Tivoli, in Lazio, offers a fascinating look at a Roman Villa, Villa Adriana or Hadrian's Villa, and the Villa d'Este, with its Renaissance architecture and fascinating Italian Renaissance Garden featuring interesting water works in mannerist and baroque styles, all of which drew inspiration from Hadrian's opulent villa. Well, that's being quite generous. Fact is, Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este carted off much of the marble and many of the statues in the Villa Adriana to furnish the Villa d'Este. E sempre cosi, it's always (been) like that.
Day trippers from Rome might just take in the Villa d'Este, but staying in Tivoli allows ample time to take in all of the attractions on the map, including the interesting Villa Gregoriana and associated Roman temples. There's a lot to see in Tivoli, including a castle.
The entire zone around the modern town of Tivoli was exploited by the Romans, and the tourist bent on exploring the area will find caves and waterfalls exploited by the ancient Roman engineers.
First let's look at a map showing not only the ancient attractions, but the train station and other important resources for the tourist visiting Tivoli and environs.
Map of Tivoli Showing Tourist Attractions
Tivoli Travel Toolbox
The train station, marked on the map, lies on the east side of Tivoli.
To get to Tivoli from Rome, go to the Tiburtina station and take the FL2 train in the direction of Stazione Tivoli. It's a 42 minute trip. You'll notice on the map that the station is a bit away from the central town, but there's a shuttle bus waiting in front of the station, adding about 15 minutes to the trip.
COTRAL regional blue buses serve Tivoli from the Ponte Mammolo metro station on Rome's Line B, taking you to Tivoli. Many buses have a stop near Hadrian's Villa. Buses are more frequent on weekdays.
To get to Hadrian's Villa from downtown Tivoli, Buy a ticket at a tabacchi (tobacco shop) or edicola (newsstand) and take the orange city bus marked #4X. Take either bus #4 or #4X in the direction of Tivoli to get back,
From the central city, it's an easy walk to the Villa d'Este (closed Monday!), and many folks are content to just visit here on a day trip from Rome. There is a local bus connecting the Villa d'Este with Hadrian's villa.
If you have the time, you can walk east from the Villa d'Este to the Villa Gregoriana to see the temple dedicated to Vesta and the waterfall, as well as to walk the gorges of the park itself.
For historic climate conditions and current weather using a location nearby, see: Rome Travel Weather and Climate.
The "evidence based reconstruction" of Hadrian's Villa
Over the course of his life as emperor, Hadrian increasingly used his Villa for state affairs and visits. A project has been in place to explore how a visitor would see the Villa at the time. Instead of reconstructing the villa based on a combination of facts and fantasy, the project reconstructs the Villa from real evidence, then uses the digital reconstruction to "test" various theories; students and scientists can create avatars and move within the villa complex. It's really quite a project, and you can watch a video which turns the ruins into what they probably looked like. See: The Digital Hadrian's Villa Project.
Unfortunently, the project was based on Adobe flash, and hasn't been updated since they killed flash. A new project goes into very much detail of the reconstruction, See: Yorescape Hadrian's Villa. Look on the lower left to start the video, and the upper right for other information you can access.
Where to Stay
Marked on the map is a splurge hotel, well loved by just about everyone who's stayed there. It's not far from the train station, and reflects the opulence you'll see in these ancient villas. Check out Residenze Gregoriane - Residenza d'Epoca, even if you can't afford to stay there. Also exceptional, and much less expensive, is B&B Catillo, 400 meters from Villa d'Este. You can also search for lodging from the booking box below.
Tips and Maps for Tivoli
Villa D'Este Waterworks
The Mannerist gardens designed for the Estes will astound you, and he gravity fed waterworks of the Villa d'Este are fabulous as well. Come early (and in off season) to get a picture of the waterfalls rather than the parallel walls of people photographing each other with the waterfalls in the background.