Villa Gregoriana: the most picturesque location in the whole of Lazio
With its large waterfall, plunging 120 metres into a valley of lush vegetation, between cliffs, ravines, caves, vestiges of ancient buildings and the incessant roar of the water, the park of Villa Gregoriana at Tivoli offers one of the most evocative settings in the whole of Lazio.
Between nature, archaeology and a grandiose work of hydraulic engineering, it is a unique place that enchants anyone who ventures there.
A place of wild beauty
The park of Villa Gregoriana was designed in 1832 by Pope Gregory XVI to put an end to the disastrous flooding caused in Tivoli by the Aniene River.
Winning an international competition, held to find the most suitable design solution, was Clemente Folchi's project to divert the course of the river by means of a tunnel through Mount Catillo and the creation of an artificial waterfall that, in terms of the width of the drop, is second in Italy only to that of the Marmore Falls.
The work was completed in just 2 years and unveiled in 1835. In the original dry river bed, Gregory XVI had an impressive romantic promenade built, winding through the ravines carved by the river in the soft limestone tuff and the remains of ancient buildings.
In the Valley of Hell
From the beautiful Gregorian bridge, which connects the historic centre of Tivoli to the park, you descends into the so-called Valley of Hell: proceeding along the path, you can see Neptune's cave and that of the Sirens, while the vegetation becomes thicker and thicker.
Once at the bottom, the route ascends along the ancient river bed to the Tiburtine Acropolis, located on a rocky spur on which stand two temples, one with a rectangular plan, known as the Sybil, the other with a round plan, known as Vesta.
Due to the elegance of its forms, the Temple of Vesta has over time become the emblem of Tivoli. Rediscovered in the Renaissanceeven in the 19th century, the temple of Vesta was a favourite subject of Romantic landscape painters who helped to make this valley one of the obligatory stops on any trip to Italy.
The Roman villa of Manlio Vopisco
What makes the walk through the park of the Villa Gregoriana even more fascinating are the remains of a Roman villa, even mentioned by the Latin poet Horace, and erected in what was the Sacred Wood of Tiburno.
The property was crossed by several channels that brought water directly into the house. All that remains of the villa are 13 rooms that look like caves, just as the architect had intended them to be, well embedded in the natural environment.
The Belvedere Nymphaeum and Waterfalls
The Nymphaeum is an artificial cave dating back to Roman times created on a cliff where there was probably another waterfall. Even in Roman times, the waters of the Aniene were channelled to limit flooding and to feed a system of mills, some traces of which have been found.
To find out more
Now managed by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), after its restorationin 2005, the Villa Gregoriana Park is restored to its former glory.
The site is open every day. The visit is not recommended for those with mobility problems.