Time Travel To Tivoli
Famous for thousands of years, Tivoli, Italy, offers spellbinding fountains and spectacular ancient wonders
By John D. Adams
Planning a trip to Italy? If you find yourself in Rome, consider taking a weekend to explore the ancient (and we do mean ancient) village of Tivoli. Situated just 20 miles east of Rome, Tivoli is located on the Aniene River in the Monti Tiburtini hills. Tivoli is also strategically situated near the Sabine Hills and Tiber River. Remarkably, the city has been a significant trade route as far back as the 2nd century B.C. When the town came under Roman control in 90 B.C., Tivoli’s surrounding landscape, thermal springs, fresh mountain air and cascading waterfalls became a resort area for Rome’s elite citizenry. In ancient times, everyone who was anyone either had a home in or visited Tivoli.
Water, water everywhere
Perched above the stunning landscape of the Roman Campagna, it is obvious to see why Tivoli has always been such a popular destination. The views from this vantage point, across the countryside from the reaches of Mount Tiburtini, are only one of the draws to the area.
Just as stunning is the palpable sense of the thousands of years seeped into every gray stone and oaken doorway. Modern Tivoli has around 50,000 inhabitants, and spreads out far beyond the gloriously crumbling capital. As a waterway city, Tivoli residents have always had the luxury of an abundance of water. Hence, the city is a definite “go-to” destination for anyone interested in seeing glorious fountains, grottoes and ingenious plays of water.
A must-see is the breathtaking Renaissance Villa d’Este. Built in the 1500s for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (son of the infamous Lucretia Borgia), this masterpiece of the Italian Garden is included on the UNESCO world heritage list. Come for its architectural splendor but stay for the lavish gardens. These gardens contain a seemingly endless array of water features. Marvel at the majestic “Fountain of the Dragons” and “Hundred Fountains.” Scrutinize an intricately tiny watery reproduction of Rome. And stand awestruck at the Villa’s masterpiece, the enormous “Water Organ Fountain.” Just as named, this Baroque structure contains a hydraulic-pneumatic organ which produces music through a combination of air and water.
Yes, that Hadrian. A Roman emperor from 117 to 138 A.D., Hadrian is perhaps most famous for the massive Hadrian’s Wall, which served as the eastern border for Roman Britain. Arguably even more spectacular, Hadrian’s Villa was a sprawling complex of over 30 buildings, covering 250 acres. The villa was the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian Garden re-creating a sacred landscape. Hadrian (known as one of the last of the 5 Good Emperors) was extremely well-traveled and maintained interests in art and architecture. The decorative features of his complex mirror Hadrian’s vast knowledge of Roman, Grecian and Egyptian culture. You could spend days exploring its palaces, temples, libraries, theatre, lakes, fountains, baths and gardens.
Step back in time
Whether you desire a tranquil visit to the Italian countryside or you have a passion for water features and antiquities, Tivoli is a small town with an enormous history. Its beauty lies far deeper than surface stone, water and wood. Centuries of history are palpably steeped in its very bedrock.