Tivoli is a historic hill town in the Lazio region of Italy and is one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Rome. Tivoli’s two most famous tourist attractions are the magnificent gardens of the Villa d’Este and the extensive ruins of Hadrian’s Villa (known as the Villa Adriana).
General Information and History of Tivoli
Tivoli is situated on the Aniene River to the east of Rome, in the Monti Tiburtini hills where the climate is fresher than Rome’s. For this reason, the area was popular from ancient times onwards with Rome’s moneyed classes, who built summer retreats in the area. As the town was on a major trading route from Rome to the Abruzzi, Tivoli has always been an important settlement. Modern Tivoli has around 50,000 inhabitants, and spreads out far beyond the crumbling picturesque historical centre. In the suburb of Bagni di Tivoli, on the plains below the town centre, it is still possible to bathe in natural thermal springs. The fourth century BC town wall is still visible, as are temples from the second century BC.
There is plenty to occupy the visitor in Tivoli for a day, even if they miss out one of the two famous villas. Travelers keen to see all the sights of the area should note that the Villa Adriana is actually a bus ride outside town; and they may find their day stretched to an uncomfortable length. Some visitors choose to stay in Tivoli, away from the bustle of Rome; if you are very keen on spending a long time at the monuments, or planning to travel onwards through Italy this may be an option worth considering.
Main Sights in Tivoli
When in Tivoli, there are two definite stars of the show, when it comes to sights to see. These are:
- The Renaissance Villa d’Este was built in the 1550s for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, the son of Lucretia Borgia. Built over a Benedictine convent, the palace was intended for entertaining and contains lavishly frescoed reception rooms. The main attraction for visitors, however, is the breathtaking garden. Designed to impress the Cardinal’s guests, the Villa d’Este’s gardens are composed almost exclusively of water features. Fountains of every description dazzle the onlooker, from the grand ‘Fountain of the Dragons’ and ‘Hundred Fountains’, to a miniature watery reproduction of Rome. The centerpiece, the gigantic Water Organ Fountain, cascades down a huge drop into quiet, shady pools.
- The Villa Adriana – Anyone with an interest in antiquities, the Villa Adriana is worth a day to itself. The Emperor Hadrian conceived a countryside dwelling here that would by normal standards be considered a town. A gigantic complex with underground service passages big enough for vehicles, tantalizing glimpses are still visible; the Villa incorporates lakes, fountains, libraries, baths, temples and gardens. The area covered is staggering, and highly confusing even when armed with a map; it’s easy to imagine the emperor himself asking for directions.
Quite apart from these two magnificent sites, Tivoli also boasts numerous other temples and villas, such as the Villa Gregoriana and the Temple of Vesta. There are also lots of festivals to view or take part in, such as:
- 10th – 28th February – it’s Carnival time, and floats and masked groups in costume parade through Tivoli’s streets.
- 5th – 30th April – cultural, artistic and sporting events take place to celebrate the traditional anniversary of the founding of Tivoli. Special guided tours of the monuments are also organized.
- May – on the first Sunday in May a holy image of the Madonna is carried through the streets of Tivoli in a procession that ends at the Cathedral.
- July – at the beginning of the month a Jazz Festival takes place in the piazzas of the historic town.
- 10th August – St. Lawrence is the patron saint of Tivoli, and his Saint’s Day is celebrated with a mass and a procession, followed by outdoors events and dancing.
- 10th – 30th September – Tivoli holds a Festival to celebrate the grape harvest, with floats, an art exhibition and tastings.
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