Imagine renaissance history, beautiful nature, and breath-taking Italian villas situated on the hills of this small town. Tivoli isn’t just another romantic Italian small town whose narrow streets are hiding stories from the past centuries. Tivoli is a town whose cascade houses are whispering about the lives of the aristocrats and their families, about the dramatic past of the Italian aristocratic families and their secrets. There are three large villas that belonged to aristocrats and are perhaps the most famous architecture you can see in this town. Villa D’Este, Hadrian’s Villa and Temple of Vesta still exist and despite being old for more than five centuries, they still breathe with renaissance elegance and charm.
1 History of Tivoli
The old Tibur is an ancient Italian town in Lazio, situated about 30 kilometers east-north-east of Rome, at the falls of the Aniene River where it issues from the Sabine hills. The city offers a wide view over the Roman Campagna, you just have to stop and enjoy it. Historical traces of settlement in the area date back to the 13th century BC. The city’s name may share a common root with the river Tiber and the Latin praenomen Tiberius. It is interesting that Tivoli has been a vacation destination since the ancient Rome. During the Renaissance popes and cardinals did not limit their embellishment program to Rome, and erected buildings in Tivoli (the town is quite close to the Italian capital, if you decide to use a train from the center of Rome you will arrive within 60 minutes). In 1461 Pope Pius II built the massive Rocca Pia to control the always restive population, and as a symbol of the permanence of papal temporal power here.
2 Vila D’Este
In 1550, the disgraced Cardinal Ippolito d’Este consoled himself by having this villa built. This magnificent building was constructed by Neapolitan architect Pirro Ligorio. It is always full with tourists who admire the incredible fountain system, the sculptures and the green gardens. The villa was a former Benedictine convent and is considered to be one of the most enchanting villas of the late Renaissance period. Your guide will tell you how life was going on in this huge mansion that was once a lavish home for the son of Lucretia Borgia, a scandalous Italian duchess, who led a very dramatic life in the fifteenth century. Here you can see the Fountain of Neptune as you walk around the villa’s stunning gardens. Le Cento Fontane (100 Fountains) will make you shut up and admire the impressive solution of the renaissance pipe system. The impressive waterfalls, centenary trees and more than 500 fountains are only a few of the magnificent things you can see in this villa. The inside of the villa breathes with history – the ceilings are painted with colorful and floral motives, and on the walls you can see the life of the owners, captured in well preserved frescos. If you are visiting the villa on Sunday you may actually get a free entrance. The other two villas (Hadrian’s and Temple of Vesta never offer free entrance) and are also breathtaking architectonic miracles surrounded with lovely gardens and fountains.
3 Things to do
Tivoli has a clean and fresh air. It is because the town is constantly blown by light breeze and the nature that surrounds it (the heels and the rich river Aniene) keeps this little town green and clear. If you arrive in the city with a train, you will have to walk down the streets that would simply lead you downtown, from where you can see the valley surrounded by heels, history and the loud water of the river. If you don’t have an organized sightseeing, you can manage only by using Google Maps or simply asking the locals. Also, the city signs of the streets and the historical places will do you a favor. Just follow them. In 1461 Pope Pius II built the massive Rocca Pia, the castle that would get your attention as you walk downtown. It was built to control the always restive population, and as a symbol of the permanence of papal temporal power here. If you are heading straight for the Villas your way of orientation will be the tourists who are heading towards them, so you won’t make a mistake. Perhaps the Villas are the biggest attraction of the town and after seeing the fountains and the gardens carefully guarded with centuries, nothing will be the same. The Roman Terms and the several churches such as San Silvestro, San Andrea, San Francesco are another way to see the renaissance art done by the Italian maestros.
4 Shops and restaurants
The tiny Italian restaurants, little souvenir shops and the old houses will give you a unique feeling of time traveling. Just relax and breathe in the renaissance spirit in your lungs. You can get a decent Italian meal or coffee for reasonable price in any of the local cafes or restaurants. T-shirts, tiny snowballs with the picturesque town villas or its streets, post cards and other souvenirs can be bought for a couple of Euros.
5 How to get there
You can always get a plane to Rome and land on Fiumicino or Ciampino airport. From there you can get a train to the center of Rome from where you can buy a ticket (or book it previously) to Tivoli. In an hour you will get from Rome to Tivoli. You can either rent a car or go with a bus, but the train is the cheapest and perhaps the fastest way to get there. There are over 40 hotels where you can stay overnight or longer.