Tivoli is a lovely little mountaintop town located about 20 miles from Rome, making it an ideal day trip from the capital. With its quaint business core of restaurants, cafes and shops, Tivoli feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of Rome’s tourist-heavy destinations.
One of Tivoli’s most enchanting sights is Villa d’Este, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The terrace gardens surrounding this villa are a must-visit for anyone in the area.
1. Villa d’Este
When Cardinal Ippolito d’Este narrowly lost the Papal election, he embellished a spectacular villa in Tivoli, a village in the hills east of Rome. It was brilliantly outfitted in 16th century frescoes, while the gardens were the highest achievement of hydraulic engineering for the age.
On the ground floor, you’ll find a small library and chapel, both of which are decorated with frescoes that mix Ancient roman motifs with traditional Christian symbols. Next, you’ll walk down a set of circular stone stairs to the Noble Floor, which is made up of about ten ornately decorated rooms. The Cardinal’s Bedroom, for example, has a coffered ceiling and is still covered in ornate friezes and frescoes.
2. The Temple of Vesta
One of the most beautiful ruins in Tivoli is the Temple of Vesta. It is located in a spectacular setting overlooking the waterfalls of the Aniene river and is regarded as one of the most iconic monuments to see in the city.
It is believed that this temple was built to honour Vesta, the goddess of hearths, home and family. The Romans believed that if the sacred fire was ever-burning, this would protect Rome from disaster.
The temple was first built by Numa Pompilius - Rome's second king – and he also founded the order of Vestal Virgins, dedicated to the goddess of hearths. The Virgins were charged with growing sacred grain that was used to burn at the Temple of Vesta's hearth.
3. The Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre is one of the best places to visit in Tivoli. It was built into the contours of the hillside and had an incredibly spacious open-air theatre with a seating capacity of up to 3,600 people.
It was used for gladiator fighting, chariot races and animal slaying events. During the Empire there were over 230 amphitheatres scattered across the empire.
4. The Waterfalls
Sitting atop the Sabine hills and alongside the Aniene River’s waterfalls, Tivoli is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. It is famous for its cooler temperatures and abundant water, making it an ideal getaway from the heat of Rome.
The park was commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835 to rebuild the bed of the Aniene River, which had been damaged by the flood of 1826. Originally the river formed a wide curve around the acropolis, and fell from a limestone spur onto the plain below.
5. The Rocca Pia
The Rocca Pia is a massive castle that sits atop the hill of Tivoli. It was built by Pope Pius II Piccolomini in 1461.
The castle was designed to control the riotous population of Tivoli and to avoid any future revolts. It took one year to build and was designed by two architects, Niccolo and Varrone.
The castle was originally used as a military barracks during the 1700s by both Austrian and French troops. After Napoleon’s conquest it was turned into a prison. The castle was used for that purpose until 1960.
6. The Tempio di Sibilla
The Tempio di Sibilla is a fascinating Roman temple that sits in a prominent position within the Tempio di Vesta. This round temple was built in the first or second century and features 10 of its original 18 Corinthian columns still standing - it is truly an incredible site to see.
It also has a very interesting symmetrical design which makes it even more interesting. At night you can see the columns light up and they look very impressive. The temple is a great place to visit during your Tivoli stay if you want to take in some more history.
7. The Gardens of Tivoli
The Gardens of Tivoli are an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site and are easy to visit on a day trip from Rome. They are an excellent example of Renaissance grandeur.
- The main axis of the gardens runs along the story of Hercules, and the central grottoes were designed to evoke his myth. The garden also features grottoes dedicated to the Sibyls, Venus, and Neptune.
- The gardens are a great way to spend a day, and are well worth a guided tour. They also offer different themed seasons, such as Halloween, Christmas and winter.