This Mountain Town in Italy Has Beautiful Views, Charming Piazzas, and Tasty Food — and It's Just Outside Rome

Tivoli makes for a perfect day trip from Rome.

Old medieval streets of Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Tivoli architecture and landmark.
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Just about 20 miles from the center of Rome, the small mountaintop town of Tivoli overlooks the whole of the Roman basin. From the promenade at Giardini Garibaldi, near the entrance to the center of town, you can take in a view of Rome in its entirety, with the famous St. Peter's Basilica poking out of the horizon like a small cake topper, the Tyrrhenian beach town of Ostia, and the small port city of Civitavecchia deeper in the distance.

View from the terrace of Villa d'Este
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Barely 40 minutes by train from Rome's Termini station and just a few minutes longer by bus, Tivoli — home to 55,000 year-round residents — has long attracted day trippers who come to see its manicured gardens at Villa d'Este, the rough-hewn remnants of Villa Gregoriana, the stoic castle of Rocca Pia, and the ancient Hadrian's Villa.

View of the "Canopus" in the Hadrian's Villa (Italian: Villa Adriana). In Tivoli, Italy
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Fountain dell'organo in the Gardens of Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy
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The mini metropolis is something of a hot spot for these villas as, for centuries, Tivoli offered a respite from Rome's stultifying summertime heat. It was here, up in the mountains that surround the Eternal City, that the Roman elite sought cooler climates.

Of course, Tivoli can still get brutally hot on a midsummer's day, which is when the streets empty, the shops mostly shutter, and the town enjoys a slumber for a few hours. Some shops and cafes remain open to cater to the tourists up from Rome, and thanks to them, you can enjoy an afternoon Aperol spritz. One-part Aperol, one-part prosecco, with a dash of club soda and a slice of orange, this refreshing cocktail is a staple of an Italian summer.

Old medieval streets of Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Tivoli architecture and landmark.
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Beyond its few well-known attractions, Tivoli is a homey, working-class city full of friendly locals (who are known as Tiburtini, due to Via Tiburtina, the arterial road that has connected Tivoli to Rome for centuries), delicious restaurants, and, of course, more than its fair share of gelaterias.

Whether it's at the daily farmers market at Piazza Plebiscito, where area farmers serve up their hauls of the freshest produce, or the local playground at Giardini Garibaldi, Tivoli offers travelers a chance to experience life in Italy at a more relaxed pace, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Rome's touristy destinations.

View of the "Pecile" in Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy
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Old medieval streets of Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Tivoli architecture and landmark.
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But like many Italian towns and cities, Tivoli bursts to life once the sun goes down. It's after dark that the town's ancient, labyrinth streets come alive, with its myriad restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops packed with locals, and its piazzas buzzing with an evening energy that the daytime doesn't capture. It's a vibe that's amplified in the summer, long after the blazing Roman sun has sunk below the horizon and the heat has dissipated for the evening.

Tivoli, Italy town view from above at dusk.
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It's impossible to find a meal that's less than breathtaking, but the seafood risotto at La Fornarina is especially spectacular. Be sure to wait for an outdoor table, which is tucked into one of Tivoli's seemingly endless piazzas. With walls rising high on all sides of the square, an alfresco evening meal at La Fornarina feels like a secret hidden from the rest of the world, a million miles away from Rome, which is really just down the mountainside, eternally waiting for your return.

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