The allure of Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana), which began life as a luxury retreat for the Roman Emperor to escape the stifling heat or Rome’s intense summers, remains the same today. Rome to Tivoli is only a short bus or train journey and the wealth of things to do in Tivoli make a day trip to the city an absolute must. Dating back to the 2nd century, the sprawling grounds of this Unesco World Heritage site include some of the best-preserved ruins in Italy. Hadrian was a well-traveled Emperor and this is reflected in the Villa’s diverse architecture. Of the 30 buildings that make up the site (much more remains unexcavated), the archaeological heritage includes styles from Egypt and Greece. One of the Villa’s most impressive aspects is the Maritime Theatre, Hadrian’s private retreat within his retreat, located on a small island surrounded by a moat.
After Hadrian’s Villa, you haven’t exhausted all of what to do in Tivoli. In fact, Tivoli’s crown jewel is arguably the Villa d’Este and its glorious gardens. Before you head for the cleanly cut grass and magnificent fountains, though, be sure to take a look around the palace too. The Villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este who had aspirations of becoming the Pope. But, his lavish lifestyle and repeated attempts to bribe the conclave scuppered the cardinal’s chances. Instead, he was made governor of Tivoli where he set about expanding the modest property into the Villa we know today. Inside, there is a gallery with the many walls and ceilings covered in beautiful intricate frescoes. These paintings depict everything from Roman history and mythology to the countryside. Sadly, work on the property was ongoing and the Cardinal never saw the property finished, dying in 1572.
Spread before the windows and balconies of Tivoli’s Villa d’Este is the property's main attraction, the garden. The Villa d’Este is regarded as the finest example of a Renaissance garden and has been a subject of admiration for centuries. Standing at the Fountain of the Tripod, you can drink in the full splendor of the Tivoli gardens and the Italian countryside, all the way from Rome to Tivoli. The garden was initially designed to be entered from the bottom of the hill and ascending up towards the Villa. This way, the garden’s wonders slowly revealed themselves to its visitors. Although this is not a possibility today, it does not detract from the experience. The cypress-lined lanes, extravagant fountains, and patterned paving are a delight to stroll down and admire. The Oval Fountain and the Fountain of Rometta, connected by way of the Hundred Fountains, are genuinely breathtaking.
In fact, many of them built luxurious villas and constructed temples in the town’s close surroundings.
Today, Tivoli represents an essential site in the history of architecture. To be more precise, Tivoli’s monuments are some of the best surviving examples from the antiquity period. Among all the remains of lush Roman residences, the most important are those which were eventually acquired by emperor Hadrian. Hadrian’s Villa became the most magnificent imperial villa Roman Empire has ever seen and took impressive ten years to complete! It contained libraries, public baths, guest quarters, two theatres, and much more. Most of these structures you can still admire today.
Nevertheless, the importance of Tivoli goes beyond the role of a summer retreat. For instance, its quarries produce travertine, a white rock used in the construction of most Roman monuments. And, it wouldn’t be a true Italian hilltop town if its slopes were not covered with olive groves and vineyards. Fresh local produce is plentiful, so you can be sure to enjoy an outstanding meal after a long day of sightseeing! Browse below to explore the best and most exciting things to do in Tivoli.