Itinerary “Centro Storico”
Piazza Garibaldi – Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore – Chiesa della Carità – Duomo di Tivoli – Mensa Ponderaria – Casa Gotica – Chiesa di San Silvestro – Tempio di Ercole Vincitore
Tivoli is famous all over the world for its artistic and archaeological beauties. Still, not everyone knows that it is also a city where you can taste exclusive dishes, the result of the vibrant local gastronomic tradition. Here are a few examples that we advise you to try:
Fettuccine porcini guanciale e pecorino – the authentic flavour of traditional Roman cuisine, with the homemade pasta and the distinctive taste of the selected pecorino plus mushrooms and pork cheeks. Arrosticini di pecora (lamb skewers) – great for a quick starter or a snack. Abbacchio alla cacciatora (Roman baby lamb)- a dish ideal for those who want to make a light and tasty second course based on meat; it is the perfect second course containing lamb, a glass of wine, rosemary and garlic. Scafata is a vegetarian dish based on artichokes, potatoes, beans, peas, onion, and garlic. Pangiallo is a typical dessert based on honey, dried fruit, sultanas, bitter cocoa, dark chocolate and orange peel. And finally the pizza cresciuta, a typical Easter cake based on sugar, white vermouth, olive oil, anise, lemon, and orange.
Tivoli is also known for types of grapes called pizzutello and another local delicacy Terre Tiburtine oil. Pizzutello is a high-quality table grape with an unmistakable flavour. It is called grape horns because of the characteristic shape of the berries, which can be of two different kinds: white or black. Every year the Pizzutello Festival is celebrated to pay tribute to this exceptional grape. Another typical product of Tivoli is extra virgin olive oil, which has taken on the protected designation of origin “Terre Tiburtine”—identified by a yellow/gold colour with shades of green, and its fruity and slightly spicy flavour. Since ancient times, oil has been one of the primary sources of food for local populations. Its production dates back to the Roman Empire; in fact, the Romans knew very well the quality and flavour of the oil produced in the countryside of ancient Tibur. Still today, the cultivation of this precious product is fundamental for the economy of Tivoli and the surrounding territories.
To taste some typical food and wine products of the local cuisine stop at l’Enoteca Gadì, a comfy spot where you can enjoy a nice aperitivo. A well-deserved break after all the walking.