The Villas of Tivoli

A few miles from Rome, on the slopes of the Tiburtini mountains, along the banks of the Aniene river, rises the enchanting city of Tivoli. An incredible combination of naturalistic landscapes, impressive architectural works, historical heritage and gastronomic tradition.

Tivoli is famous worldwide for its villas. Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (both UNESCO Heritage) and the wilder Villa Gregoriana.


The legends about the origins of Tivoli are many. What is certain is that the city was born in 1215 BC, about 500 years before Rome. However the area was inhabited since prehistoric times, thanks to its excellent location.

The proximity to Rome made it an important commercial center of the Empire as well as a holiday destination favored by the emperors. In particular by the emperor Adriano, who built his residence here.

During the Middle Ages Tivoli became an Episcopal seat and began contrasts with Rome, jealous of its strategic position towards Abruzzo.

In 1550 Cardinal Ippolito D’Este, who fell in love with the city, built the sumptuous Villa d’Este there.

During the Second World War the city suffered numerous bombardments from the Anglo-American army because it was on the escape route of the Nazis.

Villa Adriana

The Villa was built between 118 and 138 AD by Emperor Adriano. He chose this location for several reasons: the great wealth of water and vegetation of the area, the proximity to Rome, and the connection with Via Tiburtina

The architectural skills of Hadrian influenced the construction of the Villa. The techniques were very innovative  for that time. It extended over an area of about 716 acres and was divided into four areas. There are the representative and thermal buildings, the Imperial Palace, the summer residence and the monumental area.

The Villa reproduced the spaces of the Roman city but also the provinces of the Empire, in memory of Adriano’s travels.

The monumental buildings are dedicated to Greece, Egypt, Syria. For example, the Pecile proposes the Stoa of Athens, the famous arcade under which philosophy and science were discussed.

In addition to the Imperial Palace, there were temples, libraries, theaters, spas, the arena, parks, warehouses and servants’ quarters and garrisons.

The decorations and sculptures were of the highest level. Everywhere we find statues, water games, colonnades, precious marbles, frescoes, stuccos and polychrome mosaics.


Villa D’Este

Right in the center of Tivoli, Villa D’Este is one of the symbols of the Italian Renaissance. It represents a unique example of a 16th century Italian garden, which certainly had a decisive influence on the development of the gardens in Europe.

The complex was built in 1550 by Pirro Logorio, commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, who became governor of Tivoli.

It covers 10 acres and includes the residential building, a garden adorned with tree-lined avenues and hedges, and numerous fountains.

The wonderful garden of Villa d’Este is divided between terraces, slopes, waterfalls and splendid fountains that create spectacular water games.

It is a true masterpiece of hydraulic engineering. The water in fact comes directly from the Aniene river through a 2000 feet long underground channel.

The main fountain of the villa is called Tivoli Fountain. It is a representation of the territory itself with the simulation of the mountains and the great waterfall of the Aniene river in the historic center of Tivoli.

The Bicchierone fountain was created by Bernini. He was so impressed by the grandeur of the Villa that he wanted to pay homage to it with a work of his own.

The Organ Fountain is truly unique. It was built with an innovative system, the hydraulic organ, designed to create a musical fountain. In fact, inside the fountain there is an air and water driven system that allows the production of music. Even today, it is fully functional and, while the water is falling, the organ produces fascinating music.


Villa Gregoriana

Villa Gregoriana is a spectacle of nature. Woods, paths, ancient vestiges, natural caves, and a spectacular waterfall, an incredible work of hydraulic engineering.

It was built in 1832 for the will of Pope Gregory XVI. It was a great work of hydraulic engineering to contain the continuous flooding of the Aniene, giving rise to the 400 feet jump of the Grande Cascata, the second in Italy after the Marmore.

But Villa Gregoriana not only offers naturalistic attractions.  Walking through the park in fact meets the ancient Acropolis of Tivoli and its important archaeological remains, such as the temple of Vesta and the temple of the Sibyl dating back to the III-II century BC

Cascata Grande © trolvag

Cascata Grande © trolvag

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