Tivoli – Villa D’Este

One of the most beautiful villas in Italy is certainly Villa D’Este. The Italian garden of Villa D’Este is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. There are more than 500 fountains, incredible statuary and beautiful flowers.

The gardens were created by Cardinal Ippolito II D’Este after the disappointment of his failed bid for the papacy. His vision was to bring back the grandeur of Rome, Fontainebleau, and Villa Adriana.

When he became governor of Tivoli in 1550 he took over the Governor’s palace, and immediately work to “recreate” the palace. He asked painter-architect-archeologist Pirro Ligorio to remodel the villa. Over the years the rooms of the palace were decorated under the tutelage of the stars of the late Roman Mannerism, such as Livio Agresti, Federico Zuccari, Durante Alberti, Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia and Antonio Tempesta. The work was not completed at the time of the Cardinal’s death in 1572.

In 1605 Cardinal Alessandro D’Este gave approval for a new set of plans to restore and repair the gardens, the waterworks, and also create innovations to the layout of the garden and the decorations of the fountains. In the 1660 – 1670 Bernini worked in Villa D’Este. In the 18th century the lack of maintenance and attention led to the decay of the villa. The gardens were abandoned and many of the ancient statues were scattered.

In the middle of the 19th century Gustav von Hohelohe obtained the villa from the Dukes of Modena and started to rebuild the complex. After renovations, the Villa again became a cultural center. Franz Liszt, composed Giochi d’acqua a Villa D’Este while a guest here, and gave one of his final concerts here in 1879.

After WWI started, the villa became the property of the Italian State, and during the 1920s it was restored and opened to the public. After WWII, another major restoration occurred, in part to repair the damage caused by bombings in 1944. For the last twenty years there has been constant restoration at the Villa. Certainly today, Villa D’Este and the town Tivoli is a delightful place to visit. If you’d like to also see Villa Adriana, it’s a short bus ride away. See this post, How to get to Villa Adriana for assistance. It’s well worth the trip!


How to get to Tivoli and Villa D’Este

Tivoli is an easy ride from Rome. By car, you take Autostrada 24 and exit at Tivoli – or you can the S5 out of Rome to Tivoli. By train, you would take the Roma-Pescara Line and get off at Stazione Tivoli, which is located on the northern side of the town. From here you can catch a bus into town or walk across the bridge and up the hill into town. By bus, you would take the Cotral Bus from the bus station at Metro Stop Ponte Mammolo to the main square in Tivoli. The Blue Cotral buses leave the bus station at Ponte Mammolo about every 15 minutes. It takes about 50 minutes by bus to get from Ponte Mammolo to the Main Square of Tivoli. (Hadrian’s Villa is not in Tivoli but on the plain below. You can get off at Bagni di Tivoli (before reaching Tivoli), and then walk or take a local bus to Hadrian’s Villa. I’d take the bus as it’s a little bit of a hike!)

We usually take the bus or train out to Tivoli. So first I’m going to give you an example of taking the bus out to Tivoli directly to the main square of the town. The second example will be taking the train back to Rome from Tivoli.

First, we’ll ride the Cotral bus to Tivoli. So head for the Metro and get on the B Line, heading in the direction: Rebibbia. Here’s a sign inside the Termini Station coming from Line A towards Line B. Note that P. Mammolo, our stop, is nine stops from Termini and the second to last stop on the Metro B Line. So plan on riding the metro for 15 minutes!

At Ponte Mammolo Station, get off the Metro and head downstairs FIRST. Yes, the Tivoli Cotral bus stop is upstairs…. but you can only buy tickets downstairs. There are no ticket outlets on the upstairs level. So exit the train, then go downstairs, exit through the turnstiles, leaving the Metro section of Ponte Mammolo behind.

