Tivoli is the 5th biggest town in the province of Rome. It is located along the eastern border of the capital itself and has more than fifty thousand inhabitants. It has a beautiful historical center, but is mostly famous for the Villa Gregoriana, Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) and especially the magnificent Villa d’Este.
Tourist Information Tivoli
There is a tourist information office (Punto Informativo Turistico) right in the center of town. It can be found in the Piazzale Nazione Unite (almost in front of the bus stop, for visitors arriving from Rome). It is open from 10 AM till 1 PM and from 4 PM till 6 PM (closed on Mondays). Free maps, including an itinerary along the most interesting tourist sites, are available here. (Tel. +39 0774313536)
The most famous tourist attraction is the Villa d’Este. This sumptious villa is decorated with over five hundred fountains. The Villa Adriana was the residence of the Roman emperor Hadrian, while the Villa Gregoriana is also located in the centre. There are several Roman temples and near the medieval castle Rocca Pia one can see the ruins of an amphitheater. The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was built in the 5th century.
A Very Short History
What used to be called Tibur was one of the main components of the Latin League. This consisted of a number of Latin cities that had formed an alliance against enemies like the Etruscans. After the city had been conquered by the Romans it became a sort of holiday spot for the wealthy. In the early middle ages it was the seat of the Byzantine duchy and later the main papal possession in the area. Frederik I Barbarossa conquered Tivoli in 1155. It became part of the city of Rome in 1259. During the Renaissance cardinals and other rich people started building prestigious palaces again. In 1527 the city was plundered by the Landsknechts (German mercenary soldiers).
There are trains from Rome to Tivoli. These do not leave from the main railway station Termini, however, but from Tiburtina (metro line B) and the railway station in Tivoli itself is also not located in the center of the city. It is therefore recommended to take metro line B to the Ponte Mammolo stop and then a bus (Cotral). The 2,20 Euro ticket can be bought from the Cotral ticket office or from the bar/tobacco shop in Ponte Mammolo station. The ride takes approximately 30 minutes. On the way you will pass some of the quarries where the marble of many of Rome‘s monuments was won.
From the Grande Raccordo Anulare (the ringroad around Rome) you follow the E80. This is a tollroad. The Via Tiburtina (SR5) starts near Termini and is slower, but free.
Hadrian’s Villa is the most famous one of all the villas that surround Rome. It is located about 6 kilometers (4 miles) outside the historical center of Tivoli and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Emperor Hadrian built his villa in order to replicate the many beautiful buildings he had seen during his travels.
Address, Opening Hours and Admission
The address of Hadrian’s Villa is Largo Marguerite Yourcenar, 1- 00019 Tivoli. Tel. +39 0774 530203 or 0774 382733 (ticket office). From the center of Rome you take a Cotral bus from the Ponte Mammolo stop on line B. You ask the driver where to get off (Hadrian’s Villa is Villa Adriana in Italian) and then take another bus or walk for one kilometer. Opening hours: Every day (including monday) from 9 AM until 30 minutes before sunset. Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25. Admission: 8 Euros; EU citizens ages 18-25: 4 Euros; ages 0-17: free. There is a surcharge of 3 Euros in case of special events.
The Villa Adriana has two museums, one inside and one outside its grounds, near the parking lot. The second one contains a visitors’ center.
Hadrian’s Villa Tivoli
The villa was created by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and is virtually a city in itself. The complex contains temples, baths, lakes and fountains as well as an impressive labyrinth of underground passages. The Emperor himself supervised construction, which lasted from 118 until 138 AD. It is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient roman architecture.
Hadrian was a well-traveled man and he used the villa to recreate the architectural marvels he had seen during his trips to the eastern provinces. He even made a copy of hell, though it is not clear where he got the inspiration for this feat.
The gardens are embellished with statues that placed amongst between the various canals, fountains, baths and theaters. Many of these are now on display in different museums in Rome. Others were stolen, as was anything else made of marble.
After the emperor’s death, the villa became property of his successors, who restored and embellished it even further.
The first one to steal works of art from the villa was the Emperor Constantine, who in the early 4th century AD brought many objects to Constantinople. Barbarians later partly demolished the complex and during the middle ages the inhabitants of Tivoli themselves plundered the villa in order to reuse the materials for their own constructions.
Many Renaissance artists visited the villa in order to get inspiration and often left their signatures on the villa’s walls.
Organized excavations did not start until the 19th century.
Highlights Villa Adriana Tivoli
Around the Pecile
The scale model near the entrance shows Hadrian’s Villa the way it is supposed to have been in the 2nd century.
The Pecile starts at the entrance and is a reproduction of the Athens Poikile, which was admired by the emperor. This enormous portico has a central garden with a tub and was used for long walks inside the villa. Only its north wall is still standing.
The north eastern corner of the Pecile lead to the Hall of the Philosophers (Sala dei Filosofi), which was probably used as a library.
