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Day Trip From Rome To Tivoli – Amazing Villa d’Este

Aug 24, 2019 @

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A day trip from Rome to Tivoli is highly recommended. There is a reason why the Villa d’Este is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Federico had visited once as young boy with his family and remembered it as being beautiful. I was curious to find out exactly what was so grand about it. Since we had just a little over two weeks to spare on our vacation, I made a point to include it on our itinerary.

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Rome of course has plenty of wonderful, historic places to visit, like the Vatican, Piazza Navona and the Colosseum to name a few, but step just a bit of the city and you see that the countryside is not lacking in beauty either. I decided on a DIY day trip from Rome to Tivoli to see the awe inspiring Villa d’Este. I was not disappointed at all and l don’t think you will be either. Here is your Tivoli day trip itinerary.

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How to get from Rome to Villa d’Este in Tivoli:

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Day trip from Rome to Tivoli – Take the regional train at the train station.

Rome to Tivoli: Where is Villa d’ Este?

Tivoli is located about 19 miles north east of Rome in the Lazio region. The quickest way to get from Rome to Tivoli is by car of course. That was not on the cards for us.  We were left with two options to get from Rome to Tivoli via public transport, bus and metro train. We opted for the train because it was less convoluted for us.

Rome to Tivoli Gardens: How to

Take the metro to Tiburtina station on the metro B line and switched to the regional train side that took us to Tivoli. There are several trains that will stop at Tivoli. The trick is finding the most direct one, with just one stop (Termini to Tivoli as the first stop) which takes about 35 minutes. Other trains with as many as 12 stops before Tivoli obviously takes longer. The funny part is that the cost is still the same for both, €2.20 each way.

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Side view of Villa d’Este in Tivoli. The view from that balcony is stupendous.

Once you exit the Tivoli train station, walk across the street, to the left of the cafe and walk down the narrow stairs. Follow the path with everyone and cross the beautiful bridge and yep..walk up the stairs. At the top of the stairs is a bus stop. If you’re tired, take a bus to Villa d’Este by taking the bus number 4. Get off at Piazza Garibaldi and you’re there even if you can’t see it. You need to walk towards the back where they sell postcards etc. If you’re game, walk a bit more (about half a mile). Turn left and keep walking. Follow the signs to the villa, past the Roman ruins till you get to the little plaza Garibaldi.


If you would rather take a bus, you can catch a COTRAL bus outside the Ponte Mammolo  metro station which is on the B line. It stops just a few yards from the villa, at stop Largo Nation Unite. The bus is blue, you can’t miss it and runs pretty frequently, every 10 minutes so it’s a good option as well.

Tivoli Day Trip From Rome: One of the best day trips from Rome

Villa D’Este : a little history:

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One of the many paths leading up to the villa on our day trip from Rome to Tivoli.

The villa was the brainchild of Cardinal Ippolito II d”Este, grandson of Pope Alexander VI and son of Alfonso I d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia. Thanks to nepotism, he became a very rich man. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Nepotism was big in the case of the Palazzo Doria Pamphili as well. The Catholic church’s history is not flattering by any means the more l read.

They were just a bunch of rich assholes who only took from the church and lined their own pockets. Not much has changed in my opinion :-). He eventually ended up with the governorship of Tivoli, a position that suited him nicely since he loved art and this gave him jurisdiction over Hadrian’s villa and other historic sites from where he pillaged in order to build a villa that surpassed the ones built by the Romans.

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Meaning of Tivoli – according to Wikipedia, Tivoli refers to gardens, theaters and venues. Other famous examples of Tivoli include Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen (which looked stupendous from the outside when we visited) and Tivoli World, which is an amusement park in the Costa de Sol area of Spain.

hall of noah villa d'este
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Hall of Noah. Very impressive.

As governor, he was given a small villa that was a former convent. This was expanded under rule. A lot of houses, roads and public buildings were demolished to make way for this monstrous villa. Despite a dozen lawsuits, he proceeded with his plan. The river Aniene was diverted to provide enough water for the fountains and cascades. He hired the best painters and sculptors to work on the villa and it cost him a lot of money.

He ran for papacy 5 times and never won. He died almost penniless, pawning his silver to entertain the last important guest to the villa, Pope Gregory VIII and is buried in a small church that is attached to the villa. The villa was acquired by the Italian State after WWI. Prior to that it had been owned by a succession of noblemen, including the Este family who had a hard time with the upkeep. There was bombing damage during WWI but restoration work was carried out to bring it back to the glory days.

The views absolutely wow you. Just stunning!!! The whole valley lays below you and it just seems to go on forever. The courtyard of the villa is where the cloister of the convent used to be. It’s always amazing to me how entitled “men of the cloth” were, and come to think of it are, even now.

