Villa d’Este is a wonderful Renaissance villa located in Tivoli, near Rome. This extraordinary complex is famous all over the world for the splendid fountains that decorate it, characterized by precious and suggestive water games and for being the most beautiful “Italian garden” in Europe. A triumph of fountains, nymphaeums, caves, water games and hydraulic music make Villa d’Este a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. Thanks to its large concentration of fountains and streams, Villa d’Este has been one of the most imitated models in European gardens.

The entire complex extends for 4 hectares and includes, in addition to the residential building, a garden decorated with tree-lined avenues and hedges, and numerous fountains, true works of art. A work of art that fits into a landscape, such as that of Tivoli, already rich in archaeological and historical finds.

The garden of Villa d’Este must in fact be appreciated in the extraordinary environmental, artistic and historical context of Tivoli, where we find both the monumental remains of Roman villas such as Villa Adriana, and an area rich in natural gorges, caves and waterfalls.

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The villa was built by the will of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, one of the richest and most educated men in Italy in the 16th century. Failure to be elected to the papal throne, the desire to revive the splendor of the Ferraresi, Roman and Fointanebleau courts and recall the magnificence of Villa Adriana, were the factors that prompted the cardinal to create this sumptuous and splendid Renaissance architectural work. Built at the end of the sixteenth century on a project by the architect Pirro Ligorio, Villa d’Este is today a masterpiece of art and nature, not surprisingly included in the UNESCO world heritage list.

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In the XVIII century, the lack of maintenance caused the decline of the complex, which worsened with the transfer of ownership to the House of Habsburg. The garden was gradually abandoned, the hydraulic games, no longer used, went into disrepair and the collection of ancient statues, dating back to the time of Cardinal Ippolito, was dismembered and moved elsewhere.

This state of decay continued uninterrupted until the mid XIX century, when Cardinal Gustav Adolf von Hohenlohe started a series of works to save the complex from its ruin. In these years, well-known personalities such as the musician Franz Liszt who composed the piano sonata “Water games at Villa d’Este” passed within the walls of the wonderful villa, which had returned to new life.

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Villa dEste

At the outbreak of the First World War, the villa became part of the property of the Italian State, was open to the public and fully restored in the 1920-30s. Another radical restoration was carried out, immediately after the Second World War, to repair the damage caused by the bombing in 1944.

At Villa d’Este the imposing buildings and terraces make one think of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world, while the water supply system, with an aqueduct and a tunnel that passes under the town of Tivoli, evoke the engineering mastery of the Romans. The water that gushes from the numerous fountains and that can still be admired today in its maximum splendour, is taken directly from the Aniene river through an underground channel 600 meters long. The numerous fountains, two of which by Bernini (the Bicchierone Fountain and the Waterfall of the Organ Fountain) are able to offer visitors unique water games.

The visit follows an ideal itinerary but each visitor can freely choose the route to take. There is also a guided tour service for the villa and the garden.

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Text: Luca © /   fotos ©

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