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Where to Go in Italy: Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa

Updated on March 3, 2016

Where to go in Italy - Tivoli, Lazio

View from Tivoli, in the direction of Rome
View from Tivoli, in the direction of Rome | Source

One of my Favorite Day Trips from Rome

Tivoli, Italy is home of two vastly different, and incredibly beautiful, ruins. Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa.

A short drive, bus, or train ride from Rome, these beautiful villas are entirely unique, and vastly different from each other. Coming from different ages of Rome's history, visiting these two beautiful villas will be a memorable experience. You get the opportunity to see and touch history in a way that you often can't within the boundaries of Rome.

While both are landmarks for tourists, they don't attract the same kind of crowds you find in the city. This makes it easier for you to have a more authentic, positive, and educational experience. If you don't know what to do in Italy during your stay, and you find yourself nearing Rome, take a day in this beautiful little city and experience the incredible ruins it houses.

Map of Italy: Rome and Tivoli

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A markerRome, Italy -
Rome, Italy
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B markerTivoli, Italy -
Tivoli RM, Italy
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Villa d'Este

Map of Villa d'Este - Travel Italy
Map of Villa d'Este - Travel Italy | Source

Hours: 8:30 am – 6:30 pm [Closed on Mondays]
Price: 8 Euros
Guided Tour: 110 Euros

About Villa d’Este

Villa d’Este is a beautiful villa in Tivoli and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villa was built in 1550 for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este on a long stretch of hillside below Tivoli, offering it an incredible view of the plains.

An example of majestic Renaissance architecture and an Italian Renaissance garden, Villa d’Este is decorated with frescoes, reliefs, and numerous fountains. While the inside of the villa is beautiful (though unfurnished), it is the garden that brings visitors from around the world.

The garden is extravagant, featuring awe-inspiring fountains, secluded grottoes, and large terraces. Hundreds of fountains of all sizes are spread about the garden. While there are areas of the garden that certainly draw the eye, there is no focal or central point. Every path and fountain is entirely unique. Some are small and simple, hidden on secluded paths. Others are huge and breathtaking. Fish pools and statuary are also hidden along paths and under archways. Slopes, steps, and paths lead you through the garden’s maze of fountains, sculptures, and hidden areas. There are supposedly five hundred fountains in all (though I did not count).

The Fountains of Villa d'Este

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This fountain stands near the front of the garden and shoots water over the alcove above it.

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This little fountain in an alcove is one of many such fountains spread about the garden. They are hidden along paths, in corners, and behind beautiful statuary.

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This is the many-breasted statue of Diana of Ephesus, located at the far end of the garden.

The Avenue of 100 Fountains, Villa d'Este

If you ever watched the Lizzy Mcquire Movie as a kid, they run by these fountains during one of the most iconic scenes.
If you ever watched the Lizzy Mcquire Movie as a kid, they run by these fountains during one of the most iconic scenes. | Source

Some of the most famous fountains to look for are:

  • Fountain of the Dragons
  • Diana - the many-breasted sculpture
  • The Avenue of One Hundred Fountains

You can easily spend hours wandering the garden. It’s a photographer’s dream.

Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana)

Map of Villa Adriana
Map of Villa Adriana | Source

Hours: Vary by season, average 9am-7pm
Price: 6.50
How to get to Hadrian’s Villa from Tivoli: There is a city bus from Piazza Garibaldi to Hadrian's Villa or, if the weather permits, it is an easy walk

Pool at Hadrian's Villa

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About Hadrian’s Villa

Like Villa d’Este Hadrian’s Villa is a UNESCO World Heritages Site. But Hadrian’s Villa is much older than Villa d’Este. It was built in 117 A.D, the site chosen for its abundant access to water.

This villa has a series of structures, each with specific purposes. It includes the structure with three exedrae, the beautiful Nymph Stadium, a fishing structure, the four-sided portico, a small thermal water bath, and the Roman bodyguards’ barracks. The vast villa was designed with a balance of freedom and security. While the different buildings were structurally independent they are connected by a series of access points in the form of tunnels and archways.

Located below Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa offers a beautiful view of the city on the hill. The inside of the complex is a fairly well preserved ruin (for 117 A.D) of what was once a vast and beautiful villa. You can see where the garden surrounding the swimming pool once stood, the baths, and the theatres.

The Villa’s layout can be incredibly confusing and you could easily spend several hours exploring the grounds. If you want to know more about what you’re seeing I would recommend buying a travel guide, as there isn’t much signage to help you understand what you’re seeing.

Landmarks of Hadrian's Villa

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This is one of many water structures at Hadrian's Villa.

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A garden once stood in this grassy area, which is central in Adriana's Villa. Enclosed within the walls this area was designed to be available for walks no matter the season.

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At the far end of this pool, which is home to many fish, you can see the remains of one of the ancient temples that once stood on the grounds.

Digital Reconstruction of Hadrian's Villa

In its current state of ruin its hard to imagine anything except the sheer size of the villa. But a group of students did the research and digitally reconstructed what the villa may have once looked like. And it was beautiful.

Check out this video and see how truly amazing this villa is. ->

Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este, Tivoli

How to get to Tivoli from Rome

Getting to Tivoli isn’t as difficult as you would expect, even without a car.

  • By car: Take the Tiburtina road from Rome
  • By train: Take the train on the Roma-Pescara route and you’ll arrive at the Tivoli Station
  • By bus: Take Metro line B to Ponte Mammolo, then take the local blue Cotral bus from this station to Tivoli.

Map of Tivoli

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A markerHadrian's Villa, Italy -
Hadrian's Villa, Largo Marguerite Yourcenar, 1, 00010 Tivoli RM, Italy
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B markerVilla d'este, Italy -
Villa d'Este, Piazza Trento, 5, 00019 Tivoli RM, Italy
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C markerTivoli -
Tivoli RM, Italy
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Have you heard of either of these villas?

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For another day trip from Rome check out this article about Orvieto.

For what to do in Rome check out this article on Offbeat Rome.

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    • Anna C Taylor profile image
      Author

      Anna 22 months ago from Around the World

      Thank you so much for your feedback!

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 22 months ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Great article. I like the directions, maps, descriptions, and photos. Thanks!