Located around 20 miles from Rome is the town of Tivoli. Back in the days of the Roman Empire, it was a favorite vacation destination for nobles and Emperors. These days, it’s just as popular with tourists, thousands of whom descend on Italy each year to enjoy its world-class attractions. With its gardens, cathedrals, palaces, and ancient ruins, it’s a must-visit for anyone with even the vaguest of interests in Roman history. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to include these 20 best things to do in Tivoli, Italy in your itinerary.
20. Hike the Via delle Cascatelle
The Via delle Cascatelle consists of a walkway that passes through some of the most scenic landscapes in Tivoli. Accessed via the entrance to the Villa Gregoriana, it meaders along the outskirts of gorgeous parkland before continuing along the banks of the Aniene River. Along the way, you’ll pass by an arch constructed in 1955 in honor of the Virgin Mary, along with numerous waterfalls and woods. The stunning panoramas over the town are breathtaking, and although the hike can be slightly challenging in parts, it’s more than worth the effort. The views of the waterfalls from the Belvedere and from the former monastery of Sant’Antonio are particularly outstanding.
19. Soak up some history at Ponte dei Sepolcri o di Vopisco
If you can’t get enough of Roman history, don’t miss a bit to the ruins of Ponte dei Sepolcri o di Vopisco. The bridge, which once served as one of the three original crossings over the River Aniene, was built during the days of the Roman Empire. Much of it has been lost to the pages of history, but you can still view its ruins on the grounds of Villa Gregoriana. Consisting of a single arch and pillar, it might not seem much, but it still offers a fascinating insight into the engineering achievements of the ancient Romans.
18. Visit the Cathedral of San Lorenzo
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is an architectural wonder. Its tall square bell tower was constructed in the 11th century in a Romanesque style, but elsewhere, you’ll find numerous traces of first-century architecture. Chief highlights include the paintings by Angelo De Angelis in the interiors vaults, the 13th-century wooden sculpture group Descent from the Cross, and the stunning 12th-century triptych of the Savior by the Benedictine monks of Farfa Abbey.
17. Enjoy a meal at Lucignolo Risto Wine Bar
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make you feel peckish, it’s a full day of sightseeing. If touring Tivoli’s palaces and gardens have given you an appetite (not to mention a thirst), a visit to Lucignolo Risto Wine Bar should hit the spot. Located just a short hop, skip, and a jump from Villa d’Este, its extensive menu features a smorgasbord of Italian classics, from fettuccine and carbonara to bruschetta and paninis. It also offers a good range of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, making it a great option for those with specific dietary requirements. The wine list, as you’d expect, is just as tempting as the food.
16. Pay a visit to the Fontana Di Gemma
When engineers began working on the Tivoli–Mandela section of the Rome Sulmona railway, they hit on a problem. The narrow streets and jutting corner buildings made it almost impossible to transport the locomotive to the station and start work. So they took a bulldozer (or whatever the equivalent was in those days) to the corner house. Little did they know it at the time, but they’d end up creating one of Tivoli’s must-see curiosities. The shaved corned of the building is now home to the Fountain of Gemma – named after a famed midwife from the area, it’s an unmissable attraction.
15. Take the family to Park Malala Dream
Recommended by Trip 101 as one of the top things to do in Tivoli, Park Malala Dream is a must-visit for families. Located near Villa Adriana right in the center of town, it boasts a smorgasbord of sports facilities and games – if you’ve been hitting the pasta and pizza hard, this is where you can burn it off. In the summer months, the park is also a great place to catch a show or live music event. Just be warned that while there are free water dispensers scattered around the site, there’s precious little by way of shade, so be sure to slather on the sunscreen before you go.
14. Enjoy some gelato at Il Gelato di Pinocchio
On a warm summer’s day, there’s nothing like a refreshing gelato to cool you down. You’ll not be short of options to try, but if you want the best of the best, take the advice of Lonely Planet and head for Il Gelato di Pinocchio. A favorite with locals and visitors alike, its artisanal gelato needs to be tasted to be believed. Flavors are largely traditional, with the fragola (strawberry) and fico (fig) options standing out as key highlights.
13. Admire the Great Tivoli Waterfall
Ready to leave behind the ruins and the palaces and experience some natural beauty for a change? Then head to the Great Tivoli Waterfall, a stunning cascade that forms one of the focal points of Villa Gregoriana’s parkland. This isn’t some gentle, trickling fountain: plummeting over 120 meters, it’s a truly dramatic sight. It used to be even more dramatic, but after a devastasting flood in the 1820s; the river was diverted and the number of falls was reduced from 4 to 2. Even so, the curtain of water is still hugely impressive, and definitely worth a visit.
12. Enjoy some 10 pin action at Cosmico Bowling
A trip to Tivoli doesn’t need to be solely about architecture and history. If you’re in the mood for some 21st-century distractions, head to Cosmico Bowling. Featuring 8 lanes, it’s perfect for families looking to enjoy some 10 pin action. Other activities and amenities to enjoy include a billiard room with a pool table and plenty of arcade machines to test your wits against. If you get peckish, there’s an onsite wood oven pizzeria along with a bar offering a good selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.
11. Take some snaps at Casa Gotica
Tivoli is not the kind of place you can visit without a good camera. Case in point, Casa Gotica, a three-floor building that dates back to the late medieval period. Located on Via Campitelli, the house, which was constructed using local turf, offers a stunning glimpse into the architectural fashions of the period. It’s also close to many of the town’s other architectural gems, including the beautiful Villa d’Este and the equally glorious Tiburtine Square of Piazza Campitelli. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera on standby at all points – you’re going to need it.
