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!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
🧐 Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city (in English). It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
💤 Are you looking for a hotel in Rome? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Rome? Advice & recommendations
🏛 Are you planning your stay in Rome? Check out Captain Ulysses’ detailed article on the best things to do in the city: A Guide to Rome
👶 Planning a family adventure to Rome? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Rome with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities.
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).
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
💡 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.
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.
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.
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:
|November to January||8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:00 p.m.)|
|February||8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)|
|March||8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (last entry 5:15 p.m.)|
|April||8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (last entry 6:30 p.m.)|
|May to August||8:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. (last entry 6:45 p.m.)|
|September||8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (last entry 6:15 p.m.)|
|October||8:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (last entry 5:15 p.m.)|
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.
More info 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 💬
To get to Tivoli, the Captain recommends taking the bus rather than the train (Tivoli train station is 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.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Rome!
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🎟️ 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.
For flights as well as trains and buses, the Captain recommends Omio.