The Internet's most comprehensive Travel website for Italy
Use quote marks to search for exact names eg "Hotel Florence"

A panorama of Tivoli, Italy

Statue overlooking pool at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Italy

Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy

Welcome to Tivoli
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 65,599 (2005)
Official website:
Wikipedia: Tivoli
Maps: Multimap

Tivoli is the ancient city of Tibur, called Tibur Superbum by Rome’s acclaimed poet, Virgil, in the Illiad (Illiad, book VII). The locals are quick to boast about it being even more ancient than Rome itself (Rome was founded in 753 B.C.), but whatever the date of its foundations, Tivoli is most certainly among the richest cities on the Italic peninsula for history, art and other creative activity - and bloodshed!  

The city is situated in the heart of Latium – modern-day Lazio – and was therefore a meeting point for many ancient pre-Roman tribes people, including the Sibini and Latini. It was central ground for trade and commerce; a dynamic and “international” city that reaped the economic and cultural benefits of hosting so many travellers and businessmen.

In the 4th century B.C. Tivoli was one of the many smaller towns to be caught in Rome’s urban expansion, and underwent considerable transformations: due to its pleasant surrounds (Tivoli is situated on the left banks of the Aniene River among vineyards and olive gardens) the city quickly became a popular site for the family residences of affluent Roman officials and politicians, the remains of which have been excavated and can still be admired today. The most famous of these ancient homes – the Villa Hadrian (Villa Adriana) – has been fully restored and is a must-see for anyone in the area, locals included! 

With the arrival of foreign and barbarian populations in the lower Middle Ages the city declined in power and glory. The roman villas were abandoned for the lack of security and the pastoral countryside was left uncared for. The population began to withdraw itself behind the city walls, pulling a dark shade over Tivoli’s once famed beauty. It was only with Federico Barbarossa that the city regained is previous splendor: he raised and expanded the city’s walls and supported other new construction – including the many case-torri (tower houses).

With the nomination of Cardinal Ippolitto II d’Este in 1550, the edification of one Tivoli’s most famous remaining monuments began – the Villa d’Este. Using the most advance technology of the time, the architect of the Villa constructed more than 300 fountains, water falls, pools and ponds, all supplied by a 600 meter-long tunnel running underground across the city itself to the banks of the Aniene River. With this masterpiece adorning Tivoli’s skyline, a new fervour for architecture was launched among the city’s aristocrats. It was in the following century, in fact, that Tivoli saw most of its religious construction: the Saint Lawrence Cathedral (1635-40) and the Church of Jesus (today no-longer standing after the bombardments of 1944). 

Among Tivoli’s architectural masterpieces are also the Ponte Gregoriano (Gregorian Bridge) and the Villa Gregoriana, both of which were finalised in the 19th century and take their name from the Pope Gregory XVI. Other monuments not to be missed are the roman amphitheatre, the famous Rocca Pia.

There is a lot to take in while touring the ancient town of Tivoli – best accomplished with a little historical information and a good pair of walking shoes! Because of the city’s many attractions, Tivoli appeals to students, artists, architects, and travellers of all kinds; therefore, it is best, when possible, to avoid periods of intense tourist traffic to better enjoy your visit.  

The Villa d’Este was commissioned by the Cardinal Ippolitto II d’Este and constructed by the Napolitan architect, Pirro Ligorio, in 1550, at the height of the Italian renaissance. Constructed at Tivoli’s city limits, it occupied an area previously home to a government building, and positioned between two important religious sites, the churches Santa Maria Maggiore and Saint Peter’s (Pietro). It is renowned for its artistic wonders, but in particular Villa d’Este is famed for its 255 waterfalls, its 100 pools and 50 fountains among the other fantastic and original renaissance designs that transform the gardens into an enchanting oasis.

During the twenty years that it took Ligorio to complete his construction of the Villa and its gardens, he dug a 600 metre-long tunnel under the medieval city of Tivoli which served to pump an incredible quantity of water from the basin of the Aniene River to the pool above the famous Fountain dell’Ottavo. Using only the natural physical force of the fountains themselves, without any motorisation (let us not forget the limits of technology in the 1500’s), Ligorio was able to calculate exactly how much water would have been necessary to supply the Villa and the gardens; his system is still used today, pumping about 300 litres of waters every second towards the fountains.

The Villa Hadrian (Villa Adriana) is the largest private-owned dimora ever built by a roman emperor and testimony to the extraordinary architectural talent of the roman people. Its parameters extended 3 kilometres around the property, covering an area of at least 120 hectares. The site had previously been home to a smaller republican dwelling, and only became heart of the imperial residence when the land was given to Emperor Hadrian (Adriano) as a part of his bride’s dowry.

At it’s peak splendour, the villa was complete with gardens, pools, walkways and sporting areas for leisure activities of all kinds, while the numerous structures on the property were home to stadiums, theatres, pools and thermal springs, libraries, temples, basilicas, entertainment suites and of course the private quarters of the imperial family. Over the course of two centuries – construction began in the 2nd century B.C. only to be completed mid-way through the 1st century B.C. – the villa had become the epitome of imperial refinement and power, representing the height of roman domain and magnificence.

by Arianna Andrews, July 23, 2007

Lazio Roma

41°57′36″N, 12°48′0″E


Rome - 34 km;
Terni - 111 km;
Orvieto - 127 km;
Perugia - 180 km;
Florence - 182 km;
Cortona - 210 km;
Naples - 215 km


Hotel Torre Sant'Angelo

Agriturismo La Meridiana

Coat of Arms for Tivoli



Villa D'Este
8.30am until one hour before sunset. Tickets:
Full price – 6.50 euro
Hadrian's Villa
9am until 1 and a half hour before sunset; Closed: Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25.
Tickets: Full price – 6.50 euro.
More info