Just outside the Station is this newstand where you can buy your Cotral bus tickets.
We went inside at the newstand pictured below:

You can see folks standing in line to get tickets and the “printed” sign identifying this as a sport where you can get your “bilglietti” for the Cotral Bus. The sign even says Tivoli. If you plan on riding back on the bus, go ahead and purchase the tickets for your RETURN TRIP NOW. This will help you avoid the hassle of looking for a ticket outlet in Tivoli. The Cotral tickets, like ATAC bus and metro tickets are not “used” until you validate them on the bus – so you can just hang on to them until you need them.

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In the Bus Station section of Ponte Mammolo you will see multiple display boards. These are for arrivals and departures. The close-up above is of a departure board. You can see the NUMEROUS buses headed to Tivoli. This trip was taken on a weekday. We actually got on the 11:10 bus. The PLATF on the right side of the screeen represents the “platform” that the bus will leave from. ALMOST ALL buses to Tivoli will leave from platform 2, as you see in the picture above.

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So after you purchase your tickets downstairs (unless you bought your Cotral tickets somewhere else in town), head up the escalator you see in this back of this picture (above). On the top left of the picture, you see the direction signs saying GO LEFT for COTRAL buses. To the right is the metro (that’s where you exited from a few minutes ago).

IMG 3929When you get to the top of the escalator, you’ll see this signage – Go right and outside.

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Your now in the “platforms” area… where the incoming buses arrive and you will get on. There are many here, but head for #2, second from your farthest left. There will probably already be some folks waiting there as this is a popular destination.

IMG 3930Close-up shot of the pole and signage at Platform 2 – the spot where you will get on the bus to Tivoli.
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A shot of a Cotral bus preparing to leave the station. These buses DO NOT sit long, so if you’re not in place when they pull up, you will probably get left behind.

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Once on the bus, it’s like a motorcoach. There is 2×2 seating which will probably fill up BEFORE the bus leaves the station. As you can see, you must VALIDATE your ticket in the machine at the front of the bus. My suggestion, get on at either the front or middle doors and GET A SEAT… then send someone to validate your tickets – otherwise you will be standing during the 45-60 minute trip to Tivoli.

These buses will make 20 stops (or so it seems) and it will continue to fill up! When you go to get on this bus at Platform 2 – HOLD YOUR GROUND… and push back if necessary. The locals KNOW that getting on first is a prerequisite to getting a seat.

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You’ll ride the bus through many smaller towns and usually it starts to empty out before getting to Tivoli tourist area. You’ll know you’re getting close as you start to climb the mountain and see incredible views to your Left. That’s ROME way, way off in the distance -OKAY, you really can’t see ROME in this picture… but you get the idea!

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This is where the bus stops in Tivoli. Once you get to the top of the climb, it’s the first “big” stop. It’s a beautiful little square, bustling with activity and many buses coming and going! Get off here and head slightly to your left crossing the square to get to Villa D’Este. The bus stop is probably less than 300 yards from the Villa. SO NOW YOU ARE HERE – Congrats… you’ll see signage, like in the picture below, that will direct you to Villa D’Este.

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Getting back to Rome

If you’re riding the bus back, you come back to this SAME Square on the opposite side of the street, almost across from where you jumped off the bus upon arrival in Tivoli, you catch the bus BACK to Roma.

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Here are two shots walking back from Villa D’Este toward the bus stop. These are the buses heading back to Rome. It’s on the opposite side of the street where you arrived, and the buses are clearly labeled ROMA. If you’re unsure, just asked the driver, “Roma?” and they will let you know! If you’re headed back on the train, you’ll have to head up the hill through the center of town, then downhill to the river, cross the bridge, and go to the train station. Okay, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Taking the Train

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First , you’ll see a castle in the center of town (Above). Walk alongside this castle until you can turn left (see the building in the far distance in this picture). Turn LEFT onto this main road and now you’re heading down towards the river.

IMG 4027IMG 4028You’ll see signage directing you to the Train Station.
IMG 4029You’ll come to THIS bridge, and you’ll walk across the bridge, and then TURN LEFT on the opposite bank of the river and head up the hill on the sidewalk.
IMG 4030From the bridge, the train station is across the river.
It’s the yellow and white building in the center of this photo.
IMG 4031You’ll walk up this sidewalk that will lead you from the bridge to the train station (we’re looking back DOWN the hill in this shot – back towards the bridge.)
IMG 4033When you get to the top of the hill, you’ll see the train station – Tivoli – just across the street.
This is a very small train station.

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Once inside, you can look at the train schedule (Top picture) or the departure boards (bottom picture) to see when the trains to Roma are leaving. You will be headed to Roma Tiburtina station. Tiburtina is ALSO a metro stop on the B line, so you’ll be coming back to the same metro line that you left Rome from – only to a different stop a little closer to the center of town than the Ponte Mammolo station.

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The best spot to buy tickets here is probably this snack bar in the station. I’ve NEVER seen the ticket counter open and the ticket machines infrequently DO NOT work. So cut out the headaches and just go here and ask for a bilglietti to Roma! The folks here WILL KNOW you’re a tourist and they KNOW where you’re going! DO make sure once you get your ticket to VALIDATE it before you get on the train. For more info see our post on Riding Trains in Italy.

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Once you have your ticket, and you’ve validated it… just go find a spot to sit and wait! The trains are usually on-time. The trip back, depending on which train you’re on, will probably take 55-65 minutes. Although not as convenient to the city center as the bus, the train has more rooms, more seats, bathrooms, stops less frequently, and is usually less crowded.

IMG 4044The views heading back to Roma on the train are incredible as you’re leaving Tivoli. For the best views, sit on the left side of the train as it pulls out of the station.

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Your train will probably arrive at tracks 23-25 at Roma Tiburtina Station, so you’ll have to follow the crowd through these underground passages to the Metro Line. You’ll see plenty of signage directing you to the Metro. Congrats…. you’re back in town!



The Beauty of Villa D’Este

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The entrance plaque on the wall as you approach the Villa. Cardinal Ippolito D’Este was the son of Lucrezia Borgia and the grandson of Pope Alexander VI. Pirro Ligorio worked seventeen years designing the garden. The cardinal wanted a villa and garden worthy of “one of the wealthiest ecclesiastics of the sixteenth century”

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Inside the Villa you will find many incredibly painted rooms, like the picture above. It was formerly a Benedictine cloister. The Cardinal remodeled the villa to his tastes. You find many rooms with beautiful frescoes.

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This is the view looking from inside the Villa out into the garden below. It is a sprawling Italian garden with beautiful cypress trees, shrubbery and flowers. The garden seems to fall away from the villa, as you see in this picture. The garden is carved out of the sheer rock face that the villa sits on. There are also fish ponds, paths going in all directions, and always statues – everywhere

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The Hundred Fountains, as seen above, is a wall of water. It is a tree-lined path with the 100 fountains leading from the Oval Fountain to the Fountain of Rome, known as “Rometta”. The Hundred Fountains are structured on three levels. These levels represent the waters of three “rivers” – the Albuneo, Aniene, Ercolaneo. The Hundred Fountains have the many shapes, including that of lilies, eagles, obelisks, and small boats. Water emanates from all these fixtures, forming a natural wall.

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In April, this purple blossoms were just starting to peek out through the trellis. The gardens were designed as a living museum of the classical beauty that represented ancient Rome.

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Looking through the fountain from the Water Organ

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Above is a close-up of The Water Organ Fountain, close view. Claude Venard, a Burgundian and a highly regarded manufacturer of hydraulic organs, worked on this incredible work of art. It’s said that the hydraulic-pneumatic technology that made this water-and-air-powered musical fountain possible in the 16th century actually dates back to 1st-century Alexandria.

After falling victim to lack of maintenance and the calcification from the water running through the fountain, the Organ was silent more than 100 years. Today though, thanks to craftsmen and organ specialists from Great Britain, the Organ Fountain plays again!

