Rome Day Trips: Why You Need To Visit Villa d’Este

There are many fabulous day trips you can take from Rome. I had been wanting to check out Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) and Villa d’Este for ages, and this past summer I finally made my way there.

Villa d’Este is a story of extreme wealth, corruption, and the Catholic Church, three fabulously suited bedfellows. The more you research the various Popes and Cardinals the more you wonder where all this chastity and celibacy and saying Hail Mary’s for bad deeds comes from. They certainly weren’t living it!

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The Villa

Villa d’Este is a 16th century villa built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, one of the wealthiest cardinals of them all. During this time when the church ruled everything and there was no free press to report the goings on, Popes and Cardinals were marrying and having mistresses and orgies and generally getting up to no good. D’Este had a wife and 4 sons, which I find endlessly entertaining.

view of the gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli
The view from one of the balconies at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

He took an enormous amount of land from the locals to build his spectacular villa, and robbed no end of marble and travertine from Hadrian’s place down the hill. At one point he had 12 lawsuits against him, but he didn’t care, he was building his palace anyway.

Frescoed ceilings inside Villa d'Este in Tivoli, outside Rome

The villa would be quite sensational on its own, with its frescoes and mosaics and glorious views. On a clear day from the terrace you can see all the way to St Peter’s Dome.

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The Gardens At Villa d’Este

The most famous part of Villa d’Este are the gardens and their fountains. D’Este diverted the Aniene river to provide water to one of the most spectacular series of fountains and water exhibits you will ever see.

It all happens on several levels, working their way steeply down the hill to the bottom of the garden.

steep pathways work their way down into the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Steep pathways work their way down into the gardens at Villa d’Este

All the fountains and water exhibits are powered by water. It is completely brilliant, especially when you factor in the sheer size of the gardens – they are enormous. You will notice too as you move through the garden that all the fountains that line the way have water flowing at the same speed. You don’t see any gushing while others drip, it is all synchronized and balanced.

musical clock in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
This is a water powered musical clock that plays Renaissance music at various times during the day.

One highlight is a huge fountain that plays Renaissance music several times per day.

Make sure you find out what time the musical fountain is scheduled to play and time your visit to be in front of it when it does. It is quite incredible!

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As you are walking down to the musical fountain the walls are lined with gargoyle-like sculptures with water flowing out of their mouths.

walkways lined with gargoyle fountains in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Walkways lined with gargoyle fountains in the gardens at Villa d’este
Villa d'Este Tivoli gargoyle fountain close up
Close up of a gargoyle lining the walkway in the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Part way down you see two fountains the man of the cloth had made for the pleasure of his sons.

Fountains spraying water from breasts in the gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli
The fountain of the boobies in the gardens of Villa d’Este, Tivoli. There are two identical fountains facing one another.

A pair of female creatures with giant boobs from which water arcs out. I wonder if he gave himself a round of Hail Mary’s to make up for it?

Fountain in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli

You can spend a really lovely afternoon wandering the gardens at Villa d’Este.

Fountain in the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli

They really are a work of art, and are visually astounding from every angle, wherever you are on the property.

Stairway to the gardens at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
Stairway to the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli

The gardens are quite steep. You can take an elevator back up from close to the halfway mark, but you still need to be able to walk well to get to that point. As such I don’t recommend it for anyone with bad knees or hips, or for anyone who has trouble walking.

Villa d’Este is in Tivoli, only 15 miles from Rome.

Day tours combine Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) in the morning and then Villa d’Este in the afternoon.


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When I was at Villa d’Este Rome was having a very hot spell, so it was nice to take a day outside the city and enjoy the shade as well as the break from the heat.

If you are traveling to Rome any time soon you will love my new book, Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome. It will be available exclusively on Amazon.com by late March or early April 2019. Everyone on my Private Members List will get early notification of the book’s release, as well as the chance to get special early-bird pricing. You can join the list here.

Have you read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget yet? It has become an international best seller and is available worldwide, exclusively on Amazon.com Get your copy HERE


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7 Tips You Need To Know For Traveling To Rome

Are you planning a trip to Rome this summer? Rome is one of the greatest cities in the world. There’s so much to see and do, and no matter what your interests Rome has something for you.

