Tivoli is one of the hidden gems outside of Rome in the Lazio region of Italy. A delightful town with historic Villas and a collection of incredible fountains, Tivoli doesn’t get anywhere near the attention or recognition it deserves.
- Villa d’Este
- Villa Gregoriana
- Hadrian’s Villa
- Rocca Pia
Tivoli’s Villa d’Este is considered a must-see by many, boasting colorful murals depicting the legendary origins of Tivoli and the feats of Hercules, natural gardens with winding paths, gorgeous mountain-top views, and a collection of grand fountains that is truly remarkable.
Villa d’Este, situated appropriately in Valle Gaudente (“The Valley of the Pleasure-seeking”), is a Villa built in the 1550s by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. After the Cardinal was elected Governor of Tivoli, he chose to build the grand Villa d’Este instead of staying in the sparse pre-existing governor’s palace. Ippolito d’Este imagined Villa d’Este as a perfect rustic retreat where he could host private meetings.
An enjoyable morning in Tivoli can be spent strolling through Villa d’Este’s gardens, or stare spell-bound at the villa’s many grand fountains. The fountains are so impressive and playful that they could belong in an upscale amusement park. You wouldn’t realize their age if it weren’t for the soft moss growing around the fountains.
Wandering through the gardens, you’ll stumble upon a number of fountains. There’s the Rometta Fountain, with its watery, miniature model of important buildings in ancient Rome. Then there’s the Grotto of Diana, the musical Fountain of the Organ, the Fountain of the Dragons, with jets of water streaming skyward, the Fountain of the Pegasus, and The Hundred Fountains, with its long rows of comical faces spitting out water into parallel basins, dotted with stone eagles, which were a key feature in the D’Este coat of arms. And that’s just to name a few of the fountains!
Each fountain is unique and worth its own visit. The garden’s downward-sloping paths lead to the fish ponds and Villa d’Este’s biggest and most impressive fountain, the Fountain of Neptune. Considered an architectural masterpiece, its parts are perfectly balanced as water cascades down through various levels of basins, as other streams of water shoot towards the sky.
While the fountains take the lion’s share of attention, the apartments of the Villa d’Este feature many colorful paintings and murals that can’t be missed. The lower or “noble” apartments hold the Room of Hercules, with pictures around the room documenting Hercules’ feats of bravery that had to be accomplished before the hero could obtain his place among the gods. Other rooms contain illustrations telling the story of Tivoli’s creation and legendary origins.
One great thing about Tivoli is the lack of crowds. Despite the impressive villas, fountains, gardens, and murals that abound in Tivoli, the town is often overshadowed by Rome. While it’s a shame that so many people miss out on the wonders of Tivoli, the lack of crowds means plenty of space, no lines, and easy photographing, making it a great destination.
If you are a family travelling around Rome with kids, Tivoli is a great attraction outside the city. Children will like the colorful, detailed murals of Hercules, have plenty of space to play in the gardens, and will enjoy pointing out the animals that decorate many of the fountains.
After visiting the palaces, a trip to Tivoli (or anywhere in Italy for that matter) isn’t complete without chowing down on pizza and topping your meal off with gelato. Just ask the Olive Tree hill host Ivano to tell you where to find the best pizza and gelato in Tivoli.
Contact us to arrange your excursion to Tivoli and similar sites in the area outside Rome.