The town of Tivoli
Let’s begin with a little gem of info: according to certain historians, Tivoli, founded as the town of Tibur, dates back to before the time of Rome. The little town was born in 1215 BC and the future Capital of Italy… almost 400 years later, in 753 BC.
There are some charming legends about the origins of the town.
First and foremost, the one where Tivoli was founded by Tiburto, Coras and Catillo, the sons of Catillo of Arcadia, who came from Greece and chased out the Sicilians who lived there and gave the town the name Tibur, after the eldest of the three brothers.
And later Virgil, who recounted the actions of the three brothers in the VII book of the Aeneid and gave Tivoli the name of Tibur Superburn, a name which, still today, can be seen on the town’s emblem. And here is the second little gem: this is precisely why the residents are called ‘tiburtini’ and not ‘tivolesi’. Indeed, it is only with the passing of the centuries that the name changes from Tibori to Tiboli and then finally to Tivoli.
The Annexation to Rome and the building of the Royal Villas
The Romans understood immediately the strategic importance of the town of Tivoli, due to its proximity to the river Aniene, a waterway that crosses the Lazio region, as well as being one of the largest affluents of the Tiber. So, in the 4th century BC Tivoli was recognised as a Roman municipality under the Lex Iulia Municipalis. And from this moment onwards, Tivoli became the home of many villas of the richest Romans, such as Horace, Cassius, Publio Quintilio Varo and Manlio Vopisco.
Even Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, stayed for a while in the town of Tivoli and administered justice under the porticoes of the Sanctuary of Hercules Victor. The same can be said of the Emperor Hadrian, who commissioned the famous Villa Adriana (2nd century BC) which stretches over 120 hectares and was recognised a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999..
Tivoli from the Middle Ages to today
In the Middle Ages, Tivoli was heavily involved in feudal struggles. The town took the side of the Ghibellini in order to extract itself from the rule of the Church… but it was a failure and, in 15th century, it was back in the Church’s hands.
In 1550, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este was nominated governor and he commissioned the famous Villa d’Este, which he used as a family residence until 1625.
And who today doesn’t know about this marvellous Risorgimento-style villa, another UNESCO World Heritage Site?
In the Fascist years, Tivoli and some of its villas – Villa Leonardi (or Villa Savi), Villa Ettora and Palazzo Tiglié – were used as internment sites for Libyans and Ethiopians. Also during the Fascist period, Tivoli didn’t just stand by and watch: the town and its inhabitants rebelled against the fascist use of hydroelectric resources right up until the fascist troops managed to take control of the Generating Station that was privatised and passed into the hands of the Anglo-Roman society.
During the Second World War, the town of Tivoli, which found itself in the path of the Nazi retreat, was bombed repeatedly by the Anglo-american planes who sought to break rail and road communications between Rome and the Adriatic.
During the years of German occupation, many partisan units were formed in Tivoli, and thus the town became the theatre for numerous bloody battles. The years following the end of the Second World War were a time of great industrialisation for the town of Tivoli, which saw the creation of hydroelectric plants, iron and steel works and food factories.
From the 1980s to today, thanks in part to recognition by UNESCO, Tivoli has been rediscovered as an important tourist destination.
The many Roman remains, temples and villas make Tivoli one of the finest Roman towns, full of history and traditions.
Its history, combined with the great social nature of the ‘tiburtini’, has made the town of Tivoli a much talked about destination among tourists from all over Europe.
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Tivoli… history goes on!