From time immemorial I have wanted to dedicate a page in my diary to my favorite place: Tivoli.
It is certainly the city in the world that I know the most, I have called this place home for decades and I can certainly provide you with some tips from a true local!
This is my guide for a weekend in Tivoli: the unmissable places to visit.
A couple of years ago I made a video, together with my friend and super Filmmaker Matteo Ermeti, which could describe a corner of the world older than Rome with images and suggestions. It was a great success with a lot of ARTICLE in La Repubblica!
THIS instead is my speech dedicated to the unmissable places for summer 2020 on Sky Tg24 (I chose to talk about my favorite place: Tivoli).
Not many know that the history of Tibur (ancient name of Tivoli) is lost in time until the archaic settlement of 1215 BC, it is older than Rome!
Always eclipsed by the nearby metropolis but full of beauty and waiting to be discovered.
In my opinion, it can offer a more authentic experience than its older sister, now besieged by tourism.
Waking up in the morning in the narrow alleys of the historic center, being able to admire a fruit and vegetable market having breakfast with the inhabitants and the city … then getting lost among the multitude of wonderful points of interest it has. Finish with an aperitif and dinner in truly incredible locations.
Tivoli, a city of art, has two UNESCO heritage sites within its territory: the Renaissance Villa d’Este and the ancient residence of Emperor Hadrian: Hadrian’s Villa.
Tivoli – HOW TO GET THERE
- By car: via the motorway it is about 30 minutes from Rome. Tivoli exit of the A24 Rome-L’Aquila. Another option is the Via Tiburtina but you will probably stop in traffic for a very long time. The main car park in the city from which you can easily move to the main points of interest is located in front of the mutual, in Piazza Massimo.
- By train: most trains arrive from Roma Tiburtina station (just a couple from Roma Termini). I always advise you to choose a fast regional which will take you to the center of Tivoli in about 40 minutes (cost: 3 euros).
- By bus: the COTRAL line that connects Rome to Tivoli leaves from the Ponte Mammolo metro station (line B). I recommend that you opt for the A24 services, traffic permitting, with 30 minutes you will be in the center. (cost: 2.40euro) There are also Via Tiburtina races but, almost certainly, you will be stuck in traffic for a long time.
Whether you choose train or bus, there are many trips at any time of the day.
TIVOLI – WHAT TO SEE
If you arrive in the morning the first stop for which I suggest you opt is Villa Gregoriana. Located between the right bank of the Aniene and the ancient Roman acropolis of which the remains of two temples remain.
The villa was born in the 19th century following the works carried out to stem the dramatic floods of the Aniene river, diverting its course.
Pope Gregory XVI (from which the villa takes its name) created an incredible hydraulic work, giving life to one of the highest artificial waterfalls in Italy.
Just think that Tivoli was the first city on our peninsula to have electricity thanks to the Acquoria power plant (built in 1886).
The Park of Villa Gregoriana is always the one that amazes visitors the most, perhaps because it is less known than the other Tiburtini sites.
A wonderful nature trail that collects the remains of an ancient Roman villa, the old acropolis, caves and evocative natural sceneries that give life to the so-called Hell Valley.
I recommend a visit in the morning to experience it with the best light and with more energy. The difference in height is accentuated, so wear comfortable shoes and at least a bottle of water.
The visit takes about an hour and a half and reservations are recommended – cost of the internal ticket 8 euros.
SUMMER TIMES – from Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 19.00 (last entry 1 hour before closing).
WINTER HOURS – from Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 -17.00 (last entry 1 hour before closing).
THE HISTORICAL CENTER
After lunch (below I recommend my favorite places for a meal in the city) it is a must to get lost in the ancient streets of Tivoli.
Upon exiting Villa Gregoriana you will find yourself in the historical fulcrum of the ancient settlement which was followed by medieval historical stratifications.
In the old part it really seems that time has stopped. The noise of the dishes coming from the half-closed windows, the clothes waving breaking the surreal silence and the children still playing undisturbed between one alley and another.
I advise you to go through Via San Valerio reaching the Duomo and the ponderarla canteen, go up towards Piazza Campitelli and endlessly go down a stretch to admire the Gothic House.
My favorite spot for Instagrammable photos? The pedestrian continuation of Piazza Campitelli up to the Gothic House.
The sun starts to go down and the light turns golden, it’s time for my absolute favorite place in the city: Villa d’Este.
The villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este to the architect Pirro Ligorio. Inaugurated in 1572, it represents a true masterpiece of an Italian Renaissance garden.
After admiring the beautiful frescoes of the building, you pass outside, a real enchanted world made of water games, fountains and wonderful flowers.
Among the fountains stands that of Bernini, the famous 100 Fountains filmed in many films and the Organ Fountain which through an ingenious system produces melodies with the water that passes through the pipes of its organ.
It plays every hour and enchants the spectators with the mastery of a system created centuries ago but still able to leave everyone with open eyes.
Bring a book with you and experience this place waiting for sunset.
The sensations experienced here are truly magical.
It is rare to be able to experience beauty at 360 degrees in a city context.
Cost: 12 euro internal ticket. Duration of the visit: about 2 hours.
Summer hours: 8.30am – 7.45pm (last entry one hour before closing). On some dates it is also possible to visit it at night (check on the villa website).
Winter hours: consider the last entry one hour before sunset and consult the villa’s website for the exact closing time from month to month.
