Discover the unique Italy: visiting Tivoli’s Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana

Rome

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Scene of everyday Tivoli

Tivoli is a small town, located an hour away by a train from central Rome. The journey there was planned and I encourage everyone to consider going as well, especially for it being a very popular tourist attraction. Tivoli boasts of hosting historical villas and we visited two of them – Villa d’Este and Villa Hadriana (Adriana).

Getting there

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We took a train to Tivoli from Roma Termini, which, I will be honest, is a very confusing train station, so we were forced to seek out help in the tourist information, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to understand which train is which. The tickets weren’t expensive, without return it cost us €2.6 to get there. To get to Villa Hadriana from Villa d’Este, you will need to use a local bus, which runs within Tivoli frequently and is not expensive. Tickets are bought from tourist shops.

Villa d’Este

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Fountain of Neptune, Villa d’Este

It was such a lucky day for us, especially in terms of weather. Not too hot, not too cold. Going from Tivoli train station, we stopped at a local flea market and a coffee shop. Coffee there was very delicious and we tried Italian sweet treats as well, all for cheap; make sure to try local food and drinks in Tivoli! Stop there to refresh your taste buds and higher your spirits up for the rest of the day, because it will be overwhelming.

We strolled through tiny centre of Tivoli, making our way to Villa d’Este. First we were confused which way is the right way, however, locals are very friendly and will do their best to advice you about the directions.

Honestly, about Villa d’Este. It is a remarkable place, originally built for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este in 16th century. Villa is renowned for its Renaissance architecture, especially fountains and is one of the most important architectural sites in Italy, also being protected as a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Inside Cardinal’s halls

We walked into the Apartments of Cardinal, and we were stunned by the frescoes and the extent of the building, having in mind that it was built for only one person to enjoy. Each hall had its own purpose and name, personally I loved the Hall of Venus, which had its own fresco and a fountain, which is no longer original (Venus statue was replaced after Cardinal died).

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Detail of Cento Fontane

We toured around the building for awhile and rushed outside to see those beautiful fountains that everyone fuss about. I fell in love with Cento Fontane or The Hundred Fountains. Each of the fountains had a unique face, it left such a huge impression on me. The garden itself is quite big with fountains, grottoes, statues on the way. Everything was overwhelming with luxury and details, so I would suggest taking your time to observe the uniqueness of this place. You can observe The Fountain of Neptune straight across the fish ponds. This fountain is the main detail of whole villa, something you will see in pamphlets and advertisements, however, this one was built in 20th century due to original piece deteriorating. It receives water from the upper fountain, called Fountain of the Organ.

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I can’t put everything I saw there into this single post, but every single piece in this villa is extremely detailed and ingenious. To think that this villa, with whole lot of fountains, pools and channels was designed in 16th century without any modern technologies, is fascinating. The amount of symbolism in this architecture was the most interesting to me actually. Symbols of both, Christianity and pagan religions, co-existing together and making an overall harmony, are simply beautiful.

Getting there: The villa is within walking distance from the train station (approx. 15-20 minutes) and is not too hard to find. I am pretty sure that tickets can be bought online and at the villa, here is the official site for more info.

The Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana)

After Villa d’Este, we continued our journey in Tivoli by visiting Villa Adriana, which is an archeological ruin complex dating back to 2nd century AD, designed for Emperor Hadrian, who later governed the country from there.

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When we entered the gardens, we immediately felt a different atmosphere than that of Villa d’Este. Time stopped to us completely. The day was warm, there was no wind and the setting sun created mysterious shadows, the feeling was indescribable. You could feel like you travel in time and found yourself somewhere far away from civilisation, surrounded by ancient ruins and mountains in horizon. It was especially enforced with the fact that there were barely any tourists, maybe due to the season or because that it is more remote area.

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Pool of Canopus

Villa consists of vast garden, its flora seems almost unique and adapted to that villa through the course of centuries, pools, baths, fountains and aqueducts. The most notable place in this villa is pool of Canopus, that is usually the selling point of this place.

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It is worth to take a walk through all (or most) of this site, paying attention not only to the ancient ruins that have lots to tell, but also to plants (and animals! You will meet fearless turtles nearby the pool by the entrance).

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Tickets are bought at the entrance, I’m pretty sure there is a discount to young people. More about Villa Adriana here.

General advice for Tivoli

I would encourage to pack enough food for whole day, because there might not be any chance for you to stop to eat (I hope you will have time for it, though). Water can be acquired almost everywhere in Tivoli, including Villa Adriana, it has its own water fountains, designed for drinking. If you are lost, don’t hesitate to ask locals for information and have your ID with you when you go, you might get discounts if you are between the age of 18-26. Also, make sure to plan your day accordingly and think about the villas you want to visit (there are more than two that I wrote about), because each of them takes time to enjoy and some of them can be located far away from each other. If you are staying in the central Rome, make sure you don’t miss the last train or the bus (you can go back to Rome with either of them).

More information about travelling in Tivoli can be found here.