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Villa d'Este

Villa d'Este Review

Created by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este in the 16th century, this villa in the center of Tivoli was the most amazing pleasure garden of its day: it still stuns visitors with its beauty. Este (1509–72), a devotee of the Renaissance celebration of human ingenuity over nature, was inspired by the excavation of Villa Adriana. He paid architect Pirro Ligorrio an astronomical sum to create a mythical garden with water as its artistic centerpiece. To console himself for his seesawing fortunes in the political intrigues of his time (he happened to be cousin to Pope Alexander VI), he had his builders tear down part of a Franciscan monastery to clear the site, then divert the Aniene River to water the garden and feed the fountains—and what fountains: big, small, noisy, quiet, rushing, running, and combining to create a late-Renaissance, proto–Busby Berkeley masterpiece in which sunlight, shade, water, gardens, and carved stone create an unforgettable experience. To this day, several hundred fountains cascade, shoot skyward, imitate birdsongs, and simulate rain. The musical Fontana dell'Organo has been restored to working order: the organ plays a watery tune every two hours from 10:30 to 6:30 (until 2:30 in winter). Romantics will love the night tour of the gardens and floodlit fountains, available on Friday and Saturday from July until September. Allow at least an hour for the visit, and bear in mind that there are a lot of stairs to climb. There's also a café on the upper terrace leading from the palace entrance, where you can sit and admire the view.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Piazza Trento 1, Tivoli, 00019 | Map It
  • Phone: 0774/312070
  • Cost: €8
  • Hours: Tues.–Sun. 8:30–1 hr before sunset
  • Website:
  • Location: Tivoli
Updated: 03-14-2013

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