Entering Tivoli is like entering a more magical and peaceful world, especially if you are taking a day trip from the hustle and bustle of Rome. I am not even sure a day does it justice, especially if you are traveling with kids, since there is so much to see. This would even be a great two-day trip from Rome, so you can relax and really enjoy all of Tivoli’s beautiful sights.
Like a virgin, you ask? Well, in beautiful Tivoli, you can experience what only the nobles once experienced on their grand tour through Europe : dining in the shade of an ancient (2,000 years old) Temple of the Vestal Virgins. But, don’t worry, here you don’t have to take any vows of chastity (Vestal Virgins who broke their vows were buried alive, but no need to think about that during lunch).
The train to Tivoli from Rome takes about one hour. When you arrive, trust me, it is easier to just walk into town (we attempted waiting for a bus and got caught up in a senior citizen row as they tried to find a bus driver willing to transport us all – apparently the drivers were all private hires and not for the general public). If you arrive around noon like we did, then I suggest first treating yourself to a scrumptious meal at Sibilla, an almost 300 year-old restaurant that has served everyone from dukes to princes to authors, and countless other luminaries from the past. Though not budget, the restaurant surprisingly isn’t that pricey compared to Roman restaurants and delivers an ambiance like no other. We ordered their special ‘tapas’ platter (just many small dishes to try) and two glasses of wine, and felt more than satisfied as we climbed into the temple and took pictures (the entrance was blocked, but we just moved the rope and, of course, nobody stopped us).
Villa D’Este: From there, we walked to the famous Villa D’Este and its magnificent gardens and waterfalls (a UNESCO world heritage sight). There are many steps, so I wouldn’t even bother bringing a stroller here (as many places in Italy, where the cities are all on a hill). I strapped the baby to my chest and we descended into the gardens, where we enjoyed incredible views, and relaxed in the shade.
Villa Adriano: Hadrian’s Villa is another top sight in Tivoli, though you will have to take a bus to get there. This 1,900 year-old villa was a country escape for Emperor Hadrian (who knows what went on inside, but feel free to let your imagination go wild.. it probably will still be tamer than reality). Emperor Hadrian was one of the Five Good Emperors and left a lasting mark on Rome, perhaps most notably with the rebuilding of the iconic Pantheon. Check out my Perfect Day in Rome with Trajan and Hadrian for another itinerary idea.
Villa Gregoriana: Unfortunately, with a baby on me and after an already long day of sightseeing, we didn’t get a chance to visit this park. But, it looks beautiful from the photos and I will definitely go when I return. Probably all three of these would be too much in one day (especially with a kid), but this would be a great inclusion in a two-day trip.
In a nutshell: Tivoli is a must-see. With the incredible gardens, majestic waterfalls, and unforgettable dining experiences, you will be able to understand why the emperors and popes chose this area as an escape from everyday life.