Tivoli is a historic hill town a short drive east of the Italian capital and one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Rome.
Since ancient times Rome’s rich and powerful had summer residences in Tivoli as the climate here is slightly cooler. Nowadays, the town has several historic villas with gardens that are open to the public, ancient temples and excellent restaurants. The late Renaissance Villad'Este is one of the main attractions built in the 1550s for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este when he became Tivoli’s governor.
|Tivoli - Villa d'Este|
The palace has many frescoed rooms and a beautiful courtyard; however, it is the gardens astound everyone. Stretching over several acres, the terraced garden boasts over five hundred fountains, pools and cascades combined with grottoes, statues and spectacular views over the Roman countryside. Grand, large and small fountains of every shape are dazzling, so take your time to admire their elaborate details. The intricate Fontana dell'Organo has a water-powered organ with water cascading into large pools; the fountain Rometta ("the little Rome") is a miniature reproduction of the Eternal City; the Fontana dell'Ovato is made in such a way that you can walk behind the jets of water.
|Tivoli - Villa d'Este - Fontana dell'Orologio|
Another attraction in Tivoli is the Hadrians Villa, spectacular ruins of the Roman Emperor Hadrian's impressive summer residence. Although it had been savaged, looted and left to decay for many centuries, its splendour and grandeur are still undeniable. Sprawling over a staggering 250 acres, the Villa had lakes, fountains, libraries, baths, temples and gardens.
|Tivoli - Villa Adriana|
The complex was built in the 2nd century AD by the well-travelled Emperor Hadrian, who wanted to reproduce the best architecture and sculptures that he had seen in Greece, Egypt and other countries. You will need a few hours to explore and wander through the site without rush. The small model near the entrance gives an idea what the residence looked like in Hadrian's days with palaces, several baths, state rooms, theatre, temples, libraries, and living quarters for the emperor's court and slaves. A significant part of the estate has not been yet excavated but you can see beautiful mosaics, fountains, colonnades, and statues.
Photos via Flickr: Paula Funnell, Filip Maljković, Giampaolo Macorig.