Villa d'Este

The Villa d’Este is situated in the historical centre of Tivoli, in the midst of hills bordered by the turbulent waters of the river Anio. The ensemble composed of the palace and gardens forms an uneven quadrilateral and covers an area of about 4.5 ha.
Villa d'Este was conceived and commissioned by Ippolito d'Este II (1509-1572), Cardinal of Ferrara and son of the famous Lucrezia Borgia and Alfonso d'Este. The official residence assigned to him in Tivoli, part of the monastery of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, did not suit him. He therefore decided to build a splendid villa with gardens in a spot with a lucky name: "Valle Gaudente" (The Valley of Pleasure-seeking). The short valley descended gently between slopes clad in vineyards and olive groves, which were crisscrossed by country lanes and studded with red-roofed white cottages, golden colored ruins, a few shrines and a small church. He needed a little over ten years to buy the land and demolish the buildings.

Ingrandisce foto Neptune fountain

Ippolito d'Este had at his disposal an enormous number of artists and craftsmen and the great architect Pirro Ligorio, an antiquary and archaeologist who carried out archaeological excavations at the Villa Adriana nearby (moreover, in the 17th century, Gianlorenzo Bernini
contributed many additions to it). The rapid completion of the work (about 20 years) represented one of the few satisfactions for the Cardina. Between 1563 and 1565 the land was remodelled to create a steep slope descending to the old monastery and another gentler slope facing the north-east.

A terrace was laid out in the south-west, supported by the old wall of the town.
Starting in 1560 great efforts were made to supply the water needed for the numerous fountains that were intended to embellish the garden. First, an aqueduct was built to capture the waters from Monte Sant’Angelo, but
this source of water turned out to be inadequate and so an underground canal (600 m.) was dug beneath the town to harness the waters of the Anio river. Once the water supply had been ensured and its flow made possible by the natural gravity created by the different levels of the garden, work started on
constructing the fountains, ornamental basins, and grottoes and on laying out the landscape.

Ingrandisce foto Particular of Rometta fountain

During this period the old monastery was converted into
a villa and the original cloister was modified to become
the central courtyard, its south-east wall being that of the
old church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The pace of the
decoration work for the palace speeded up between 1565
and 1572, the year in which Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este

Pirro Ligorio, Cardinal Ippolito II, and his secretary, the humanist Marc-Antoine Muret, designed the Villa d’Este according to a very elaborate iconography that celebrated the residence and Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este by magnifying his virtues and lineage. A statue of Hercules in the middle of the garden above the Fountain of the Dragons identifies the Tivoli garden with the mythological Garden of the Hesperides. According to 16th century historians, Hercules was the legendary ancestor of the Este family, but he was also one of the old
protective divinities of Tivoli.

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Con il patrocinio del Comune di Tivoli, Assessorato al Turismo

Patrocinio Comune di Tivoli

Assessorato al Turismo