Villa d'Este in Tivoli
If you are in Rome and you have never seen Villa d’Este… it’s time that you did. If you are tourists in Rome, it is worth a trip to Tivoli to discover this architectural treasure. If you are at home and you want to get away for a romantic weekend, Tivoli and its Roman Villas are definitely to be considered. Because a stroll among the gardens and fountains of Villa d’Este… is simply not to be missed. Trust us. And read a bit about its history…
The creation of a masterpiece
It is not by chance that Villa d’Este can boast the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is an Italian Renaissance masterpiece that is still today an exceptional example of architecture and garden design, such that it is considered the finest example of ‘Italian gardens‘, capable of influencing the development and design of gardens all over Europe for their elegance and style. Villa d’Este was commissioned in 1550, to the architect Pirro Logorio, by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Lucrezia Borgia and nominated governor of Tivoli. Disappointed not to be elected Pope, he wished to reproduce the magnificence of the Roman and French courts, as well as those of Ferrara, and, above all, he wanted to imitate the splendour of Villa Adriana. Notwithstanding the “private” motivations behind his architectural choices, the fact remains that the theatrical beauty of the fountains, statues and water features made a great impression on the world of architecture, then as it continues to do today, and the Villa remains, even today, a magnificent example of innovation and originality.
The majestic Villa is made up of several apartments and a sumptuous piano nobile that was decorated and painted by numerous artists under the direction of Livio Agresti of Forlì. The outside of the Villa, with its splendid stairway entrance, and the internal frescoes are artistic features which have captivated connoisseurs and guests for centuries. The weight of the frescoes in the rooms of the villa is such that they give their names to the apartments. Indeed, the lower apartment is characterised by the Salone della Fontanina (Salon of the Little Fountain) and it is here, among the more important fresco depictions in the Sala di Passaggio (Passage Room), that you will find the painting of the plan of the Villa with the palace still under construction.
The wonderful garden of Villa d’Este includes terraces, sloping lawns, waterfalls, churches and beautiful fountains with spectacular water features.
The main entrance was located in front of the Church of San Pietro alla Carità, the cathedral of the palace’s central loggia.
Descending the majestic double stairway situated on the façade of the villa, you find yourself in the Main Path, whose mosaic paving and green gardens run for 200m, parallel to the front wall of the palace.
This main path ends with another architectural feature that was specifically requested by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este: the Gran Loggia, created to indulge the Cardinal’s desire for an open-air dining room. Even though, in reality, the loggia was never used as a dining room, today it is the chosen visitor meeting and resting place in the heat of the day, with a fabulous view over the Tiburtine countryside and a pleasantly cool atmosphere.
The Villa gardens also contain a Grotto of the Goddess Diana, decorated all over with mosaics, stucco and varnishes. The paving, however, as can still be seen in some parts, was adorned with colourful majolicas and varying ornamental decorations. The beautiful statues that “adored” the grotto represent the two Amazon goddesses, Diana and Minerva. Bought by Pope Benedict XIV, they can be found today in the Museo Capitolino in Rome.
The Rotonda dei Cipressi (Cypress Circle) is one of the most admired areas of the Villa d’Este gardens: it is located in the lowest part of the garden, near to the original palace entrance. It is a circular area, surrounded by enormous cypress trees.
The Fountains of Villa d’Este
The gardens of Villa d’Este boast some spectacular fountains. Just think that Ippolito II d’Este employed two French fountain makers to create the designs for the Villa grounds.
And so… here are a few interesting facts:
- The Main Path through Villa d’Este, which joins the oval fountain of Tivoli to the fountain dedicated to Rome, is symbolic of the ties between the town and the Capital
- The ancient wall fountain, which is found all along the path, is full of symbolism: it represents the three rivers that travel from Tivoli to Rome.
- The main fountain, known as the Fontana di Tivoli or Fontana Principalissima (The Most Important Fountain), represents the region itself, simulating the mountains, the Sibilla and the great waterfall of the Aniene in the old town centre of Tivoli.
- Bernini was so struck by the splendour of the Villa that he wanted to pay homage with a piece of his work, which is located within the Villa: a fountain whose mosaics represent this homage to the beauty and magnificence of the Villa and its park.
- The Fontana dell’Organo (Organ Fountain), originally called the Fontana del Diluvio (Rainfall Fountain), is truly something special: it was built using an innovative system called the hydraulic organ. The mechanism was designed to create a musical fountain. Indeed, within the fountain there is an air and water activation system that can produce musical sounds. Even today, the system within the magnificent fountain works perfectly and, as the water falls, the organ produces charming tunes that permeate the pathways and gardens of Villa d’Este.
“…wherever you lay your eyes, water spouts in so many different ways and with such splendid artistry that there should be no similar place in all the earth that should not be far inferior…” (Letter from Uberto Foglietta to Flavio Orsino, 1569).
Villa d’Este. If you want a breathtaking experience.
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