Villa D'este

Tivoli by Train from Rome

I’ve always wanted to visit Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy so last April we made the trip for my Birthday.

We flew into Rome as that’s the closest airport to Tivoli, which is around 30 kilometres from Rome.  I love Rome and was keen to spend some time there as well as Tivoli, so we had an overnight stay in Rome which gave us the opportunity to spend some time exploring.  I’ll tell you all about Rome next time.

Usually we’d hire a car at the airport, but I had heard that that the train journey from Rome to Tivoli was very pretty and as it was a direct route, just under an hour we decided we would take the train to Tivoli.

The trains depart from Roma Termini and a single fare was €2.60 which I thought was very cheap.  There are around 7 direct trains a day from Rome to Tivoli and they take between 35 minutes and an hour depending on which one you take.

After spending a day in Rome, we took an early evening train to Tivoli.  We purchased our tickets from one of the machines at the station and validated it in one of the special machines before we boarded the train.

The train journey was a pleasant meander through the Italian countryside and it made a nice change from driving.

When I booked our accommodation in Tivoli I asked the hotel owner what the best way to get from Tivoli station to the hotel was as I’d heard that there weren’t usually any taxis at the station and he kindly offered to collect us from the station when we arrived.

We arrived at the station around 19:30 and Nicoli, the owner was there to meet us.

Accommodation B&B Al Palazzetto

Although the accommodation is classed as a B&B it was more like a small boutique hotel. 

The Al Palazzetto is owned by Nicoli an architect who oversaw the renovations of the building which is set in the historical centre of Tivoli, around 200 yards from the famous Villa d’Este. 

Our room was large and airy, beautifully furnished and immaculately clean.  Breakfast is served in the dining room with wood-beamed ceilings and overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. Breakfast was a continental buffet with fresh fruit, bread, jams, yoghurts, meats and cheeses. Nicolleta made fresh homemade cakes for breakfast everyday and there was also the option of cooked eggs if you wanted them.

I should mention our room was on the top floor and as there aren’t any lifts this did mean a walk up two flights of stairs to get to our room, great for working off all those Italian gelatos.

Villa D'Este

Villa D’Este  was only 10 minutes from Al Palazzetto and a nice easy stroll.  The Villa entrance is behind the main square in the town and when we arrived at the Villa there were only a handful of people in the que.  We had heard that sometimes the queue can be very long to get in.

Villa d’Este is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. The Villa itself is lovely but the main attraction is the extensive water gardens.

The garden is constructed in a series of terraces of is filled with water features, fountains, streams and pools.

Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, Governor of Tivoli from 1550, wanted a hanging cliff garden.  In 1560 he started building the gardens.  It was the brainchild of the painter-architect-archaeologist Pirro Ligorio and built by court architect Alberto Galvani.

The rooms of the Palace were decorated under the tutelage of the stars of the late Roman Mannerism, such as Livio Agresti, Federico Zuccari, Durante Alberti, Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia and Antonio Tempesta. The work was almost complete at the time of the Cardinal’s death (1572).

The Villa went through a series of periods of decay and restoration and at the outbreak of the first world war the villa became a property of the Italian State. During the 1920s it was restored and opened to the public. 

The gardens are stunning, and we wandered around them for a couple of hours.  

Hadrian's Villa

Hadrian’s Villa is only a short distance from Tivoli, so we decided to visit it on your second day.  We hired a car for the remainder of our stay, so we made the short journey to the Villa by car.

It was late April when we visited, and the weather was pleasantly warm and sunny.  The site of Hadrian’s Villa is vast and quite exposed, so I can imagine it would get extremely hot in the height of summer.

Hadrian’s Villa is also one of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built by the request of the Emperor Hadrian.

The villa was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian at the foot of the Tiburtine Hills between 118 and 138 AD.

The original site was huge and extended over an area of about 120 hectares (about 300 acres) and it’s said that it looked very much like an ancient Roman city. The site included buildings, baths, temples, barracks, theatres, gardens, fountains and nymphaeums.

The site is still large, around 40 hectares, and we spent around 3 hours wandering around.  There was a small shop, but we wished we had taken a picnic with us to enjoy while we were there as the views of the surrounding countryside are also stunning.

The complex consists of:

  • The Vestibule, which connected the Great and Small Baths;
  • The Canopus, a long canal lined by columns of caryatids in homage to the ancient Egyptian city of the same name;
  • The Maritime Theatre, a portico which contained a round pool representing the sea;
  • The Pecile a long covered portico once used for panoramic strolls;
  • The Great and Small Baths, places where endless days would be spent on wellness;
  • The Greek Theatre, a small court theatre reserved to only a few guests;
  • The Greek Library and Latin Library, repositories of knowledge.

Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa both surpassed my expectations and I’d happily return.

Eating & Drinking in Tivoli

In Tivoli there were plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from to eat.  And; as you’d expect from any Italian town there are one or two gelateria.  I usually refrain from having a dessert when we eat out in Italy as I’d much rather get a gelato on the way back and eat it whilst strolling along.

We ate in one of the family run Pizza restaurants and the food was very good and the staff were lovely.  There were three generations in the restaurant and the grandfather was chef and chief pizza maker and one evening when we were eating fairly late he came over to chat to us as the restaurant was quite quiet and when we left he gave me a bottle of local olive oil.

We also ate at Sibilla,  whose claim to fame is that Princess Margaret and Yoko Ono have eaten there.  The food was excellent, and we also enjoyed some local wine, one of our favourites was made from the Cesanese grape varietal.  I especially enjoyed the shrimp and squid ravioli which I had as a starter but the roast pork with potatoes and artichokes was also very good.

The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere and gets very busy and is in a stunning location at the foot of the Temple of Vesta. 

Time to Go Home

After a very busy, but thoroughly enjoyable, long weekend it was time to go home.  We had arranged to drop the hire car off at the airport so that meant we didn’t have to get the train back into Rome.

If you enjoy Roman history and architecture, and good food I would certainly recommend a trip to Tivoli.

Written by 

Hi, I’m Frankie. This is my blog (Thoroughly Modern Grandma) about blending old fashioned values with modern technology, whilst trying to reduce our waste and be a little kinder to our Planet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *