Villa d’Este, with its stunning Renaissance garden, is in the small town of Tivoli about 20 miles east of Rome. The 16th century villa’s large terraced garden is famous for its many lavish fountains and water displays powered completely by the use of gravity. Villa d’Este is an amazing site, one that I highly recommend seeing.
What to See at Villa d’Este
Enter the villa from Piazza Trento, near the Santa Maria Maggiore Church. The visit starts with a walk through the foyer and courtyard to the Apartments of the Cardinal, designed for Cardinal Ippolito in the 1560’s. Rooms on the lower floor are lavishly decorated with frescoes and friezes.
Exiting the villa, you’ll come to a large terrace with fantastic views of the garden and pools below and the surrounding countryside. By the terrace are a cafeteria and restrooms. Originally visitors arriving at the villa entered through a gate below and walked up the steps through the gardens to arrive at the villa’s main entrance.
Today the visitor starts at the top and walks down into the garden, passing many small and large fountains and grottoes along the way. The waterfalls and fountains, with about 500 jets in all, are completely powered by gravity. Designed in the 16th century, this hydraulic system was imitated in many gardens over the next two centuries. Water came from the river and springs and was collected in a cistern under the villa’s courtyard.
Top fountains to see include the Water Organ above the Neptune Fountain, Fountain of Europa (at one end of the large terrace), the Oval Fountain, and the Hundred Fountains spouting from masks along a wall. But be sure to wander along the side paths to see hidden grottoes, smaller fountains, and flowers.
Near the Oval Fountain, two buildings hold the interesting Museum of Ancient Books and Paper-making, also worth a visit.
How to Visit Villa d’Este
Villa d’Este is on a regional train line that runs from Rome’s Tiburtina station. It can easily be visited as a day trip from Rome but there are a couple of other sites to visit in Tivoli and the pleasant town would make a nice place to spend the night, especially in summer when you want to escape the city heat.
- Hotel Torre Sant Angelo is a well-rated hotel with swimming pool and parking.
- See more hotels and places to stay in Tivoli.
Villa d’Este opens at 8:30 AM on Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays). Closing times vary by month. See Villa d’Este for current hours and ticket prices. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours to see the villa and explore the garden.
- See its location and other sites to visit, including the ancient Roman Hadrian’s Villa, on this Tivoli Map and Guide