Tivoli Day Trip from Rome – Visit Hadrian’s Villa & Villa d’Este

The town of Tivoli, just outside of Rome, is a must-do day trip for anyone interested in the history of Rome or looking to escape the crowds! 

Villa d'Este Statue in TivoliMan-made and natural beauty abound in Tivoli - the perfect day trip from Rome!

What is Tivoli?

Tivoli is a small town in the Lazio region of Italy, home to around 55,000 people, and the area has been inhabited for over 3000 years.

Today it's a popular destination for tours and a great day trip from Rome for anyone interested in history. To find out everything you need to know about Tivoli day trips, keep reading!

View in TivoliThe hillside town of Tivoli as seen from Hadrians Villa.

Why visit Tivoli?

Is Tivoli worth visiting? Absolutely!

Tivoli is home to not one, but two Unesco World Heritage sites – Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana in Italian) and Villa d’Este.

It is possible to visit both villas in the same day – either by yourself or as part of a guided tour – keep reading to find out more!

Find out more about visiting these incredible sites:

Villa Adriana Crocodile statuePlenty of surprises await visitors to Tivoli on day trips from Rome!

Tivoli sits on the side of a large hill, from which natural freshwater springs flow, creating a series of waterfalls which are visible from the historic center and the surrounding local area.

Throughout the historic center you’ll find numerous Roman ruins, and on the outskirts there are remains of ancient aqueducts, along with several hiking and cycling routes.

Falls tivoliTivoli's freshwater springs were no doubt a draw for the area's first settlers, and now make for an incredible sight!

Where is Tivoli in relation to Rome?

Tivoli is located 27km (as the crow flies) from the center of Rome.

Villa d'Este is in the center of the modern town, whereas Villa Adriana is located on the outskirts. For complete information about visiting these incredible sites, keep reading!

How to get from Rome to Tivoli

Getting to Tivoli from Rome couldn’t be easier – you have a couple of options for a self-guided day trip:

Public transportation

The most direct route to the main sights of Tivoli from the center of Rome is to take the Metro Line B (blue line) to the Ponte Mammolo station, and then a bus. When you step out of the Ponte Mammolo station, you will see a number of buses from a company called Cotral.

From here, you can take any of the buses marked as heading to Tivoli.

  • One of the buses takes a more winding route, stopping around 300m from the entrance to Villa Adriana before heading into Tivoli. This bus runs much less frequently.
  • The other bus routes are more direct - if you are visiting Hadrian's Villa you will need to get off at the stop on via Tiburtina and walk around 2km to reach the entrance.

There are also various trains that stop in Tivoli from the central Rome station of Termini, but the Tivoli train station is located at the bottom of the hill.

To reach the various sights, you will need to then take a local bus, or you can walk - it's around a 25 minute uphill walk. The local bus also goes to Hadrian's Villa.

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Driving

To drive to Tivoli from the center of Rome takes between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on where you set off from.

Hadrian’s Villa – there is plentiful and cheap parking on site – you need to pay for parking at the ticket office when you buy your tickets to the archaeological park, or redeem your pre-booked tickets if you booked on line tickets.

Villa Adriana EntranceYou can't miss the modern entrance to Hadrian's Villa on arrival - find here bathrooms, ticket office (for entering the site and the carpark) and a gift shop.

Villa d’Este – there is no official car park but there are several options nearby. You can park on one of the side streets nearby – you’ll need to pay at one of the machines along the sidewalks (pay close attention to the time frames and conditions) or in one of the official car parks – more on these below!

Historic center – if you’re wanting to see the waterfalls or other historical landmarks, I’d recommend parking in this carpark. If you find that’s full (possible during the busier summer months), try one of these:

The other option for your Tivoli day trip is to book a private tour – you can opt for half day guided tours which typically cover one of the area's main sites, or a joint experience that covers both Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa, plus often other sites, with transfers included for a stress-free day trip from Rome.

When to visit Tivoli's Unesco World Heritage Sites, Hadrian’s Villa & Villa d’Este 

Tivoli is a regular Italian town so can be visited at any point in the year.

If you are looking to visit Hadrian’s Villa, consider visiting in the spring or fall – during the summer the exposed nature of the site means the sun can be very hot, and during the winter the temperatures drop considerably and the chance of rain increases.

For Villa d’Este, you can visit from spring through autumn – the gardens and fountains ensure the environment always feels cool. I would not recommend visiting in the winter however as often the fountains are switched off for maintenance.

During the summer, Villa d'Este is also open later on certain days where you can experience this magic place with the sun setting over the Roman countryside.

Villa d'Este ViewConsidering visiting Villa d'Este in the late afternoon for incredible views

Visiting Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana)

History & Background

Welcome to the private home of ancient Roman emperor Hadrian! This sprawling palace was one of the biggest constructed in the history of ancient Rome, and is considered now to be one of the most outstanding villas from the classical age.

