He’s sitting there with this huge boyish grin on his face. Granted, we are in a great little Italian town, Tivoli, having lunch while looking at a castle, but I can’t figure out what this big grin is for all of a sudden. I start to ask, but then I see it. The waiter is bringing over a big glass full of ice with Marty’s Coke. Oh yes, it’s the little things that you miss while traveling internationally, and ice was definitely one of those things. I would say the town of Tivoli just gave Marty a big hug! LOL.
Of course, we also brought the Texas heat with us to Europe on this visit. It was the hottest summer they have had on record, ugh! So this glass of ice meant even more than ever. It’s as if the heavens opened up and rewarded us for our journey to Tivoli today and gave us a brief respite from the scorching heat. He took one drink from that ice cold Coke, and declared it was the best Coke ever!
But a glass of ice is not what drew us to Tivoli. We were there to see Villa d’Este with its magnificent fountain filled grounds and the Villa Gregoriana, the romantic gardens that are filled with waterfalls and ruins.
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Getting to Tivoli
Tivoli is a beautiful town situated in the Lazio region of Italy and is a perfect day trip from Rome. Getting to Tivoli from Rome was actually very easy. Marty and I bought our train ticket online, made our way to the Termini, the main train station in Rome, hopped on the train and then sat back and relaxed. If you prefer to do a guided tour so you don’t have the stress of organizing ANYTHING, then consider taking one of these great trips to Tivoli from Viator.
Now, don’t let the name fool you. This is much more than just a villa. Villa Gregoriana is actually a huge ecological park that contains the ruins of the historic Villa Gregoriana. Upon entering the park, the sign claims to be a romantic walk through the beautiful Tivoli valley. I am immediately excited, picturing Marty and I strolling hand in hand down meandering paths with birds chirping us a song in the distance. Man, was I wrong! Bring good shoes. While the walk down is pretty easy, it’s that hike back up from “The Valley of Hell” that got me. It was pretty steep!
You begin by walking down meandering paths and quickly come to the ancient ruins of Villa Gregoriana built into the hillside. Take a few minutes to walk through this simple, but historic home. I loved that the posted signs gave you a full insight into the history of the Villa as well as the surrounding area.
Continuing on our way, we were stoked to see and hear the roaring waterfall that flows through the beautiful park. Of course, we had to stop and take lots of pictures.
As we walked down into the gorge, we were surrounded by lush vegetation that provided a welcome break from the summer sun.
Remember for every step you go down, you have to take that step to go back up. Despite this, I highly recommend doing the entire loop and seeing the entire park. You will be rewarded with beautiful scenery, great waterfalls, grottos, and ruins. Overall it took us about 2.5 hours to do the entire loop, but we stopped a lot for pictures and just took our time to explore.
The amazing Villa d’Este was the main reason that we chose to visit Tivoli. Villa d’Este was built in 1550 for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, the son of Lucrezia Borgia. After losing a bid to become Pope, Ippolito decided to bring the grandeur of his family name to Tivoli. He commissioned his architect to create a grand, expensive home that he could fill with everything his money could buy. And boy did he succeed! Today, the gardens of the Villa are currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its fountains are world famous. I must tell you that pictures will not do this place justice, but we will try! LOL!
The approach to Villa d’Este is rather unassuming. Follow the signs through the town of Tivoli and they will lead you right to the entrance to the grounds. Upon paying our entry fee, we entered into a courtyard and then into the rooms of the Villa. Although we were super excited to see the ornate fountains and grounds, we took time to explore the villas as well. The multi-level villa is filled with colorful frescoes featuring Roman history, mythology, and religion.
Enjoy the beautiful villa, but don’t linger for too long because the highlight is truly the amazing fountains and gardens. When we stepped outside, we were immediately in awe. I just stood there for a minute before asking Marty if this was real. The view of the countryside and the expansive gardens were amazing! The sound of running water was everywhere. We were surrounded by greenery dotted with beautiful flowers. There were grottos encased with vines and statues spouting water everywhere we turned.
While exploring, we hear people talking about making their way to The Fountain of the Organ by a certain time. Intrigued, we found ourselves following a couple that was heading in the opposite direction of us chatting it up about this fountain. Upon arriving, we noticed a crowd of people on the upper and lower decks staring at this amazing fountain. And then it happened, organ music surrounded us. It was astounding and I imagine that it probably echoed through the valley below. What a show of money and power this was from the d’Este family. The organ was the first of its kind as it is powered by water pulled through the pipes by nothing more than gravity.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the grounds while inhaling the sweet smell of jasmine and honeysuckle that seemed to linger in the air. It was hard to believe that every fountain on the grounds is powered by the water pressure from the diverted river. I was also amazed at the ingenuity of the creators of this amazing place. I found it hard to imagine that they could do all of this back in the 1500s.
Staying in Tivoli
While we did a day trip to Tivoli and returned to Rome, I would have thoroughly enjoyed spending a night or two in this charming little town. It was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city. We would for sure stay in an Airbnb here next time. We love Airbnb because it allows us to feel like a local. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, click here for a credit on your first booking!
If you prefer a hotel, we recommend using Hotels.com. Their reward program allows you to earn free stays in no time! Use the link below to book with Hotels.com.
Of course, we also love using TripAdvisor to ensure we get good, honest reviews of the hotels. Check them out today as well!
We hope you have time to visit the beautiful historic town of Tivoli. Be sure and check out some of our other Italy posts: 50 Things to Do In Venice on a Budget, 72 Hours in Venice, or 24 Hours in Capri.
Please comment below and tell us what you are looking forward to seeing in Tivoli.
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