IMG 1096IMG 1104IMG 1110The Neptune fountain, close view. Behind it, the Water Organ Fountain
IMG 1124IMG 1148IMG 1128Edith Wharton once wrote that an Italian garden “does not exist for its flowers; its flowers exist for it.” It is certainly true at Villa D’Este!
IMG 1134Another view of the Le Cento Fontane (The Hundred Fountains).

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One of the most famous fountains at Villa D’Este is the The Fontana dei Dragoni (The Dragons Fountain). This fountain was created in 1572 for the visit to Villa D’Este by Pope Gregory XIII, whose coat of arms features a dragon. The fountain is set between two steep staircases and pools in the shapes of dolphins and sea shells. The water gushes from the mouths of the four dragons.

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The Rometta Fountain reproduces allusive key-parts of the Eternal City. You’ll see the she-wolf with the twins and Rome is represented by a statue with armor, helmet and lance. There is also a boat that represents Tiberina island.

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Villa D’Este is a wonderful site to visit – especially in the Spring as all the flowers start to bloom. In the summer, it is a cooling, welcoming garden that helps off set the summer heat. After visiting Villa D’Este, we often head into town for more sites!




Information on Villa D’Este

From the Villa D’Este website (http://www.villadestetivoli.info/indexe.htm)
Villa D’Este
Piazza Trento, 5
00019 Tivoli, Italia

Call Center – 199.766.166
Number to dial from all of Italy for pre-sales and reservations for: tickets, guided tours, school groups, instructional visits.

Bookings from abroad:
email: villadestetivoli@telekottageplus.com
fax: 0039.0445.357099
telephone: 0039.0445.230310

Visiting Hours:
Opening 8.30 – closed one hour before sunset.
The ticket office closes one hour before the closing of the monument.
The hydraulic organ of the Organ Fountain is active daily, from 10.30am, every two hours.
The Fontana della Civetta functions daily, from 10.00am, every two hours.

The Monument is closed the following days:
All Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. If Monday is a holiday, the monument will remain open and the weekly closure will then be delayed
Ticket Prices:

  • Full price €6,50
  • Reduced price € 3,25
  • The right to purchase reduced price tickets belongs to all citizens of the European Union between the ages of 18 and 24 as well as permanent teachers of state schools (upon presentation of identity documents).
  • The right of free admission belongs to all citizens of the European Union under 18 and over 65 upon presentation of identity documents.
For citizens of extra-European states, the norms will apply according to the specific reciprocity agreements between each individual state and the Italian state.


Header: Tivoli – Photo by Jack Tol


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36 Responses to Tivoli – Villa D’Este

  1. Djordje Vukanovi says:


    thank you very much for your guide to Tivoli. I am traveling soon and this will be very helpful. You did great job and I am very grateful for that.

    Kind regards

  2. Pingback: Visiting beautiful Villa D’este | Marina's Bloggariffic

  3. Chris Peel says:

    Brilliant advice.I did it this week(April 2014) with a party of 8 friends.We went by train having been told by Aussie friends that the bus can be very full.The only(very small) downside is that it’s quite a hike through Tiburtina station to reach the platforms and the validation machines are not on the platform.It took us just 20 minutes from our Via Veneto hotel with a Metro change at Termini.We caught the 0845 train from Tiburtina so it was very busy on the Metro.

    The No.4 CAT buses to and from Villa Adriana were on time and leave you right at the entrance.

  4. Jon Stewart says:

    Thanks for all the hard work putting this together. Thats a lot of time and effort, and really valuable.

  5. Rob says:

    If you have the Roma Piu Pass, you can ride the Cotral Bus for free! and get free or discounted entry to Villa Adriana and Villa D’este in Tivoli.

    The train ride from Rome-Tivoli is also free to those who hold the Roma Piu Pass.

  6. Christina says:

    Ron, thank you so much for your detailed instructions! My partner and I just did this trip today and it was so much better doing this independently on our own rather than joining a big tour group. If it wasn’t for your instructions (and the pictures helped too) we wouldn’t have made this trip at all. Instead we went there confident that your directions would get us to the right place. Thanks again!

  7. Alex says:

    Thanks for the instructions Ron et al. We took this journey sept/oct 2012 and a few things to note. Tickets are now bought for Cotral buses downstairs as you come out of the metro gates, before you leave the building, at the booth/counter alongside the cafe. Price was €2.20 each way. I think the service is going through some ‘austerity’ times as the bus was delayed by about 30 minutes on the way out to Tivoli and we had to wait an hour in central Villa Adriana (after visiting the villa in the afternoon) for at least an hour for a bus that was already full to turn up … we waited another 15 minutes for the next one and happily we could get a seat. The bus to Hadrians Villa is simple enough and €1 though it wasn’t that clear when we had to get off. It isn’t a huge walk up from the villa into town and the bus stop on the main road, about 10 to 15 minutes. But all going well with the buses you can easily do both in a day, however if you don’t want to rely on the buses check out alternative options. Try and time your journey outside of peak hours or the buses will sit in queues of traffic and avoid school times as the buses pack out. Hope that helps some of you.

  8. Dembel says:

    Thank you for the very helpful and easy to read info.

  9. l says:

    thank you so much for adding pictures in step by step fashion, as well as advising how best to get a seat and where to sit. i feel more comfortable in how i am to maneuver my mom and i to/from rome.

  10. Ron in Rome says:

    The fountains will be running, but it is a much more pleasant and beautiful trip in the summer and spring. In November, I might head primarily to Villa Adriana. You can easily spend a few hours there!

  11. dima says:

    Thank u very much for this great informations.. plz, do you have any info if we are going in november the fountains will work?? And if it will be a nice trip or it just for summer and spring. .thank u

  12. Ron in Rome says:

    Kathy, there is a “Left Luggage” counter at Tiburtina which would probably work best for you. I’m not a garden expert but this link has many, many options: http://www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/in/italy

  13. kathy says:

    Great website with tons of information.

    I’m going on a cruise, arriving in FCO the day before the cruise and overnight in Civitavecchia. I know I can catch a train from FCO to Tivoli changing in Tiburtina, then leaving Tivoli, and changing at Tiburtina and Ostiense.
    I’ll be traveling with 1 carry-on bag. Is there any place to store luggage – preferably in Tivoli or Tiburtina?
    I know it sounds crazy to do after an overnight flight, but I’ve done similar excursions before. I want to get some photos for a garden club lecture on Italianate gardens. I’d ask for your beautiful copyrighted photos except I lecture for free so I need free photos!
    What are your top 5 gardens in Italy?

  14. David Flunder says:

    Thank you so much for this information. We used the Cotral bus it took about 50 minutes going and less on the return jouney.
    Villa D’Este was stunning!

  15. David Flunder says:

    Thank you so much for this information, we used the cotral bus from Ponte Mammalo, it took about 50 minutes – less on the return journey. I passed the printed instructions on to other people at our hotel too. Villa D’Este was stunning!

  16. Ron in Rome says:

    Christine – There are a few Regionale trains that do run from Orvieto directly to Tiburtina… you have to book these carefully as many trains will try and book you through Roma Termini. The trains direct from Orvieto to Roma Tiburtina cost about 10,15 € and 6,60 € for 1st and 2nd class respectively. See the Trenitalia website for these specific routes. Looking at the schedules, there are NO direct Orvieto to Tivoli trains. It appears you would have to catch a Regionale train out to Tivoli from the Tiburtina station. Hope that helps – Good Luck!

  17. Christine Witton says:

    Hi Ron
    We have been following your various posts on T and slow travel. We will be travelling from Florence, stopping in Arezzo (2 nights), Cortona (2 nights) and then on to Orvieto by train. We think we have the train number worked out and know that we have to trvel to the nearby town of Camucia (Cortona) at a very early hour. Hopefully the funicular is operating to allow us to get to the bus to the train station. We believe that the train from Orvieto will come in to Tiburtina and we will either have to change for Tivoli or the same train will continue to Tivoli. Have you any knowledge of this?

