Tivoli is a commune of the greater metropolitan area of Rome in the region of Lazio. Despite its small size and close proximity to the eternal city, Tivoli actually has a great range of fantastic attractions and sites and is a great place to visit. This commune was founded in Roman times and was an important settlement during the reign of Emperor Hadrian due to its strategic location on the River Aniene. During the Middle Ages, Tivoli came under the control of the Papal States and was fortified with a defensive network and city walls. At the time of the Renaissance, the magnificent Villa d’Este was constructed and the commune continued to prosper. Today, Tivoli has an economy based on its travertine quarries and tourism.
In terms of attractions, Tivoli has a superb selection of historical architecture such as the Rocca Pia, Villa d’Este and the San Lorenzo Cathedral. Furthermore, the commune benefits from a series of magnificent waterfalls, an ancient Roman Amphitheatre and a series of high-quality restaurants and bars. Due to its close proximity to Rome, Tivoli is a great location to take a day trip, or to be used as a base for exploring Lazio.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Tivoli:
1. Villa Adriana
Many people do not know, but to the immediate west of Tivoli you can find an immense complex that was created for the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Covering an area of 120 hectares, this magnificent complex contains a myriad of well-preserved structures and offers superb insight into ancient Rome.
The Emperor used this villa as a retreat from Rome during the 2nd century AD and Tivoli was chosen due to its picturesque landscape.
Today you can find many beautiful buildings still standing such as the Grandi Terme, the Quadriportico, the Teatro Marittimo and the Piazza d’Oro.
Furthermore there is also a plethora of artefacts from the site such as mosaics, pottery and ceramics.
When visiting Tivoli, visiting the Villa Adriana is an absolute must!
2. Villa d’Este Gardens
These gardens are possibly the best known in Italy and represent the pinnacle of Italian landscape garden design.
Located in the western part of the town centre near the Duomo, the gardens are expansive and you could easily spend hours exploring the various different segmented areas.
Within the gardens you can find several beautiful fountains including the monumental Fontana di Nettuno, the Fontana di Tivoli and Le Centro Fontane – each fountain is adorned with sculptures and ornate decoration.
Additionally there is a series of landscaped gardens full of plants, trees and greenery.
This is a truly magical place to walk through and combined with the Villa d’Este Palace, is one of the top sites in Tivoli.
3. Villa d’Este Palace
The Villa d’Este was created during the 16th century under the instruction of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este.
Due to its location, the villa offers sublime views of the surrounding landscape and the gorgeous Villa d’Este Gardens.
Within the villa itself you can find a number of different rooms that have been restored and maintained in their original condition.
The detail and decoration found within these rooms is spectacular.
Notable rooms include The Hall of the Hunt, the Hall of Glory, the Hall of Noah and the First Tribune Hall.
Each room is practically covered with beautiful artworks and as you pass through each hall, you are presented with a myriad of different stories and legends and depicted in great detail and colour.
4. Via delle Cascatelle
This walkway passes through some gorgeous parkland and allows visitors to see the magnificent waterfalls that cascade in the northern part of Tivoli.
If you walk from the Villa Gregoriana and towards the Via Quintilio Varo you can see the waterfalls and the town of Tivoli.
The path winds through some beautiful woods and is a pleasant place to hike during fine weather.
If you want to view the waterfalls from the top, there is a small path from Via Quintilio Varo – this path heads to the edge of the falls and from here you can see the cascades of water and hear the thunderous noise of the water.
5. Rocca Pia
The Rocca Pia is an ancient medieval fortress that was built during the 15th century.
This beautiful structure was constructed during the conflicts of the Guelph’s and Ghibellines and was built to strengthen the defense of Tivoli.
What makes this structure so intriguing is its fantastic symmetrical design and the fact that it stands in such good condition despite being over 500 years old.
Four crenulated guard towers surround the keep and the towers and ramparts both feature an arched under design.
Although entry is not permitted inside the Rocca Pia, this is still an important building in the heart of Tivoli.
6. Tivoli Cathedral
The Cathedral of Tivoli is the main religious building in the town and is also known as the Duomo of San Lorenzo Martire.
The structure that currently stands in Tivoli was constructed in the 12th century in a Romanesque style.
Although the exterior is quite plain, there is a large bell tower and the white washed walls have various inscriptions.
Inside the cathedral however is a different story – the main aisle contains some absolutely stunning decoration on the ceilings, arches and main altar.
Throughout the interior you can see a myriad of different paintings and frescos, and practically every part of the building contains some ornate decoration.
7. Villa Gregoriana
This romantic complex is nestled within the valley of the Aniene River and is a great place to walk through in the eastern part of Tivoli.
Commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI in the 19th century, the villa has a series of beautiful gardens, grottos and paths that wind through the landscape.
Notable features include the Siren’s Grotto, the Grotto of Neptune and of course the Grande Cascata – you can see this waterfall from the villa in all its glory, and the man-made passageways that directed its flow.
When visiting Tivoli, consider spending time exploring this villa and the surrounding natural area.
8. Chiesa di Sant’Andrea
This understated church is often overlooked in favour of Tivoli cathedral however it has some amazing decoration in its own right and is a true hidden gem.
If you head down from the Via Ponte Gregoriano towards the Via dei Sosii, you will eventually find the church on the Via Sant Andrea.
The exterior is quite underwhelming and features several marble statues and Latin inscriptions but the real treat is inside.
When entering the church you would not expect such opulent decoration – the ceiling is particularly interesting as it has a checkerboard design with many golden reliefs.
Furthermore, the marble columns of the main aisle have a beautiful swirl pattern, and the main altar is embellished with colourful frescos – don’t miss out on this little known treasure!
9. Tempio di Vesta
The Temple of Vesta commands a domineering position on the western arm of the Aniene valley and provides superb views across to the Villa Gregoriano and the Tivoli waterfalls.
Two temples actually sit in close proximity to each other – the Tempio di Vesta and the Temple of Sibilla; both are remnants of the cities Roman past.
The Temple of Vesta features a beautiful circular design with many grand columns, whilst the Temple of Sibilla now stands as a simple square structure.
At night the columns are lit up and the effect is highly impressive.
There is even a restaurant next to the Tempio di Vesta which provides outdoor seating next to this magnificent structure.
10. Bleso Amphitheatre
As mentioned previously, Tivoli has an ancient history that spans back to the Roman era – Emperor Hadrian once lived here.
Many structures remain from this time period and one such relic is the Roman Amphitheatre.
This fantastic building has only recently been re-opened to the public but it is now possible to walk through the remains and see what stands of this once glorious theatre.
Located conveniently next to the Rocca Pia and the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Amphitheatre is easily accessible and a great place to visit whilst walking through the centre of Tivoli – you can still see the original oval shape of the building together with some of the columns and walls.
11. Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
In the southern part of the town centre of Tivoli you can find the immense Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi.
This square is a central point in the town and features some beautiful architecture including the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and a large modernist sculptured arch that spans two pools in the centre of the Piazza.
Furthermore, to the southern end of the square you can find a beautiful garden and the Panoramica Di Tivoli – this viewing point looks out onto the surrounding countryside and sunsets here are absolutely breath-taking.
12. Enjoy a meal at the Ristorante Osteria la Briciola
Tivoli has a variety of first class restaurants and the Ristorante Osteria la Briciola is one of the top rated in the area.
This fine establishment is actually located just outside of the city in the small village of Bivio San Polo on the slopes of Monte Catillo.
Here you can enjoy a myriad of beautifully created and presented dishes including seafood and traditional Italian pasta.
Furthermore their dessert section is to die for and each selection tastes divine and looks stunning.
Many people comment on the restaurants attention to detail, the friendly nature of the staff and the beautiful setting.
13. Take a day trip to Rome
When stopping in Tivoli, you simply cannot pass up the chance to visit Rome.
Tivoli is literally 20km to the east of central Rome and has great transport links to the Eternal City.
Rome is renowned worldwide for its fantastic array of ancient architecture and gorgeous historical buildings.
Notable sites include the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
This is just the beginning and Rome has so much more to offer than these well-known attractions.
Tivoli is a great base from which to explore Rome and travel into the centre.
14. Enjoy a drink at Flo’s cafe and bistro
Flo’s cafe and bistro is located on the Via Ponte Gregoriano; only a short walk from the magnificent waterfalls of Tivoli.
This establishment is a fantastic place to enjoy a quiet drink, but you can also tuck in to a hearty meal or a coffee.
The décor is upmarket and the ambience of the bistro bar is pleasant and inviting – if you can get an outside table you are granted with views of the Temple of Sibylla.
For those who enjoy a drink or two, you can choose from a range of craft beers, wines and spirits including many from the local area.
15. Riserva Naturale Monte Catillo
To the immediate north east of Tivoli you can find the Monte Catillo natural reserve.
This reserve is centred on Monte Catillo and has been designated a protected area since 1997. The reserve is mainly covered with luscious forest and it is possible to hike through this beautiful region and even climb to the summit of the mountain.
At the top of Monte Catillo there is a large steel cross that can be seen for miles around.
When hiking through the park you are presented with fantastic views of the surrounding landscape and it is even possible to see the waterfalls at Tivoli.