10. Marvel at the ruins of Anio Novus Aqueduct
The construction of the Anio Novus Aqueduct began in AD 38 under Emperor Caligula. At the time, it was one of the four great aqueducts of Rome. All four have fallen into ruin (you can see the remains of two of them, the Aqua Anio Vetus and the Aqua Marcia, in Tivoli), but you can still appreciate the scale and beauty of Anio Novus Aqueduct (which was the tallest and most majestic of the four) from its ruins, particularly at Ponte degli Arci, which boasts the best collection of remains.
9. Take a day trip to Rome
While there’s more than enough in Tivoli to keep you entertained, it would be a shame not to take advantage of its proximity to Rome. The capital is just 20km to the west of Tivoli, making it perfect for a day trip. Trains run between the two cities regularly throughout the day, although you can also book a trip with a local operator to include transportation and a guided tour once you arrive. Key attractions not to miss during your visit include the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon.
8. Grab a bite to eat at Vapoforno Plebiscito
Tivoli has plenty of fine dining establishments, but some of the best places in town to eat are the most understated. Vapoforno Plebiscito is a small, unassuming little bakery that you wouldn’t look at twice were it not for the huge queues snaking through the doors. A much loved local favorite, its a great place to grab a slice of pizza or tuck into a warming plate of stew. The prices are much more affordable than the town’s more upscale eateries, but the food is just as good, if not better, than anything you’ll find elsewhere.
7. Bask in the beauty of Riserva Naturale Monte Catillo
If all the palaces and cathedrals and ruins are starting to look a bit samey, give yourself a break from the human-made wonders of Tivoli and indulge in some of its natural wonders instead. Located just a little northeast of the town is Riserva Naturale Monte Catillo, a gorgeous nature reserve featuring some of the most sublime natural beauty for miles around. The focal point of the reserve is Monte Catillo, a dramatic peak topped by a huge steel cross. If your legs are up for the challenge, you can hike to the top. If they’re not, there are plenty of trails, waterfalls, and forests to enjoy at its base.
6. Visit the Temple of Sibilla
The Temple of Sibilla sits on the edge of Villa Gregoriana’s gardens next to the circular pillars of the Temple of Vesta. It’s stood there for over two millennia, inspiring countless artists over the years. Erected at the highest point of the acropolis, it offers stunning views over the park and its surroundings.
5. Tour the Didactic Museum of the Ancient Books
If you’re visiting Villa d’Este (which you really should), factor in some extra time for a tour of the Didactic Museum of the Ancient Book, which aFabulousTrip ranks as one of the best museums in town. It’s a private institute dedicated to the preservation and reconstruction of historic documents, and an excellent place to either indulge or awaken your interest in ancient parchments. There’s an excellent variety of parchment and written materials to look at, along with fascinating collections of writing instruments, including styluses and natural glues, engravings and books, some of which date as far back as the 15th century.
4. Visit Rocca Pia
Rocca Pia serves as one of the key landmarks of Tivoli. Built more than 550 years ago under the instructions of Pope Pius II, it’s led a full and varied life, serving as both a barrack for Austrian and French troops in the 18th century and a prison during the Napoleonic wars. It eventually fell into disuse, but has since been given a second life as a hugely popular tourist attraction. Despite its age, its structure is still in remarkable shape, offering a tantalizing window into the architectural and engineering styles in fashion at the time of its construction.
3. Stroll around the Villa d’Este Gardens
Ranked as one of the best places to visit in Tivoli by The Crazy Tourist, the Villa d’Este Gardens are stunningly beautiful. The villa itself is divine, but the grounds are just as remarkable, featuring hillside terraces, endless water features, and majestic fountains, including the famous Oval Fountain and the equally spectacular Fontana di Nettuno, Fontana di Tivoli and Le Centro Fontane, all of which cry out be photographed. The grounds are expansive, so be sure to allocate enough time to explore them fully.
2. Admire the frescoes at Villa d’Este Palace
If the Villa d’Este Gardens are majestic, the Villa d’Este Palace is even more so. As PlanetWare explains, it was created during the 16th century under the instructions of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. As soon as he became governor of Tivoli, he commissioned architect/artist Pirro Ligorio to renovate the governor’s palace. Numerous leading lights were engaged in the project, including Girolamo Muziano, Livio Agresti, Durante Alberti, Federico Zuccari, Cesare Nebbia, and Antonio Tempesta. Some of the features have been lost over the years, but enough remain to make a true feast for the eyes. The artworks and architectural details in the Hall of the Hunt, the Hall of Glory, the Hall of Noah, and the First Tribune Hall are all absolutely unmissable.
1. Check out the mosaics at Villa Adriana
Villa Adriana (or Hadrian’s Villa, as it’s sometimes known) is one of Tivoli’s gems and something that no one, no matter how tight their schedule is, should miss. Constructed by Hadrian in the 2nd century, it ranks as one of the largest (and certainly most impressive) residential complexes ever built, occupying a site larger than Pompeii. Spanning over 250 acres, it features a vast array of pools, fountains, and architectural styles, the best examples of which can be seen in buildings such as the Grandi Terme, the Quadriportico, the Teatro Marittimo, and the Piazza d’Oro. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its picturesque landscape and plethora of mosaics, pottery, and ceramics offer an unmissable insight into ancient Rome.