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Villa d'Este

A heavenly sanctuary conceived by a 16th century cardinal

For garden enthusiasts visiting Rome, this magnificent 16th century palace and garden is not to be missed. Friends urged us to make it a priority and now I can understand why. 

Not to be confused with the Tivoli Gardens amusement park in the heart of Copenhagen, the town of Tivoli is located 40 minutes northeast of Rome and is home to Villa d’Este.

Having obtained the post of governor of the town, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este (1509-72) arrived in Tivoli on September 9, 1550. The official residence assigned to him, part of the monastery of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, did not suit him. 

So he decided to build a villa with gardens, which are attributed to Pirro Ligorio (1500-1583), an architect, painter, antiquarian and garden designer who was obliged to make use of certain parts of the previous monastic building.

The garden streches over two steep slopes, descending from the palace down to a flat terrace in the manner of an amphitheatre.

The Oval Fountain cascades from its egg-shaped basin into a large pool set against a rustic nymphaeum.

Its impressive use of fountains and ornamental basins make this property an early model for the development of European gardens. Rather than flowers and shrubs, focal points of this garden are the architectural components in stone with an unending assortment of nymphs, mermans, sea maidens, sirens and gods, refreshed by 500 cascading giochi d’acqua, water jets in pools, grottoes, fountains and water troughs.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the villa became the property of the Italian State and during the 1920s it was restored and opened to the public. Another radical restoration was carried out following the Second World War to repair damage caused by bombing in 1944. Restorations have continued without interruption for the past 20 years, including the recent cleaning of the Organ Fountain.

Today the Villa and gardens are a Unesco World Heritage Site, meaning, they offer a special natural or cultural significance, one of 21 sites chosen by a General Assembly.

Le Centro Fontane (The Hundred Fountains) where water jets fill a long rustic trough, was featured in the Woody Allen film To Rome With Love.


Gerard PampaloneGerard Pampalone

I am not a professional garden designer, landscape architect or horticulturalist. I am, for the most part, self-taught.

I don’t garden for a living, I live for gardening.

I came to gardening late in life, so I am making up for lost time.

I hope to share my insights, resources, and gardening experiences in the coming months.

My aim is to educate, enlighten and inspire gardeners to take chances, break new ground, dig deeper and stretch themselves.

As seen in:

Westport Magazine, July 2007
athome Magazine, March/April 2008