Located in the Sabine Hills in the Roman countryside, Villa Adriana is approximately 25km from central Rome.

For Emperor Hadrian it was much more than just a home - it was a meeting point where he could run the Roman empire away from the hustle and bustle of the Eternal City.

After the fall of the western Roman empire in the fifth century AD the villa fell into disuse and was plundered for its valuable building materials and precious artworks.

While a lot of what was once here is lost forever, much also survives - both on site and in the collections of famous museums around the world including the Vatican Museums.

Some decorative elements were reused by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este to decorate Villa d'Este - keeping reading to find out more about this!

Villa Adriana MosaicHadrian's taste in interior style cannot be faulted - you'll find preserved and restored mosaics throughout

Getting there

Driving: Set Google Maps to the carpark at the site entrance

Public transport: Click here for full details

Private guide/tour: The easiest way to reach Hadrian's Villa is to take a tour including transport from Rome, like this one which also includes a visit to Villa d'Este and lunch!

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Accessibility

Hadrian's Villa is a giant open-air archaeological site with modern paths and roads throughout.

These paths and roads are easily traversable for anyone, including those with accessibility challenges, and it is possible to see a large amount of the park this way.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the ancient ruins, not all the areas within the site are accessible to visitors with mobility restrictions.

Before visiting, I'd recommend contacting Villa Adriana (yourself, or via your tour guide) to discuss any accessibility requirements in advance.

How long you need to visit:

Hadrian’s Villa covers a HUGE area – 200 acres to be exact – making the whole site 130 times the size of the White House!

Many of the key areas to visit are spaced out, so be prepared to walk! To see the main sites you should allow 3 hours minimum during your day trip from Rome.

To see absolutely everything, you should anticipate spending at least 6 hours here.

Villa Adriana ScaleThe scale and size of Villa Adriana is simply breathtaking - imagine living here!

Tickets & Hours

Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket office on site. Coop Culture is the organization that manages Villa Adriana so you can check opening hours and other information in advance.

Must-sees

Visitor welcome center - before you start exploring, I recommended stepping into this little museum to view the to-scale model of the whole villa site - not only does it help orientate you, but it also helps to show the original grandeur and scale of Hadrian's Villa.

Villa Adriana ModelUnless you have a drone, this is the best way to a get a bird's eye view of Hadrian's Villa!

Canopus - This is maybe the most iconic feature of Hadrian's Villa. It was designed to replicate the river Nile in Egypt (hence the crocodile statues) which is where Hadrian's lover Antoninus died in a tragic accident. This was Hadrian's personal and private space where he would come to remember his beloved.

Villa Adriana CanopusIf you are planning on visiting the Vatican Museums while in Rome, be sure to search out the statues found here in their collection!

Maritime Theater - So called because of its circular shape and the presence of flowing water, this complex structure was another space thought to be used personally by Hadrian - it comprised over thirty rooms, all of which would have been intricately decorated.

Villa Adriana Maritime TheaterKeep an eye out for the fish!

Museum - located next to the Canopus, this museum houses a lot of the original statuary that was found at the site which hasn't been relocated to other museums around the world - when visiting on a hot day it provides a welcome break from the sun, and you'll also find bathrooms here.

Villa Adriana MuseumOne of the original Nile crocodile statues from the Canopus.

Temple of Venus - While not much remains of this temple, its outlying location makes it worth visiting as it helps to put the size of the site into context. I also find the location on the edges of the park and the surrounding views evocative and peaceful.

Villa Adriana Temple of VenusChances are that you'll be the only visitor to the Temple of Venus as not many people make it here!

Recommendations

  • If visiting in the summer, be sure to bring protection from the sun – a hat and sun block are a must! Consider also visiting in early morning before the sun gets too hot.
  • If visiting at any other time of the year, bring a waterproof jacket and umbrella - the weather in this area of Lazio is very changeable and the site very exposed to the elements.
  • Always bring plenty of water and something to eat for lunch as on-site refreshment options are limited (there is a small café/kiosk but the opening hours are inconsistent). You'll find endless green spaces with benches where you can rest and recharge. Water fountains are dotted around the park.
Villa Adriana Green SpaceConsider bringing a picnic and finding a quiet spot to enjoy your surroundings - there are rumours that some of the olive trees here are nearly as old as the villa itself!

Visiting Villa d’Este in Tivoli

History & Background

Welcome to the private villa and its beautiful gardens (and now resting place) of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.

Cardinal d'Este began work in 1560, 11 years after he was appointed as governor of Tivoli in 1549, following an unsuccessful attempt to become Pope. He would go on to make five bids for the papacy, none of which were successful!

Following his passion for antiquity, the cardinal removed a lot of the remaining statuary, ancient artworks and marble from Villa Adriana in order to construct and decorate his new home.

The primary construction took place over 9 years, during which time a lot of the terraced gardens, grottoes and fountains you see today were created.

