Tivoli is one of the most popular day excursion destinations for both Romans and visitors to Rome, and should not be missed. Tivoli is located on a steep Sabine hillside 30 km from Rome and, aside from its splendid views out over the Roman Campagna, offers two of the most interesting sights of the Roman Campagna, the Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa.
History of TivoliTivoli was the anient Roman town of Tibur and is located at the waterfalls of the Aniene river, where it issues from the Sabine hills. The name of the city came to be used in diminutive form as Tiburi instead of Tibur and so transformed through Tibori to Tiboli and finally to Tivoli. But its inhabitants are still called Tiburtini and not Tivolesi.
Cato the Elder stated that Tibur was founded by Catillus the Arcadian, a son of Amphiaraus, who escaped the slaughter at Greek Thebes. Catillus and his three sons, Tiburtus, Coras, and Catillus, drove out the Siculi from the Aniene plateau and founded a city they named Tibur in honor of Tiburtus. According to a more historical account, Tibur was a colony of Alba Longa. Historical traces of settlement in the area dates back to the 13 C BC.
From Etruscan times Tibur, a Sabine city, was the seat of the Tiburtine Sibyl. There are two small temples above the falls, the rotunda traditionally associated with Vesta and the rectangular one with the Sibyl of Tibur, whom Varro calls 'Albunea', the water nymph who was worshipped on the banks of the Anio as a tenth Sibyl added to the nine mentioned by the Greek writers. In the nearby woods, Faunus had a sacred grove. During the Roman age, Tibur maintained a certain importance because it lay on the Via Tiburtina, extended as the Via Valeria, by which the Romans crossde the mountain regions of the Apennines towards the Abruzzo, the territory of some of their most implacable enemies, Volsci, Sabini and Samnites.
Roman TiburTibur was at first an independent ally of Rome but allied itself with the Gauls in 361 BC. Vestiges remain of its defensive walls of this period, in opus quadrata. In 338 BC, however, Tibur was defeated and absorbed by the Romans. The inhabitants acquired Roman citizenship in 90 BC and Tibur became a resort area famed for its beauty and its copious good water, and was enriched by many Roman villas. The most famous one, of which the ruins remain, is the Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa). Maecenas and Augustus also had villas at Tibur, and the poet Horace had a modest villa: he and Catullus and Statius all mention Tibur in their poems. In 273, Zenobia, the captive queen of Palmyra, was assigned a residence here by the Emperor Aurelian. The Piazza del Duomo occupies the site of the Roman forum.
In 547, in the course of the Gothic War, the city was fortified by the Byzantine general Belisarius, but was later destroyed by Totila's army. After the end of the war it became a Byzantine duchy, later absorbed into the Patrimony of St. Peter. After Italy was conquered by Charlemagne, Tivoli was under the authority of a count, representing the emperor.