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view from villa d'este
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One of the many amazing views from villa d’Este. Really, you could spend all day just admiring the views. He really chose well.

 

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A day trip to Tivoli from Rome is definitely worth it to visit the UNESCO heritage site is definitely worth it. The grounds are amazing.

The apartment space is the first place you see when you enter (after paying your entry fee of course). The salon has awesome views of the gardens and you could spend a whole lot of time just staring. Inside the empty rooms, you get a glimpse of how exciting it must have been in the good old days. There are wonderful frescoes on the ceiling of all the rooms. I remember names like Hall of Venus, Hall of Moses, Hall of Nobility, Hall of Glory and Hall of Noah (my favorite) which had great landscape artwork including one of Noah’s Ark landing on Mount Aratat.

There were plenty more halls but after a while they all started to look alike, so we ditched them and headed for the gardens and the amazing fountains. I think it would be awesome if they added furniture to the rooms, like they have at the Palazzo Doria Pamphili in Rome which was amazing. There is a sort of disconnect after a while because beautiful as the rooms were, they really needed the extra oomph and wow factor that furniture and more period pieces would have provided.

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The furnishings apparently started disappearing from Villa d’Este just after 1751 when they were moved to Modena. At some point, the villa was occupied by French soldiers (twice), and they took away lots of the decorations that were left. Being such a huge villa, especially one that produced no income and was super expensive to run, it was inevitable that it would be abandoned of course.

It was years later, in 1850 when the villa was owned by Cardinal Gustav that the villa was refurbished and restored to glory. Once again, it became a sought after destination for famous artists, musicians and writers including the famous composer Franz Liszt. One of the 2 pieces he composed there is titled “Les Jeux d’Eau a la Villa d’Este” which translates to “the water games at villa D’Este”. I’m guessing it refers more to the “music” of the fountains.

Related Reading: Borghese Gallery in Rome

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One of the many amazing tapestries in the villa. The ices in here are worthy of the Vatican. With the background of the villa, it’s easy to see why.

 

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One of many frescoes in the royal apartments. This one is of Hercules being welcomed to Olympus.

There are in total 51 fountains, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, 220 basins and all work without pumps, just gravity. Very impressive indeed. Once again, you definitely need comfy shoes and water bottle (you can fill and refill from 2 drinkable water fountains in the garden). It’s a bit of a walk down the double sided stairs. I am certainly not going to write about all 51 fountains. I will mention some of the memorable ones.

The current entrance was not the ones used by the guests and household in those days. They actually came up from the bottom of the garden so they could experience the different levels in all their glory. It must have been magnificent. I picture those movies like Emma with the ladies in their tremendous gowns and men in spiffy attire.

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hall of noah fresco
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This one was in the Hall of Noah. Noah making a deal with God after arriving at mount Aratat. You can see the white eagle, which is the symbol of d’Este landing from the ark on the bottom right corner. Every inch of the room, from floor to ceiling is covered with beautiful tapestries, frescoes depicting landscapes, and ruins.

Tivoli Gardens Rome: The Tivoli Water Gardens

The Fountain of the Organ at Villa d’Este:

villa d'este fountain of the organ
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Fountain of the organ at villa d’Este. Still plays beautiful music. The keyboard is in the center kiosk. I recommend sticking around to hear the melodic sounds of the organ during your day visit to Tivoli.

First of its kind in the world, this fountain plays music through some intricate and delicate machinery. It is said that when Pope Gregory XII visited the villa, he insisted on having them  open the interior of the fountain because he was convinced that they had someone on the inside playing the music.

There was a lot of detail going to making things work and over the years it was in decay and non functional. In 2003, after a long restoration and replacement of parts with modern machinery, the organ plays again. There are 144 pipes controlled by aa cylinder and water operated. It is truly a magnificent sight when you see this fountain coupled with the fountain of Neptune from the bottom. The Bellagio has nothing on this bad boy! The organ plays for 4 minutes every two hours. It’s worth hearing and seeing.

Fountain of Neptune:

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Fountain of Neptune is directly under the fountain of the Organ. There is a french experimental film that featured the various fountains of the Villa d’Este called Eaux d’Artifice.

The original fountain had been designed by the master, Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century. The design called for water to cascade down from the fountain of the organ, producing a loud ear shattering sound. Completely neglected for 200 years, it was brought back to life in the 1930’s by an architect by the name of Attilio Rossi who used what was left of the original fountain by Bernini.

The fish ponds below the fountain of Neptune are also very picturesque. The definitely remind me of the gardens of the Alcazar of Seville and the one in Cordoba. It doesn’t get more picturesque than this. A lot of people just sat along the edge of the ponds and just took in the surroundings.

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Me taking a breather at one of the fish ponds. Check out my new super comfy shoes, another pair perfect for flat feet.

