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Villa d'Este - Tivoli

The Villa d’Este in Tivoli near Rome

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Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Villa d’Este is an absolute gem! Its mannerist architecture, its lush terraced gardens and its spectacular fountains make it a must-see for any visitor exploring Rome and its surroundings! Follow the guide! 👉

💡 For information 💡
The Villa d’Este is located in Tivoli, as is the stunning Villa Adriana (aka Hadrian’s Villa). Most visitors therefore decide to combine the visit of both sites on a day-tour to Tivoli.

Brief history of the Villa d’Este

The origins of the Villa d’Este

The history of the Villa d’Este begins in the 16th century: offended at not having been elected pope, Cardinal Hippolyte d’Este decided to build in Tivoli a villa which would rival the most spectacular buildings of its time.

The cardinal, appointed Governor of Tivoli, wanted to make the Villa d’Este a cultural center on a par with the courts of Rome, Ferrara and Fontainebleau.

To carry out his great project, the cardinal surrounded himself with some of the most renowned artists and technicians of the time: the architect Pirro Logorio, the painter Livio Agresti, as well as the hydraulic engineers Tommaso Chiruchi and Claude Venard.

Hydraulic engineers? Yes, the cardinal wanted his palace to be surrounded by terraced gardens dotted with hundreds of fountains!

A colossal project which was restored several times over the next century, notably by the emblematic sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who designed the most impressive fountain in the Villa d’Este: the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune).

Villa d'Este - Tivoli

Attention, sailors!
Want to find out more about Rome’s top landmarks, activities & museums? Why don’t you check outthe Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do in Rome?

The Villa d’Este in the 18th and 19th centuries

During the 18th century, the Villa d’Este unfortunately gradually fell into oblivion, until it became the property of Cardinal Gustav Adolf von Hohenlohe in the 19th century. The Cardinal decided to restore the villa to its former glory and once again make it a radiant cultural centre. The composer Franz Liszt was invited in the Villa d’Este on several occasions and composed Les Jeux d’eaux at the Villa d’Este and Les Cyprès de la Villa d’Este.

The Villa d’Este since WWI

During WWI, the Villa d’Este was requisitioned by the Italian army and converted into a garrison.

In the 1920s, the Villa d’Este, which had become a national property, was opened to the public. In the aftermath of the Second World War during which it was partly destroyed in several bombings, the Villa underwent major renovation work.

In 2001, the Villa d’Este and its gardens were listed as a World Heritage by Unesco. The site remains today one of the finest examples of Renaissance gardens in the world.

Visiting the Villa d’Este

The villa

If the Villa d’Este is famous for its gardens more so than for its architecture, the palace nevertheless deserves a few moments of attention.

A very fine example of Baroque architecture, it is decorated with impressive Mannerist frescoes which are incredibly well preserved.

Don’t miss the view from the beautiful balcony and don’t forget to take a look at the beautiful loggia.

🧐 What is mannerism? 🧐
Mannerism is a pictorial movement that appeared in the 1520s and is defined by a release from the constraints set by Renaissance artists, including, among others, the rule of the imitation of nature. Mannerism indeed claimed a certain technical refinement as well as the highlighting of artifice.

Villa d'Este - fresco

The gardens of the Villa d’Este

The gardens are no doubt the highlight of the visit.

Built in terraces, they spread over no less than 4.5 hectares (10 acres) and are dotted with some 500 fountains and statues.

While it may seem incredibly sophisticated, the hydraulic network supplying the fountains with water is inspired by the engineering of ancient Rome and is in fact essentially based on the principle of gravity.

While visiting the gardens, don’t miss:

  • The grand staircase connecting the villa to the gardens
  • The Hundred Fountains
  • The Fountain of Diana of Ephesus
  • The Fountain of Neptune
  • The Fountain of the Organ
  • The Oval Fountain
  • The Rotunda of the Cypresses
  • The Fountain of Diana of Ephesus

There’s only one rule in the Villa d’Este: take the time to stroll peacefully, far from the noise and the hustle and bustle.

Villa d'Este - fountain

Access

Opening hours of the Villa d’Este

The Villa d’Este is closed on Monday mornings. Opening hours vary depending on the time of year:

MonthsOpening hours
November to January8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:00 p.m.)
February8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)
March8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (last entry 5:15 p.m.)
April8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (last entry 6:30 p.m.)
May to August8:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. (last entry 6:45 p.m.)
September8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (last entry 6:15 p.m.)
October8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (last entry 5:15 p.m.)

Admission

Admission tickets to the Villa d’Este are 10 € in full price and 2 € for young adults aged 18 to 25. Admission is free for visitors under 18.

Getting to the Villa d’Este / Tivoli from Rome

The Villa d’Este is located in the center of Tivoli, some thirty kilometers from Rome.

Visitors have several options to get to the Villa:

  • 🚌 The bus: from Ponte Mammolo station (located on metro line B) | Cotral bus line Ponte Mammolo – Tivoli | 4 € round trip
  • 🚃 The train: from Roma – Tiburtina station (located on metro line A) | €5.20 return
  • 🚗 The car: if you plan to explore Italy, the easiest way is to rent a car. Captain Ulysses recommends booking your car on Rentalcars, an online platform which compares the prices of a multitude of rental agencies (Hertz, Sixt, etc.).
  • 🚐 Organized day-tour: you can also opt for a guided day-tour from Rome including transport, entrance tickets to Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa as well as the services of a guide.
    – > Find out more here.

For information: the CAT4 bus line reaches Hadrian’s Villa from the center of Tivoli (get off at the Bivio Adriana stop). To return to Rome, you can then take the Cortal bus at the Bivio Adriana stop.

💬 Captain Ulysses’ advice 💬
If you want to get to Tivoli on your own, the Captain recommends that you take the bus rather than the train (Tivoli station is located further from the city center than the bus stop, which is located a stone’s throw from the Villa d’Este).
If you’d rather avoid a series of bus journeys (Rome – Tivoli (Villa d’Este) then Tivoli – Hadrian’s Villa then Hadrian’s Villa – Rome), the Captain advises you to opt for an organized day-trip.


Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions!

🛏️ Accommodation : to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com:
the best hostels
the best affordable hotels
the best mid-range hotels
the best high-end hotels

🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide , Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!

🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card. As well as entry to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.

🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.

🚌 Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card . If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).

✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
As for trains, the Captain recommends Trainline to book your tickets.

👉 Skip the line: book your tickets and visits in advance!


Credits
Graham Triggs

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