Villa d'Este (Tivoli)

Info and reservation :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. +39/06/85.30.17.58 - Fax +39/06/85.30.17.56
Email : service@romeguide.it

The Villa d'Este is a villa situated at Tivoli, near Rome. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a masterpiece of Italian architecture and especially garden design.

History

The Villa d'Este was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este (1509-1572), son of Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia and grandson of Pope Alexander VI. He had been appointed Governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III, with the gift of the villa, which he had entirely reconstructed to plans of Pirro Ligorio under the direction of the Ferrarese architect-engineer Alberto Galvani, court architect of the Este. The chief painter of the ambitious internal decoration was Livio Agresti from Forlì. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, he created a palatial setting surrounded by a fabulous terraced garden in the late-Renaissance mannerist style, which took full advantage of the dramatic slope but required innovations in bringing a sufficient water supply, which was employed in cascades, water tanks, troughs and pools, water jets and fountains, giochi d'acqua. Other noted villas with water-play structure are the Villas Aldobrandini and Torlonia in Frascati.

With drawing inspiration (and many statues and much of the marble used for construction) from the nearby Villa Adriana (the palatial retreat of Emperor Hadrian ) and reviving Roman techniques of hydraulic engineering to supply water to a sequence of fountains, the cardinal created an elaborate fantasy garden whose mixture of architectural elements and water features had an enormous influence on European landscape design.

Pirro Ligorio, who was responsible for the iconographic programs worked out in the villa's frescos, was also commissioned to lay out the gardens for the villa with the assistance of Thomaso Chiruchi of Bologn, one of the most skilled hydraulic engineers of the sixteenth century. Chiruchi had worked on the fountains at Villa Lante. At Villa d'Este he was assisted in the technical designs for the fountains by a Frenchman, Claude Venard, who was an experienced manufacturer of hydraulic organs.

Cardinal Alessandro d'Este repaired and extended the gardens from 1605.

In the eighteenth century the villa and its gardens passed to the House of Habsburg and were neglected. The hydraulics fell into disuse, and many of the sculptures commissioned by Ippolito d'Este were scattered to other sites. The picturesque sense of decay recorded by Carl Blechten and other painters was reversed during the tenure of Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe; the Cardinal hosted Franz Liszt, who evoked the garden in his "Les Jeux d'Eaux à la Villa d'Este" and gave one of his last concerts here. Jean Garrigue 's volume of poems A water walk by Villa d'Este (1959) continues a long tradition of poetry inspired by the gardens. Thus the Villa has been celebrated in poetry, painting and music.

The grounds of the Villa d'Este also house the Museo Didattico del Libro Antico, a teaching museum for the study and conservation of antiquarian books.

The Villa itself surrounds a sixteenth-century courtyard on three sites, sited on the former Benedictine cloister. The fountain on a side wall, framed within a Doric contains a sculpture of a sleeping nymph in a grotto guarded by d'Este's heraldic eagles, with a bas-relief framed in apple boughs that links the villa to the Garden of the Hesperides. The central main entrance leads to the Appartamento Vecchio, the "Old Apartment" made for Ippolito d'Este, with its vaulted ceilings frescoed in secular allegories by Livio Agresti and his students, centered on the grand Sala, with its spectacular view down the main axis of the gardens, which fall away in a series of terraces. To the left and right are suites of rooms, that on the left containing Cardinal Ippolito's's library and his bedchamber with the chapel beyond, and the private stairs to the lower apartment, the Appartamento Nobile, which gives directly onto Pirro Ligorio's Gran Loggia straddling the gravelled terrace with a triumphal arch motif.

The garden plan is laid out on a central axis with subsidiary cross-axes of carefully varied character, refreshed by some five hundred jets in fountains, pools and water troughs, supplied by the Aniene, which is partly diverted through the town, a distance of a kilometre, and by the Rivellese spring, which supplies a cistern under the villa's courtyard.

The Villa's uppermost terrace ends in a balustraded balcony with a sweeping view over the plain below. Double stairs flanking the axis lead to the next garden terrace with the Grotto of Diana, richly decorated with frescoes and pebble mosaic to one side and the central Fontana del Bicchierone ("Fountain of the Great Cup") loosely attributed to Bernini, where water issues from a seemingly natural rock into a scrolling shell-like cup.

The Fontana dell'Ovato ("Oval Fountain") cascades from its egg-shaped basin into a pool set against a rustic nymphaeum .

To descend to the next level, the visitor is required to take stairs at either end— the elaborate fountain complex called the Rometta ("the little Rome") is at the far left— to view the full length of the Hundred Fountains on the next level, where the water jets fill the long rustic trough, and Pirro Ligorio's Fontana dell'Ovato ends the cross-vista. A visitor may walk behind the water through the rusticated arcade of the concave nymphaeum, which is peopled by marble nymphs by Giovanni Battista Della Porta . Above the nymphaeum, the sculpture of Pegasus recalls to the visitor the fountain of Hippocrene on Parnassus, haunt of the Muses.

This terrace is united to the next by the central Fountain of the Dragons, dominating the central perspective of the gardens, erected for a visit of Pope Gregory XIII in 1572whose coat-of-arms features a dragon. Central stairs lead down a wooded slope to three rectangular fishponds set on the cross-axis at the lowest point of the gardens, terminated at the right by the water organ and Fountain of Neptune.

Info and reservation :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. +39/06/85.30.17.58 - Fax +39/06/85.30.17.56
Email : service@romeguide.it

How to reach Villa d'Este:

By car: Autostrada A24, exit: Tivoli;

By train: Roma-Pescara Line, Stazione Tivoli;

By bus: Bus Lines Cotral Roma-Tivoli (station in Rome: metro stop Ponte Mammolo; bus station in Tivoli: Largo Nazioni Unite).

To welcome our disabled visitors:

The Villa is equipped with elevators from the street level to the upper level of the garden. For the visit of the garden itself, an electric car (with driver) is available, free, upon reservation. The vehicle is also equipped for the transport of wheelchairs. 

Visiting Hours:

Opening 8.30 – closed one hour before sunset.  
The ticket office closes one hour before the closing of the monument.
The hydraulic organ of the Organ Fountain is active daily, from 10.30am, every two hours.  
The Fontana della Civetta functions daily, from 10.00am, every two hours.

The Monument is closed the following days:

All Mondays, January 1 st , May 1 st , and December 25 th .  If Monday is a holiday, the monument will remain open and the weekly closure will then be delayed until the following business day. 

Ticket Prices:

€ 6,50 full price + € 3,00 (agency fees) – reduced price € 3,25 + € 3,00 (agency fees)

The right to purchase reduced price tickets belongs to all citizens of the European Union between the ages of 18 and 24 as well as permanent teachers of state schools (upon presentation of identity documents).  

The right of free admission belongs to all citizens of the European Union under 18 and over 65 upon presentation of identity documents.    For citizens of extra-european states, the norms will apply according to the specific reciprocity agreements between each individual state and the Italian state. 

guided tours

Info and reservation :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. +39/06/85.30.17.58 - Fax +39/06/85.30.17.56
Email : service@romeguide.it

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Info and reservation :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. +39/06/85.30.17.58 - Fax +39/06/85.30.17.56
Email : service@romeguide.it