The next morning it’s time to take a leap into Ancient Rome with a visit to Villa Adriana.
ATTENTION this is the only Villa located in the municipal area of Tivoli but outside the center (more precisely in the hamlet of the homonymous Villa Adriana).
To reach it, I recommend that you opt for a car. With the means it is really uncomfortable. There are few bus rides and they will still leave you far from the entrance to the site.
The ancient Villa of the Emperor Hadrian, dated 2nd century AD it extends for hundreds of hectares and some parts are still to be discovered.
The walk will be long and not very shady (so I do not recommend the hottest hours of the day and year).
“The Emperor Hadrian had a villa built with exceptional pomp in Tivoli where the most famous places of the provinces of the Empire were reproduced with their names, such as the Lyceum, the Academy, the Pecile and the Valle di Tempe; and in order not to miss anything, he had also made a picture of the underworld. “
Over time there have been countless artists, architects, painters, etc. who have followed one another to study the incredible engineering masterpieces created in the mammoth villa.
Do you think that there are sketches that also depict it by the famous Le Corbusier.
There are mirrors of water, temples, spas and open-air theaters where naval battles were even staged. A real city that reflected the eclectic and whimsical personality of the Emperor Hadrian.
Duration of the visit: about 2 hours. Internal ticket: 10 euros.
Summer hours: open every day from 8-30 / 19.30 (last admission 1 hour and a half before closing).
Winter opening hours: around 8.30 / 17.00 (last admission 1 hour and a half before closing).
SANTUARIO D’ERCOLE VINCITORE
The ancient Tibur Superbum (as it was called by Virgil) represented the main hub of exchange between Lazio and Abruzzo.
A strategic point where one of the largest sacred complexes of Roman architecture was built: the Sanctuary of Hercules Victor.
It measured 3000 square meters and was divided into 3 main parts: the theater, a large square, the hub of commerce and the actual temple.
The view of Rome is wonderful, you can see the dome of St. Peter in the distance and the skyline of the Eternal City.
The cost of the full ticket is 6.00euro or 12.00euro for the single ticket with Villa Adriana (you can buy and book HERE).
The visit is by reservation only at the following times: 10.00 / 11.30 / 13.00 / 14.30 / 16.00 / 17.30
The Rocca Pia and the Roman Amphitheater of Bleso
Other points of interest in the city include the castle (Rocca Pia) and the Roman Amphitheater of Bleso.
They are in the center in front of the main square (Piazza Garibaldi).
The Rocca Pia was born as a symbol of the rebirth of Tivoli in 1461, after the succession of centuries of ruinous wars. Over the centuries it became a fortress and finally a prison until it was then abandoned.
Only since 2018, when it was returned from the state property to the municipality, can it be visited again and the amaranth blue flag (symbol of the city) stands on top.
The visit is possible by reservation only on Saturdays and Sundays (and on some holidays) from 10.15 to 15.30.
To book a visit: 0774 382733
TIVOLI – where to eat
This is a short list of my favorite places to sample local delicacies. I want to clarify that these are places where I have been personally recently (I would not tell you about something I have not experienced). I favored the ones in the center (apart from one) as I think they are easier for a tourist to choose.
- Viva L’Oste Restaurant: bohemian atmosphere in the city center. Delicious cuisine that revisits traditional dishes. Absolutely to try the ravioli with carbonara filling.
- La Sibilla Restaurant: an incredible location at the foot of a temple of Ancient Rome. Refined environment that tells the story of centuries of activity. The oldest wisteria in Europe creates the perfect setting for a spring lunch.
- Il Ciocco Restaurant: a terrace overlooking Villa Gregoriana. With a moment you are catapulted into a fairytale dimension between incredible views and scenarios carved into the rock. When I’m here I love to enjoy a good wood-fired pizza.
- Osteria La Briciola: out of town but a real sensory experience. Honestly it is one of the best cuisines I have ever tried. Don’t forget the desserts, they are sublime!
- La Fornarina Restaurant: if you are looking for a restaurant that agrees with everyone, this is the right place. From pizza to first and second courses, everything is delicious. Located in one of the historic squares of the city, you will feel like you are in Trastevere.
- Alfredo alla Scaletta Restaurant: historic restaurant in the city in the style of the Roman taverns of Trastevere. Home-made cuisine not to be missed: fresh tagliolini with cheese and pepper, baked potatoes, straw and hay pasta and chicory with anchovies.
- Enoteca Gadì: if you are looking for a place for an aperitif, this is the right place. A winery among the richest in Lazio. It is the place where I often meet with my friends to taste a good glass in the company of a platter of local products.
- Black Sheep Tivoli Pub: the perfect address if you want to share a good beer and a sandwich with friends. A pub overlooking one of the most beautiful views in town with a really super friendly staff.
- Paninoteca da Pippo: a real institution in the city. If it is the most famous sandwich shop in Lazio there is a reason: the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. Rustic and folkloric atmosphere, with the atmosphere of beautiful and good things that are lost over time, it is a take away. My favorite is the Sfizioso!
For one last sunset to remember I suggest you continue towards the Sanctuary of Quintiolo. The scenario that will open to your eyes is truly impressive: the view of the Great Waterfall, the historic center, the waterfalls that merge into the Aniene River and finally Rome on the horizon.
A real dose of beauty to carry forever in the heart.