In the subsequent centuries further elements were added by his descendants, and older parts renovated but for long periods the villa and gardens were abandoned.

After WW1 the Italian state took control of the site and initiated a program of restoration, meaning this incredible place can be enjoyed today.

Villa d Este SignThis ornate welcome sign is just a taste of the opulence inside!

Getting there

Driving: Set Google Maps to Parcheggio della Panomarica

Public transport: Click here for full details

Private guide/tour: The easiest way to reach Villa d'Este is to take a tour including transport from Rome, like this one which also includes a visit to Hadrian's Villa!

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Accessibility

Villa d'Este features a vast open-air garden constructed on the side of a large hill.

Navigating the gardens is done via ramps and slopes, or stone staircases. At the time of writing, there are no mechanized methods for visitors to descend or ascend the gardens.

Before visiting, I'd recommend contacting Villa d'Este directly (yourself, or via your tour guide) to discuss any accessibility requirements in advance.

Villa d Este AccessibilityA lot of the original stairs have been updated to feature ramps, but be aware that these are very steep in places.

How long you need to visit:

Visitors should allow at a minimum two to three hours to fully explore the gardens and fountains.

Tickets & Hours

Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance along with audio guides.

What to see

Villa d'Este is an enclosed site, meaning it's easy to navigate and see everything here if you follow the signs and recommended itinerary. My personal highlights of any visit include:

Villa - You'll enter contrary to how Cardinal d'Este designed - originally visitors would come to the base of the gardens and slowly make their way up the hill to his home, demonstrating to them his power and wealth. When you enter now you have the opportunity to explore the Cardinal's private residence where you'll find ornately decorated rooms.

Villa d Este InteriorA villa fit for a cardinal, and his descendants

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The Fountain of the Organ - This fountain is probably the most famous in the garden, as it is the oldest example of a hydraulic organ. Via a complex and delicate system, water and air is piped through a hidden network and used to create musical notes and sounds. Over the course of its life it has been repaired and upgraded several times, with the most recent renovation being in 2003, meaning its magical sounds could be heard once again after a long period of silence.

Villa d Este OrganIt might not 'look' musical, but don't let its design fool you - just listen!

The Fountain of Neptune & Fish Ponds - This fountain is one of the more modern features of the garden, created in the 20th century to replace elements that had fallen in to disrepair. The fish ponds you can see here once served a practical purpose, providing the villas residents and staff with fish and other animals for food.

Villa d Este Neptune FountainThe scale and luxury of d'Este becomes truly apparent when you are down here

Recommendations

  • The best time of day to visit Villa d'Este is in the afternoon - particularly in the summer as the shade from the gardens and moisture from the fountains ensure a cool environment.
  • Bring water and snacks as there are very limited food options on site. The site is very central however so there are plenty of places nearby to have a coffee, gelato or lunch before or after your visit.

What else to see in Tivoli

If you find yourself with free time when in Tivoli, or are looking to explore to further, considering visiting these sites and monuments - these are just a selection of my favorites, as there is much more to be found:

  • Villa Gregoriana, a large park where you can get close to Tivoli's famous waterfalls and explore ancient grottoes. It was commissioned by pope Gregory XVI in and today the Villa Gregoriana is looked after by the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust of Italy.
  • Sanctuary of Hercules Victor, a vast ancient Roman temple complex dedicated to Hercules with a theatre built in to the slope of the hills.
  • Temple of Vesta and Temple of the Sybil (find out how to see these for free - continue reading!) on Tivoli's ancient acropolis - you can get a great view of these from Villa Gregoriana.
  • Rocca Pia - this imposing castle in the centre of Tivoli was built by pope Pius II in 1461 to control the local area.
Tivoli CastleFirst a papal fortress and then a prison, Rocca Pia has had a fascinating history

If you are visiting with a tour guide or private guide that provides transport from Rome, be sure to ask them to ask them to take you past the ruined ancient aqueducts on the outskirts of Tivoli.

Where to eat and drink in Tivoli

For me, there is one place which is a must-visit for food and drinks in Tivoli; Ristorante Sibilla.

Perfect for a traditional Italian lunch and/or dinner and located only 10 minutes walk from Tivoli's main square (Piazza Garibaldi), this restaurant is renowned for its high quality, seasonal menu and having been the choice dining location for many of history's most famous figures, including Neil Armstrong, Yoko Ono and Princess Margaret of Great Britain.

When you arrive you'll see what else also makes this restaurant special; from its outdoor terrace you can marvel up-close at the ancient ruins of the Temple of Vesta and Temple of the Sybil. If that wasn't enough, looking the other way you'll be treated to incredible views of Tivoli's famous waterfalls and a special view of this beautiful town.

Tivoli RestaurantDine with a view at Ristorante Sibilla on your day trip

If you are on a guided tour of Tivoli and don't have time to visit Ristorante Sibilla, I'd recommend making a separate day trip from Rome to Tivoli just to eat here and take in the views!

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