Mamma Roma. Part 2. A Mother Indeed?

I know a lot of people who keep on coming to Rome as often as they can, which sometimes means very often … regularly … so much that they somehow get tired of it. But, despite this, these people can’t help returning, for Rome is a drug: you can’t get enough of it even if you’ve already had enough of it.

To avoid an eventually mortally disappointing overdose, it’s useful sometimes to look around, choose a temporary mistress and cheat on Rome with one of her neighbours.

This post, so far, seems to be all about sins. So, choosing Tivoli as the first alternative to Rome, let’s add one more to the list – the pride.

Tivoli could be called the proud daughter of Rome, were it not older than the alleged ‘mom’ herself. The year of the city’s foundation is actually 1215 B.C. This is one of the reasons for the residents of Tivoli feeling themselves superior even to the native Romans and boasting the difference in age between their hometown and the Eternal capital at any occasion. And who could ever prove them wrong?

According to one of the legends, the city was founded by the Greeks guided by a certain Catillo from Arcadia. He had three sons – Tiburo, Corace, Catillo – who managed to drive away the people of Siculs that populated the site originally. The city was reconstructed and given the name of the eldest of the three brothers – Tibur. In fact, the famous ancient historian Virgil cited the city exactly under this name referring to it as nothing less than Tibur Superbum.

The Latin variant of the city’s name was Tiburi, that in the flow of time evolved into Tibori, then Tiboli, to acquire, in the end, its actual form of Tivoli.

The history saw Tivoli lead the Latin opposition to the growing power of Rome only to become its ally in the later wars and battles against some common enemies, always maintaining its neutral positions in the internal controversies of the empire, though. Its convenient position, proximity to Rome and travertine marble mines consolidated the city’s role as a commercial crossroads and convenient residence for the Roman élite.

The popularity of Tivoli as a summer vacation destination defined the choice of Emperor Hardian who picked the city for the construction of his ambitious and sumptuous summer residence – Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).

The arrival of the Middle Ages brought barbaric invasions. The population of Tivoli didn’t consider the city safe anymore and started to abandon its walls, leaving Tivoli and the surrounding fields deserted.

Later and despite the fact that Tivoli had always been jealous of its independence, it fell a victim of continuous feudal fights between such influential Roman families as the Colonnas and the Orsinis.

In the course of centuries the hatred between Rome and Tivoli was growing rapidly. Rome was preoccupied about the strategic position of Tivoli, its constant objections regarding the fees on travelling trough its territory and the use of its fields and mines. So the Pope Pius II exercised some major influence to submit Tivoli, putting in this way the end to its communal story.

Nowadays, Tivoli remains an important centre of the surrounding area, proud of its story and cultural heritage that attracts thousands of tourists every year. And not without a reason.

Tivoli is a picturesque place dominating the surrounding landscape from the top of the hill with its slopes covered by olive trees. It enjoys spectacular sunsets, calm but not boring provincial life, authentic restaurants, such as its renowned and worth visiting splendid Sibilla, and the beauty of its three famous villas: Villa Gregoriana, Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana.

Villa Gregoriana is a park, perfect for those in love with hiking. It was founded in the 19th century by the will of the Pope Gregory XVI. This charming natural paradise, hidden under the thick shadow of the trees, is a perfect escape from the noise and dust of the city.

Villa d’Este is a masterpiece of Italian gardening tradition, taking proudly its deserved place on the list of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The gardens of the villa develop on various levels along the hill slope through the elaborated structure of fountains, paths and grottoes that continue to serve as an example and inspiration for many architects and designers.

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The Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este was very disappointed after not being elected the Pope. He decided to forget the failure by reviving the spectacular feasts of Ferrara, Rome and Fointanebleau in Tivoli. After becoming the Governor of the city in 1550, he had the idea of a marvellous creation inspired by the miracle of the Babylonian hanging gardens combined with the architectural genius of Roman aqueducts. So, in 1560 the idea of the project was defined and started to take shape.


Since then the site faced many moments of rise and fall, carrying obstinately through the centuries its glory and beauty that reached us thanks to numerous restoration works.

Villa Adriana is the real jewel of Tivoli. Situated at the slope of the hill under th city itself, it can be reached by bus (bus line number 4 from the train station of Tivoli), or by car in some 10 minutes from Tivoli and in less than one hour from Rome.

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This imposing complex of the villa was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian as his urban residence and reflects many of the characteristics of the proper epoch and its owner’s character. One of them was the love and curiosity for innovation. Thus, the enormous complex includes the most advanced architectural approaches of the time and some of the ideas recalling the most beautiful architectonic creations the Emperor himself had a chance to admire in his numerous trips around the ancient world. The 120 hectares of the territory of the villa were meant to celebrate the imperial greatness and power and continued to be used long after the death of Hardian.

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Even nowadays the villa remains a symbol of an era, admired and protected as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

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It is possible to reach Tivoli (not Bagni di Tivoli) by train from the following train stations in Rome:

Roma Termini: have a look here for the timetable and ticket prices.
Roma Tiburtina (metro station Tiburtima FS): have a look here for the timetable and ticket prices.

It is also possible to take a COTRAL bus to Tivoli from the Matro B station Ponte Mammolo.

The train station of Tivoli is situated not far from its historical centre. As far as the city itself is quite small and concentrated on a restricted territory, it is possible to walk around it on foot. Note, though, that we are talking about quite a walk.

If you are not willing to lose your time managing public transport timetables, you could also take a tour. Ask your concierge to book one for you. Otherwise, you could try to have a look at the following Love Holidays option to arrange everything on your own. Note, that upon request, it could also be possible to discuss the option of taking a private guided tour to Tivoli arranged by the Love Holidays company. There will, of course, be a difference in price and organization of such a visit.

In any case, if a group or a private guided tour to Tivoli is concerned, you would have to face a bus/car trip along the Tiburtina road that connects Rome to Tivoli. As a rule, the organizers of any tour try to avoid rush hours, but Tiburtima is able to invent a traffic jam out of nothing, so if you happen to be stuck in one of them, do not get angry with your travel agency, guide or driver. It is so common for Rome that they might not have even noticed!

I like Tivoli a lot. I really do. It is such a pleasant place, much cooler in summer than the capital, and much colder in vinter, but always a paradise of quietness and calm.

If I were from Tivoli, who knows, maybe I wouldn’t call Roma my mother, either. Rather a step-mother, but always and everything apart – the one and the only.

Photo credits: Machs Gut ©.

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