An environmental disaster – the flood of 1826 – provided the opportunity for the creation of this marvellous location, with the waters of the River Aniene finally brought under control and canalised forming spectacular cascades among luxuriant vegetation and important ancient remains.

The beauty and charm of this site had attracted landscape painters such as Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain since the 17th century, making Tivoli a cardinal destination for 18th-century travellers on their Grand Tour. The crag with the temples and the Aniene water drop were subsequently immortalised by other artists such as Piranesi, Corot, Fragonard, Turner and Ingres, whose works helped spread the fame of this site. Pope Gregory XVI is to be credited for the site’s current appearance: he in fact ordered the important hydraulic work for the deviation of the course of the River Aniene that often caused spectacular but disastrous floods. Between 1832 and 1835 two tunnels were dug under Monte Catillo and the waters of the river were diverted creating the 12-metres high Cascata Grande. The park was solemnly inaugurated on 7 October 1835 and intended for the “diletto della comunità”, the community’s pleasure. An itinerary of twisting and arduous paths winds its way through cliffs, natural and artificial waterfalls, gorges, ravines and grottos, grand holm oak trees and impressive ruins, memorial stones and columns. Picturesque scenes appear amongst abundant vegetation and the remains of a Roman villa, maybe once belonging to the Roman consul Manlio Vopisco. Also accessible are Neptune and the Sirens’ grottoes where the river used to flow and, high up on the Acropolis, the temples probably dedicated to Vesta and Tiburnus. After years of neglect, this extraordinary park has been carefully and respectfully restored and returned to the public.