The spectacular fountains of Villa D Este, Italy

Renaissance frescoes deptict a hunting scene in the Villa D'Este

Renaissance frescoes deptict a hunting scene in the Villa D'Este

On a recent trip to Italy I toured Rome in a whirlwind of activity with my husband and three friends.  After debating descriptions of the various villas on the tourist trail we settled on the Villa D’Este on our way to Umbria. Off we went, steering our rental car through the maze of Roman streets and onward toward Tivoli, ground central for villas.

After some difficulty with directions we made our way to the center of Tivoli and discovered that were practically at the doorstep of Villa D’Este. Right next to the Villa was the Loft restaurant, where we fortified ourselves with grilled ham and cheese paninis.

The guidebook emphasized that the villa itself didn’t have much to offer as the grounds were the main attraction. We couldn’t have disagreed more. The Renaissance frescoes covering every wall and ceiling depicting various different scenes from hunting to socializing were beautifully detailed, ornate and striking.

Fountain at Villa D'Este

Fountain at Villa D'Este

When we had had our fill of painted rooms we stepped outside into an aquatic fairyland. Water gushed, spouted, dribbled, burbled, shot noisily into the air and drained into calm pools. Small fountains were tucked into grottoes at the ends of walkways. Huge hydraulically operated fountains shot towards the sky creating a thunderous roar. Delicate arcs of water spouted from the orifices of gargoyles. Goddess Nature, a replica of the statue of Diana of Ephesus, adorned with multiple mammaries, poured water from each as she provided life-giving water to the gurgling stream beneath her feet.

Organ Fountain at Villa D'Este

Organ Fountain at Villa D'Este

Conceived and commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II de’Este in 1550, the spectacular terrace garden was created in the late-Renaissance mannerist style as part of the reconstruction of an existing villa.  The natural slope of the hillside was used as the backdrop but many innovations were required to bring in enough water to supply the cascades, water jets, fountains and pools. All the water is fed by the river Aniene and demonstrates an enviable mastery of hydraulics by the original engineers Tomamaso Chiruchi and Claude Venard in the late 1500s. The water is still fed with its original single pipe, bringing 300 liters of water per second to the base of the Ovate fountain, and using the principle of communicating vessels, feeds all the other fountains. These water features and techniques were imitated extensively during the next two centuries across Europe.

Again we were transfixed by the scale and enormity of the gardens, and our overused superlatives continued to pour from our lips as we skipped from one awe inspiring fountain to the next..

Hundred Fountains Avenue

Hundred Fountains Avenue

When we became blasé about yet another fountain we were re-captivated by the Hundred Fountains Avenue, a tree lined path filled with 100 small fountains spouting from gargoyles featuring different faces and shapes, taking photo after photo of yet another unique expression. At the end of the line we came upon a jumble of watery scenes that represented various Greek and Roman figures from throughout history, from the Ark to Neptune and Atlas.  Romulus and Remus suckled from the she-wolf per the fable about the early years of the founders of Rome living in a wolf den.

As the shadows lengthened over the gardens of the Villa d’Este we tore ourselves reluctantly from the beauty of the watery oasis and resumed our trek toward the golden hills of Umbria. Visions of waterfalls danced in our heads, reminding us of the amazing talents of Roman engineers and sculptors.

Information:

Free downloadable pocket guide to Villa D’Este: http://www.tibursuperbum.it/eng/guide/index.htm

Bookings from abroad:
email: villadestetivoli@telekottageplus.com
fax: +39.0445.357099
telephone: +39.0445.230310

Location:
Piazza Trento
5 – 00019 Tivoli (Rome)
Italy

+39 0774 332920

Email: info@villadestetivoli.info
http://www.villadestetivoli.info/indexe.htm

Looking at the Fish Ponds from behind the Organ Fountain

Looking at the Fish Ponds from behind the Organ Fountain

 

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