Fountain of Diana of Ephesus:

fountain of mother nature villa d'este
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Fountain of Mother Nature

I admit l just liked this one because it’s funny looking. This is also known as the Fountain of Mother Nature. Water squats out from her breasts, like 20 of them and it just looked funny when l had Federico pose in front of it :-).

man with arms outstretched at villa deste Tivoli
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Doing his usual King of the World thing! :-). If you can squeeze in a day trip to Tivoli from Rome, you should go to Vlla d’Este and or Hadrian’s villa.

We spent about four hours at the villa checking out rooms and Tivoli garden fountains and l think that is about right for a visit. We enjoyed walking around and sitting on the edge of the garden overlooking the beautiful scenery. Walking back up was not too much fun 🙂 and l put it off as much as l could. The good thing is you could climb some, rest and continue on. There was always something you missed. For those with walking difficulty, there was a golf cart used to ferry people up. I assume you had to inform them before going down to reserve space.

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Is Villa d’Este in Tivoli worth visiting?

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Fountains at Villa d’Este. Worth a day trip from Rome to Tivoli.

You betcha! Especially for nature lovers. The good thing is that because the grounds are so vast, it never feels crowded. There were plenty of people when we visited and l did not feel rushed. If you have the time, you should add it to your list of must sees on any Rome visit. We had thought we would be able to squeeze in a visit to Hadrian’s Villa as well, but were not, so we saved that for another time.

Another alternative to discovering Rome is a Big Bus adventure:



The opening times for Villa d’ Este can be found on their site.

Entry fee for Villa d’Este is €8 per person.

Like it? Pin it for later:

Have you been to Villa d’Este? If yes, did you enjoy it? If not, would you like to visit or do you think there’s enough to do in Rome?

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34 thoughts on “Day Trip From Rome To Tivoli – Amazing Villa d’Este”

    • You’re welcome. It’s getting to the point of like finding different places to go when we visit his family :-).

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  1. I’m kicking myself for not going here when I went to Rome back in 2008, UGH. Oh well, my excuse to go back to Italy is to hear the musical fountain. Simply amazing! This place is indeed grand.

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    • Haha! It definitely gives you a reason to go back then. I try to imagine how wonderful and new it must have been in those days when they installed it. Now of course, Bellagio etc.. have them :-).

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  2. Never heard of this villa just 19 miles of Rome! But from how you described getting there, I will probably just take the car. The Halls and the fountains would be so awesome to see.

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    • I don’t blame you for taking the car. I just really hate Federico driving there. He instantly reverts to the Roman way of driving which scares the bejesus out of me..haha! It is definitely an amazing place. The views are stupendous.

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  3. I loved the Villa d’Este when I visited a few years ago. I’m hoping to go back to Tivoli before too long to see the other villas.

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    • I would have loved to do Hadrian’s villa as well, but no time. Hopefully next time. It was a great day indeed and l enjoyed it more than l thought l would.

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  4. So, this is a place I never visited (except for its facsimile in NY [The Tivoli Terrace 😉 ) . We’ll see if I make the trip or not. If I do, it’s because of you.

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    • See.. Now l have to visit Tivoli Terrace just to compare 🙂 . Nu York hasn’t been on my radar for years, I haven’t visited since moving from Boston, but maybe it’s time.

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  5. I had no idea that Tivoli is so close to Rome! I wish we’d had time to visit Villa d’Este on our brief visit to the area. Next time I visit Rome, Villa d’Este will definitely be on my list of things to do. Your photos are amazing!

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    • Thanks so much for the compliment. Yeah, it’s not far at all. I hope you make it there on your next visit to Rome. It really is an incredible beauty.

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  6. I was blown away the first time I visited the villa 10 years ago and it still looks amazing, what’s also surprising are the interior rooms – even though most of the furniture is gone the frescoes and other elaborate detailed work is stunning to see.

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    • We are also surprised by how stunning the whole place was. The frescoes are insanely beautiful. It would have been nice to see it with furniture, but the austere look actually made what was left stand out even more. I kept imagining what it must have been like in its heyday and the women in their finest attire waltzing in the rooms. They knew how to live.

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  7. This is such a beautiful place! Never heard of it and it’s kind of sad to know the story behind this beauty, but’s it’s definitely eye candy. The guy definitely knew what he wanted and succeeded (at least on the housing part)… but I don’t think he had many friends :))

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    • Yeah…actually, during the tour.. I did hear from a group tour that he didn’t have many friends..haha..so you are right. He did make something extremely beautiful though. You know the Roman Emperor Hadrian has his villa so close by and we so wanted to see that too, but just not enough time, so hopefully will get there next time.