Rome Colosseum, colisseum Rome
The Colosseum on a sunny day

Unfortunately most travelers to Rome just hit the same handful of sites – the Colosseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. Many find the city overwhelming because they’ve only experienced the places that are overloaded with tourists. I need everyone to love Rome, so have a new book coming out at the end of March that is all about 101 amazing things to do in Rome that pretty much no one knows about. Its fabulous!

If you want to be on the advanced list to get notifications about Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, as well as early bird pricing, you can join the Private Members Newsletter List here.

I’ve put together a list of 7 tips for traveling to Rome. This is especially helpful if you’ve never been before, but still worth looking over if you are going back anytime soon.

1. Stay Central

Most of the things you want to see and do in Rome happen within a couple of miles radius of the historic center of the city. There is loads of affordable accommodation close to the center of Rome, and you don’t have to be on a loud or busy street.

2. Rome is a Walking City

The very best way to see and experience Rome is on foot. Rome is an incredibly beautiful city, full of little piazzas, ivy walled side streets and little hidden neighborhoods that are to die for. You miss all of this if driving past in a bus or a car.

Use the GPS service on your phone to get you back on track if you get lost, but in the meantime hit the street walking!

cobblestoned street in Rome, Rome streets, cobble stone streets Rome
A little side street in the Trastevere, Rome

3. Wear Good Shoes

Make sure you pack good shoes that you can walk all day in. Rome is full of gorgeous cobble-stoned streets that photograph amazingly but can be hard on your feet. This is not the city to wander around in flip flops or sandals that don’t support your feet.

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4. Dress The Part

If you plan on going inside any of Rome’s 900+ churches or religious sites your shoulders and knees need to be covered. Keep a scarf in your handbag to throw over your shoulders if they are bare, and wear hemlines that touch your knee.

This past year (2018) women were being turned away from the Pantheon because their shoulders weren’t covered. Companies that lead guided tours through the Vatican will automatically disqualify anyone with bare shoulders or hemlines above the knee, regardless of whether you have already paid for your ticket or not. It’s not worth the hassle or the drama – just plan your wardrobe ahead of time!

5. Wear A Cross-body Bag

It’s a good idea to wear a cross body bag in any major European city. Wherever there are large groups of tourists there are also large groups of gypsies and scammers, just waiting to separate you from your cash and valuables.

The best thing to do is keep your bag across your body with the side that opens against your body. Never leave your bag open and never hang it over a chair in a restaurant or cafe.

Travelon Bags are super popular for travel. They have RFID blockers built into them, are slash-proof and even have a cable running through the strap so it can’t be cut.

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The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum

6. Purchase Tickets Online

Don’t waste hours standing in line to get into the big attractions – pre-purchase your tickets online. This year the Colosseum is doing timed tickets that only give you a 15 minute entry window, so plan on being in line with your pre-purchased ticket 30 minutes before your entry time.

Many of the smaller places are also only doing pre-purchased tickets now too. Make sure you research them before leaving for Italy.

7. Walk The Monuments At Night

All the major monuments are lit up at night, and are absolutely beautiful! Many places such as the Forum and Trajan’s Market have multimedia displays happening at night, and they are wonderful to see!

The busloads of tourists are all gone for the night, so the city becomes quite mellow. You will get an entirely different perspective of the various monuments that were crowded all day long. You just can’t beat night-time photos of the Colosseum or St Peters square!

Rome is a safe city to walk at night. The locals are out everywhere, there are lots of great little bars and cafes to stop into for a glass of wine as well as endless trattorias to stop in for dinner. You will love Rome at night!

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BONUS CONTENT: Would you like to know my favorite rooftop bars in Rome? Each of them is in the heart of the city, is easy to get to, and has a spectacular view. I’ve made a PDF (with photos) for my 7 Best Rooftop Bars In Rome. If you are already on my Private Members List it’s already on its way to you. If you are not on my list you can download your PDF here.


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5 Reasons You Need To Go To Carnival In Venice

Have you been to Carnival in Venice? If you had to choose the quintessential Venetian experience it wouldn’t be a gondola ride or a glass blowing demonstration, it would be Carnevale.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Venice was at its greatest. It was the merchant trade capital of the world and as such was dripping in money, grandeur and excess. What better way to show that off than with a weeks and sometimes months long fancy dress party?

