When in Rome, it's likely the vast amount of city centre tourist spots will be high on your "to do" list. Yet, travel just slightly out of town and you will be faced with an attraction just as mesmerising and opulent as the likes of the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Villa d'Este in Tivoli will be a perfect daytrip in the surroundings of Rome, especially if you are looking to escape the heat and the crowds of the city center.
History of Villa d'Este
The gardens of Villa d'Este in Tivoli boast a masterpiece of Italian landscaping, and are one of the most outstanding examples of Renaissance culture at its apogee. A UNESCO World Heritage site, they are responsible for having a profound influence on garden design throughout Europe, projecting a mannerist and baroque style through its intricate layout, architectural components and concentration of stunning fountains and grottoes. Sublime sights at every turn, the gardens not only exude a romantic beauty, but also a rich history synonymous with Roman life. The perfect way to escape the summer heat and chaos of the city, they should hold a staple place on every Rome Bucket List.
The gardens were commissioned in 1550 by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, after he obtained governorship of the town of Tivoli. Disappointed with his official residence, he wanted to find a splendid villa and grounds that would bring about the luxury of the Ferrarese, Roman and French courts as well as matching the lavishness found in Hadrian's Villa. Conceived by the esteemed painter and architect, Pirro Ligorio, and constructed and landscaped by court architect Alberto Galvano (with the help of many more artists and artisans), Ippolito's vision quickly transformed into one of the most unique examples of 16th century Italian gardens.
The Magnificent Gardens
A symbol of Renaissance culture, the looming terraces, winding staircases, grand slopes and promenades have seen the gardens likened to the hanging gardens of Babylon. A network of diagonal paths create a maze like feeling to this grand piece of land, with hidden surprises at every step. The epitome of romance, this elegant scene has also become a firm favourite spot for lovers to pop the big question.
Perhaps most impressive of all are the gardens' many exquisite water features. Head to the largest promenade to find 100 fountains lining the way; a backdrop that has been used in many popular films, including Ben Hur and Three Coins in the Fountain.
To the left of this spellbinding promenade stands the Fontana dell'Ovato, a huge Baroque style fountain that emits an organ like sound due to the mechanisms created by the water. A spectacle for all who visit, one can't help but just sit and absorb this unbelievable sight, listening as the fantasy like sounds pass softly through the garden. Further down you face the Fountain of Neptune, an aweinspiring piece surrounded by three small reflective fishing ponds (to complete the scenery blessed by Neptune).
Look away from the Villa to find the elaborate Grotto di Diana, or take to the very centre to meet the Fountain of Dragons (a glorious addition that was rumoured to have been completed in one night to pay homage to Villa guest, Pope Gregory XIII, whom had a family crest of winged dragons). The Rotonda dei Cipressi in the lower part of the garden hosts a rounded piazza full of century old cypress trees whilst two steep sloops descending from the Villa lead down to a terrace in the style of a magnificent amphitheatre.
The many gems in this gleaming crown never end: the garden's beauty transcends all barriers and possibilities. A prominent work of art, it maintains its authentic charm centuries after its creation. It's a sight that truly must be seen to be believed; and even then you won't believe your eyes.
Villa d'Este is about 40 minutes by car from the center of Rome and can be reached by public transportation.
Open every day except 25th December, 1st January.
Monday open at 14.30.
Tuesday to Sunday open 8.30 to evening (variable times).
Tickets cost €10 for an adult and €5 for reduced. Visit the garden at night during the Summer months for the same price.
For more information visit http://www.villadestetivoli.info
Kissfromitaly offers a daytrip to Villa d'Este from Rome, for more information please see here.