    Peter and Christine Witton

  18. Dean says:

    Your site was so helpful. We found our way easily to Tivoli and the Villa was amazing. It is so worth the ride out and these instructions are inch perfect, you literally couldn’t go
    wrong. I asked my girlfriend to marry me whilst we were at the Villa and you’ll be pleased to know she said yes! Your talents are wider than you think Ron!


  19. Ron in Rome says:

    Laura, you won’t have any need to buy tickets in advance to Villa D’Este. Lines are small and we’ve never waited more than 3-5 minuutes. Purchase when you arrive and save some money!

  20. Laura says:

    Thank you for this post! Does anyone recommend buying tickets in advance for Ville D’Este? Are the lines hard to get through? We are going on a Friday in May. Thanks!

  21. muzeyyen says:

    thanks, thanks and many thanks for detailed information. I am plannig to reach Tivoli directly from CIA airport, but I could not find any direct transportation from airport to Tivoli. Then I searched a way from Rome to Tivoli, and found your page. I really want to congratulate you for this amazing , helpful explanation. Be sure that many people feel more confident and safe during their travel with your great explanation.

  22. Barb says:

    Thank you for all the detail you show. Love your directions with all the pictures. We are going to Villa Adriana in a couple weeks and would have liked to have seen your final pictures, taking us to that Villa.

  23. SanTatiana says:

    Great, very informative post. Beautiful pictures! Happy New Year!

  24. Van Sloan says:

    Thanks so much for your excellent directions to Tivoli. I went today and agree that Villa D’Este is wonderful. The price in June 2010 is now 10 euros, but well worth it. You can see my 50 photos of Villa D’Este in my Rome: Tivoli album 6/2010 at http://www.vansloan.shutterfly.com

  25. Rona Zevin says:

    Wow – I’m incredibly impressed. Thanks for this, it is great and very helpful. I know if was a ton of work but worthwile.


  26. Betty says:

    Great info, very helpful! I am passing it on to my bro who is planning on proposing to his gf soon and this place seems to be awesome!

  27. Jon says:

    Your directions were so helpful. They made for a relaxing day. The return trip by train was an excellent suggestion. Thanks for your work.

  28. Raphael says:

    This paper is absolutely perfect. We are just coming back from Villa d’Este and the information was very precious.

    Don’t forget to visit the villa (painted with frescoes with nice details) after the garden and the fountains. You can also have lunch on the terrace. Unforgettable !


  29. maria says:

    great info! I am gong in May and will use this – thanks you so much!

  30. Kristina says:

    Thanks for all the detailed info!
    If we wanted to take the train both ways is there anything we should know?
    Should we buy a RT ticket at the Tiburtina station. If so, do we have to be on a specific train back to Rome at a specific time?

  31. Les Vick says:

    Big Thanks to Ron in Rome. His details about getting to The Villa d’Éste were simply first class and when I get to Rome I will approach the task of getting to Villa d”Ëste with confidence.

  32. Caroline says:

    Brilliant guide! It looks foolproof, and we will try it out! Thanks.

  33. Luisa says:

    Great detailed information! What camera did you se to take the wonderful pictures?
    **** Reply: A Cannon PowerShot S3*****

  34. Jackie says:

    Thank you, thank you. This was like Villa d’ Este for Dummies. A very thorough instruction manual. The pictures make it understandable.

  35. Brian says:

    Thank you so much for this detailed information! It has provided the needed confidence to venture to Tivoli from Rome. Keep up the good work, Ron. Great Job

  36. Beth B. says:

    Thank you for posting how to get to Tivoli. Your posts are very informative and helpful.
    Could you suggest the best way to see both Villa D’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa)?

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