Venice Carnival actually dates back to as early as 1162, but it was during the Baroque period in the 17th century that it really took off as a hedonistic expression of wealth and frivolity. Everyone would get dressed up, rich and poor (or maybe rich and non-rich is more correct) alike, don masks and be a part of the never-ending party.

Carnevale gave people the chance to live excessively until Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) after which the 40 days of Lent (and deprivation) began.

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In an interesting play on numbers the church snuffed out the celebrations in 1797, and they all but disappeared until 1979 when the government decided to use carnival to help bring back interest in the history and culture of Venice. During the interim the church forbade the use of masks. In the 19th century the carnival started reappearing, but only for short periods and for private events.

Now Venice’s carnival has become a huge international festival drawing people from all over the world.

Several years ago when I was teaching a pro makeup artistry program I had a student who had been to Carnival in Venice. She loved it so much that she decided to learn how to do makeup and go back each year, paying her way by doing makeup for carnival. She ended up doing it for years! She would work for book days on end getting ladies ready for the parties and balls.

I was always so proud of her but also a little envious (although in a nice way). I wished I could do it too, but I had a young child at home and at that time in my life it wouldn’t have worked.

5 Reasons why (at least once in your life) you should go to carnival in Venice

1. It’s The Original

This is the original carnival and nobody does it quite like Venice. With the backdrop of this exquisitely beautiful city, the baroque architecture, the canals, the little bridges everywhere and the midnight mist rolling in off the lagoon there is no place better in the world to celebrate carnival, and in full costume no less!

Mist rolling in at Venice carnival. Costumes at venice carnival
The mist rolling in at Venice Carnival

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2. You get To Wear A Mask

man in mask at Venice carnival at night on the grand canal
Mystery man behind the mask.

Not only do you get to wear a mask, but everyone else does too! You can be anyone you want to be when you have a mask hiding your identity. Not many cities have traditions so glamorous and alluring. Although it is quite possibly just Bob from accounting, behind that mask the man you are dancing with in the street or at a ball could be a prince. A little mystery adds no end of spice to life!

3. You get To Wear A Costume

costumes at Venice's Carnival

The costumes are spectacular. We don’t have anything like this at home. Not only do you get to  dress up in costume but everybody else does too. The streets (calle) and bridges and campos are full of people in baroque costumes, gondolas glide across the canals carrying elaborated gowned and masked women, men in capes and hats with masks hiding their faces. Night after night this goes on and it is incredible.

RELATED POST: DAY TRIPS FROM VENICE ~ TORCELLO

4. It’s The Biggest Party Of The Year

If you are going to visit Venice, why not come when Venetians are celebrating the biggest party of the year? You will never, ever forget the experience. The amount of time, effort and money that venetians put into their costumes make this so much more than just a fancy dress party.

5. See Venice As It Used To Be

Venice carnival costumes at a masquerade ball
Costumes at a masquerade ball at Venice carnival

If you have been to Venice during the high tourist summer months then you have no doubt witnessed the horror of the endless cruise ships. They not only block the view as they go by, but vomit off thousands of people at a time. Cruise passengers choke up the walkways, making the bridges so congested they are hard to pass over. They take up all the space and use up all the oxygen. Unless you know where to go to escape them you lose sight of Venice itself. Try walking through St Mark’s Square or across the Rialto Bridge when a cruise ship is in and you will know what I mean.

Between 470 and 529 cruise ships come to Venice each year, each carrying thousands of passengers. When multiple ships are docked the volume of tourists is just overwhelming.

But during Carnival they are fewer and further between. Not only do you get to really see Venice and be able to walk around freely, but everyone is in costume! It is magnificent.

Venice Carnival courtesy of RAI

Venice is the most unique city on earth. Why not visit during its most unique celebration?

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Bonus Information

Although the most famous, Venice is not the only place in Italy to celebrate Carnevale. Across the country there are several festivals leading up to the 40 days of Lent, each special in its own way. I have made a PDF of my top 5 Festivals In February. It not only tells you about each one but also gives you the dates they happen.

If you are on my newsletter list this information will be on its way to your inbox, so you don’t need to download it here. If you are not on my private member newsletter list you can get your copy of the PDF here.

If you would like to get all the secret sauce info sent to you as I publish it, you can join the private member newsletter here.

This year the Venice Carnival runs from Saturday February 16th to Tuesday March 5th

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