The Villa dell’Isola (or Teatro Marittimo) is a round building with a portico with columns around it. The Villa stands on a small island, surrounded by a canal. It is thought to have been the spot where the emperor dedicated himself in private to his hobbies (painting, poetry and music).
The building to the south of the Teatro Marittimo is called the Eliocamino. It consists of a number of rooms with tubs of cold and lukewarm water and one big round room with a hot water tub. This last room has a heating system underneath the floor and five enormous windows to let the sun in. The tub was probably meant for steam- or mudbaths.
The courtyard to the east of the Pecile was a nymphaeum. Beyond the buildings framing this courtyard are two thermal complexes called the Piccole Terme and the Grandi Terme. These well-preserved buildings contain a gym, a number of locker rooms and hot and cold water tubs.
The Canopo is built in a long and narrow artificial valley and is a reconstruction of the Egyptian town of that name. There is a tub surrounded by columns in the middle of the valley. The semi-circular building at the end is the famous Temple of Serapis, which is decorated with Egyptian sculptures. There are also some statues representing Antinoo, the emperor’s favorite boy, who died under mysterious circumstances in Egypt.
Imperial Palace and beyond
From the Canopo one passes the Pretorio and the Caserma dei Vigili on the way to the Imperial Palace. The most important constructions forming this palace are the Piazza d’Oro, the Atrio Dorico, il Peristilio di Palazzo and the Cortile delle Biblioteche.
The Piazza d’Oro (“Golden Square”) consists of a huge courtyard, which is framed by a portico with columns and a number of rooms around a big octagonal hall. During the summer months this hall was probably used as a banquet hall.
The “Doric Atrium” is another big room, probably framed by a two floor portico. This hall gets its name from the Doric columns and capitals supporting architrave.
The Peristyle leads to the Courtyard of the Libraries, whis is framed by a portico with Corinthian columns. On one side of this courtyard is the Hospitalia, a number of guest rooms. The back is taken up by two rooms thought to be libraries, one Latin and one Greek.
From the libraries the Pavilion (Padiglione) and the Terrazza di Tempe can be reached. This imitation of the Valle di Tempe in Thessaly is a panoramic terrace looking out over the valley beneath.
Apath through a small wood leads to the Casino Fede, which in the 18th century was constructed on top of a nymphaeum. At the end is a small theatre with room for no more than 500 people, meant for the emperor’s private use.
The Villa Gregoriana is an enormous park in the center of Tivoli outside Rome. The park was built in the 19th century, after the river Aniene had flooded the city. A walking path along the former river bed takes the visitor to beuatiful scenery and old Roman ruins.
Villa Gregoriana Tivoli Facts
Address, Opening Hours and Admission
The Villa Gregoriana has two entrances, one in the Largo Sant’Angelo and one in the Piazza Tempio di Vesta. Tel. +39 0774 318296. Opening times: March 2 till March 31 and October 16 till November 29 from 10 AM till 2.30 PM (Sundays and holidays till 4 PM). April 1 till October 15 from 10 AM till 6.30 PM. Closed: December, January, February (though the villa can be visited by appointment during these months). Admission: 5 Euros; age 4-12: 2,50 Euros; groups (min. 12 people): 4 Euros per person; families (max 4 people): 12 Euros. There may be a surcharge in case of special events. Practical tips: Wear solid footwear (definitely no high heels) and bring enough water.
History Villa Gregoriana Tivoli
The Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli is also known as the Villa of Manlio Vopisco. Vopisco was the owner of this villa, which was destroyed in Roman times.
The most imposing sight of the Villa Gregoriana is the more than 100 meter tall waterfall. Its water falls out of a tunnel that was dug in 1826, after the Aniene river had flooded. By means of this and other tunnels the course of the river was changed.
Pope Gregory, who commissioned the works, also had the Piazza Rivarola and the Piazza Massimo on both sides of the Ponte Gregoriano created. (This bridge was destroyed during World War II and later rebuilt.)
The Villa Gregoriana was founded after this. The old river bed was used to create a walking route alongside gorgeous rock formations, caves and old Roman ruins.
Clemente Folchi was the architect who designed the park. His project was the winner in a competition in which several international architects competed. It was his idea to drill through the Monte Catillo. The tunnels have a length of 280 meters and a maximum width of 10 meters.
The new project had two advantages. The danger of Tivoli being flooded was averted and the water was diverted to the industries in the area.
Building started in 1832. The inauguration took place in 1835. Pope Gregory watched everything from his “throne”.
The biggest attraction is the abovementioned waterfall. This Cascata Grande descends into the so-called Valle dell’Inferno (Valley of Hell).
The Caves of Neptune and the Caves of the Sirens are worth a visit. Here the river disappears underneath the rocks, to show up again further down river.
The Roman ruins of the Villa di Manlio Volpisco are located along the path through the park.
Driving to Villa Gregoriana
Take the A24 towards L’Aquila and take either the Tivoli or the Castel Madama exit. Follow the signs to the Villa Gregoriana.