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    • Haha! Now it definitely gives you a reason to go back to Rome aside from the food 🙂

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  8. Wow. You get around! Those are beautiful photos. So…did you move from Valencia? We’ll be visiting or moving (depending on our Visa application) to Spain in May. We have our plane tickets and a hotel booked. After that, we’ll look around for an apartment. Do you travel with your dogs? We’re bringing our dog so I´m wondering about the challenges you´ve faced and which countries are most and least pet friendly.

    Reply
    • Haha!!! We do get around it seems like :-). Whereabouts in Spain are you moving to? It must be exciting for you right now and the weather should be a lot nicer then. No, we are still in Valencia 🙂 and will be for at least another year. Federico is Roman, so we have to visit my mother-in-law and his family every so often, lucky me. When we go for long periods of time, we use housesitmatch.com which is run by a lovely woman to help find us housesitters. It’s been good, they have a place to stay while traveling, the dogs get to stay at home and we have peace of mind knowing they are taken care of by other dog lovers. If it’s for short periods, we pay to have our favorite dog sitter take them to his place and watches them for the duration. Having used him like 6 times, the dogs can’t wait to hop in his car when he gets here. Spain is pet friendly. Finding an apartment with dogs can be trying for sure, but l have recently discovered it to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell thing”. This from the real estate agents too :-).

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  9. ‘Nice one KemKem!

    I’ve not heard of Villa d’Este, but it certainly sounds interesting. Both Frank & I have been to Rome, but we’ve never been to Rome together! He’s been hinting for Rome to be our next “parents only” weekend abroad. Perhaps, it’s time to make his dream come true!

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    • Sounds like it will be a very romantic trip for you too. I’m sure he would love it as much as you do, so l think you should make it happen :-). Your son travels with you loads of time so maybe when he’s off to camp perhaps?

      Reply
  10. Holy cow. I visited Tivoli very briefly 18 years ago but never went into the villa. Going back to Rome this summer and now this is definitely on the list. Along with Hadrian’s villa, which I’ve also somehow missed. And that’s inexcusable for the classics student in me.

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    • Oh L think you would really like it there. We have to go to Hadrian’s villa when next we visit. I wish we’d left home earlier so we could have done both. I hope you also check out the palazzo Doria in case you haven’t been. We finally visited and it was really great. I look forward to your thoughts on either or both :-).

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  11. Villa d’Este certainly looks worth a visit. Love the fountains, the art and the views!

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    • It’s beautiful there. Very worth it in my opinion. 🙂

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  12. Well, there are no questions at all about why the Villa d’Este is a UNESCO WHS! It’s altogether deserving of a slack jawed “Wow!” and is pinned to my list of things to see in Italy. It’s pretty amazing to think of the utter gall of the Church’s hierarchy who lined their pockets with the offerings of the faithful and built these fabulous monuments to celebrate their wealth, isn’t it? I can easily see setting aside a day of wandering through this fabulous villa and besides all the frescos, tapestries and stunning views from various vantage points, the organ and fountains must have been some of the outstanding highlights. And hey, the fountain of ‘Diana of Ephesus’ get my best of the rest vote, too. Anita P.S. Great photo of you wearing your comfy shoes! Anita

    Reply
    • Yeah..the more l learn about the church, the more l resent them. They were thieves in the old days and l wonder if anything has changed. It sucks to use something faith to manipulate the worshippers. Most seem to have just drunk the kool-aid and don’t bother questioning, even till now. The Villa d’Este is absolutely stunning, you can’t stop oohing and aahing. You forget how hard it is to walk back up once you keep going down. Pride wouldn’t let me yell for the golf cart for a ride.. :-). I am so all about comfort now for my feet..haha! The Diana fountain was pretty cool. I know you would enjoy a visit there for sure.

      Reply
  13. I’ve recently begun offering holidays in Rome and other destinations in Italy, and the response has been fantastic. For travelers in Rome, i am highly recommend visiting Tivoli and the Villa d’Este. It’s one of our favorite day trips from Rome. There’s something in this quaint Italian town for everyone.

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    • Good for you Michael. There are so many wonderful things to show people in Italy. The Villa d’Este was really fun for us to visit. Federico had really good memories of visiting it when he was young with his family and he enjoyed it again. I can see why you recommend it and why it’s a favorite for tourists. Continued success with the business :-).

      Reply
  14. This is one of my favorite gardens and I’ve never even edited (let alone posted) any of my pictures. So thank you for the wonderful virtual tour to remind me of this wonderful place. It’s been almost 10 years since we visited, and it appears that it is even more beautiful now than it was then.

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    • Glad you enjoyed the images and that it brought back pleasant memories. Federico remembered it fondly from his visit as a youth. I guess it’s one of those impressive places that stay with you. They really knew how to live in those days :-). Dust off your pictures and share :-).

      Reply
  15. Thanks for sharing one day trip rome to tivoli tour experience with us. I glad to read your aticle, The city offers a wide view over the Roman Campagna. Great Post, Keep sharing.

    Reply

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