Tivoli is a fun little town outside Rome to the northeast. It’s easy to reach, and you’ll have no trouble getting there – either on your own or with a tour. I recommend that you take public transportation or go with a group to avoid the hassle of driving and dealing with a vehicle. Tivoli is small, and a car is definitely not needed to get around. Like Rome, Roman towns are not known for their abundant parking.
Reaching Tivoli is easy, and you have two choices – train or CoTRAL bus (you can drive if you’re feeling up to it). Which you chose depends on what you prefer. I think that the train is more comfortable, but you’ll probably find that the bus is more direct and slightly quicker. To take the bus, take the Rome Metro to Ponte Mammolo and then jump on the CoTRAL bus to Tivoli. It should be labelled “Tivoli”, but if you’re in doubt just ask. There are a number of buses that go to Tivoli so check the schedule before heading out.
If you take the train, you’ll have to leave from Rome’s Tiburtina Station (not Termini — keep in mind that in order to reach other sites and places outside Rome, not all trains depart from Termini!). You can find more about the exact fairs from the Trenitalia web site (link in the sidebar on the left). The train trip takes about an hour.
Once you reach Tivoli, check out the local tourist office – it’s located in Piazza Garibaldi (see map below), which is where the main bus stop is and very close to the Villa d’Este. It has a good reputation, and many a traveler will swear by them. They can probably offer you suggestions on where to stay for the night if you’re up for making your trip an overnight one as well as places to eat. If you take the train, keep in mind that the train station is located outside the city center, so you’ll have to cross the river (there’s a bridge) to get to the main part of town. A friend and I drove when we went to Tivoli so I never used the public transport to get to Tivoli. From what I’ve read from other traveler’s the walk is between 5 min and 30 min. It’s probably about a 10-15 min. walk from the train station to the center of town.
While Tivoli can certainly be seen in a day, you might want to spread your visit out over a day or two so that you can relax and see the sites at your leisure. Some guidebooks dismiss Tivoli as being an ugly town, but I find that it can be quite pleasant with spectacular views and sumptuous sites, as there’s always an influx of people, Italians and tourists, who are visiting the town.
The sites listed below are the most commonly sought out at Tivoli:
- Villa d’Este
- Hadrian’s Villa / Villa Adriana
- Rocca Pia
Tivoli is a great place to walk around. There are beautiful views of the countryside and there’s nothing more relaxing than having a drink and enjoying the views. Of all the sites, the Villa D’este is by far my favorite. It’s a wonderful Renaissance garden that is beautiful to stroll around. If you are visiting Rome in the summer or warmer months, I suggest touring the gardens in the mid morning (after 10am) when the heat is not so brutal, and you can spend some time to enjoy the gardens. There’s a cafe near the gardens so you can get some light refreshments or a light lunch before or after your tour.
The garden’s opening hours vary depending upon the time of year, generally staying open later as the summer approaches and then scaling back the hours as the hours of daylight are reduced. The garden opens at 830am every morning. Take note that like many museums and attractions in Italy, the gardens of the Villa D’Este are closed Mondays.
Hadrian’s Villa can be reached easily from Tivoli. Keep in mind that the villa lies outside the town so if you are going by train or bus to Tivoli, make sure that you take into account the travel time from Hadrian’s Villa back to the train station. Bus 4 from Tivoli will take you to the Villa. The hours are generally from 9am to sunset. Occasionally, there may be events taking place nearby that will prolong the hours of operation. In addition to the site itself, there is also a museum and visitor’s area.
Another word to the wise: The walk from the Villa to Tivoli proper is far. I would not recommend walking all that way unless you don’t mind walking and are up for the trek. Stick to the bus that goes between Tivoli center and the Villa to save yourself some time as well as your sanity — the Italian sun can be brutal!
Below are some sources that students and scholars might find interesting:
Most guidebooks on Rome and Italy have a page or two devoted to Tivoli and its sites.
Useful web sites:
photo credits (top to bottom):
*first photo: view of the Manlio Vopisco, Tivoli / taken by Kleuske / creative commons license 2.5 applies to
*second photo: view of Tivoli from the gardens of Villa D’este / released into the public domain; original here