Daytrip to Tivoli: Tour of Villa Adriana & Villa d’Este
Set on a hilltop by the Aniene river, Tivoli has long been a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. From wealthy ancient Romans to noble Renaissance families, many have found themselves enchanted by this picturesque hilltop town. It’s home to not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our tour will visit them both. We’ll see the sprawling ruins of Villa Adriana, which was Emperor Hadrian’s summer residence, followed by the beautiful gardens and fountains of the 16th century Villa d’Este.
A home fit for an emperor
We’ll begin the tour at the archaeological complex of Villa Adriana. Built in the 2nd century AD by Hadrian, the site served as a summer retreat for the emperor who, it’s said, wasn’t keen on the existing palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome. Instead he commissioned this vast complex filled with pools, temples and gardens.
After walking through the Pecile – a large pool surrounded by landscaped gardens and, originally, an arcade – we explore one of the sites most breathtaking and iconic sections, the Canopus. This 120-metre-long pool is flanked by Corinthian columns and statues of Greek deities. At the far end of the pool is a temple – a Roman copy of the sanctuary of Serapis near modern-day Alexandria. As our knowledgeable guide will explain, Hadrian was a well-travelled ruler and was inspired by the architectural styles he had seen while exploring the empire.
The ruins of Villa Adriana are a testament to the incredible building capabilities of the ancient Romans, and nowhere is that truer than at the stunning Teatro Marittimo, or Maritime Theatre. This circular structure wasn’t a theatre for public shows but, instead, a private retreat built to Hadrian’s luxurious specifications. Surrounded by a moat, it could only be reached by the two wooden drawbridges – a signal to disturb the emperor at your own risk!
Lifestyles of the rich and famous
After stopping for lunch, the second part of the tour takes place at Villa d’Este, The villa was commissioned in the 16th century by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este and features a large number of religious frescoes. Be sure to ask your RomAbout guide about the cardinal’s fondness for art – he pinched a number of statues from Villa Adriana just down the road and put them in his luxurious home!
The most spectacular part of the villa, though, is its palatial gardens, which feature 51 mesmerizing fountains, 64 waterfalls, 220 basins and 364 water jets – all powered by gravity rather than pumps. The grand Oval Fountain was one of the first water features to be built on site but it was swiftly followed by ever more intricately designed structures, such as the Fountain of the Owl, with its mosaic covered columns, and the Fountain of Rometta, which depicts the city of Rome and its most famous monuments.
Your tour guide will meet you under the Esquilino Obelisk in Piazza dell’ Esquilino, just behind the church Saint Mary Mayor. From there you will be picked up by your private van and will be visiting Villa Adriana first, followed by a lunch break in Tivoli and the visit to Villa d’Este, after. After the tour in Villa d’Este, you will be picked up again by the van and be taken back to Piazza dell’ Esquilino.
*We can provide this tour in following languages: English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, French, Portuguese. If you have any other language requests, let us know and we will do our best to provide you a tour in a languages that you and your family can understand the best.
Piazza dell’Esquilino, just next to the Esquilino Obelisk
20 minutes before the tour time