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Rome’s Idyllic Italian 16th Century Villa d’Este

This idyllic Italian 16th-century garden; the Villa d’Este is now a UNESCO world heritage site. With its impressive variety of fountains, nymphs, grottoes, plays of water, and music, it constitutes a much-copied model for European gardens in the mannerist and baroque styles. To make your stay in Rome even more fantastic, you must visit the Villa d’Este, one of Tivoli’s two breath taking villas. Rome apartments and Rome hotels are abundant in Rome and you only have to catch the train from the Roma-Pescara Line, Stazione Tivoli.

The history of the villa is a long one, starting with Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este (1509-1572) who became the Governor of Tivoli and took over the Governor’s palace, located in a former Benedictine monastery, which he asked Pirro Ligorio to remodel to his taste. The chief painter of the ambitious internal decoration was Livio Agresti from Forl and it was he that created the lavishly frescoed reception rooms. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, Cardinal d’Este created a palatial setting around the villa designed to impress his guests. Surrounded by a spectacular terraced garden in the late-Renaissance mannerist style, the garden 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. To create ample space for the gardens a whole area of the town had to be demolished, many inhabitants being forced to sell or face expropriation.

The villa itself is magnificent, the central main entrance leads to the Appartamento Vecchio, the “Old Apartment” made for Ippolito d’Este, with its vaulted ceilings frescoed in scenes 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.

There are so many fountains in the gardens that the sounds of water reverberate in every corner and it was this that inspired the Romantic composer Franz Liszt to write a piano suite entitled “Fountains of the Villa d’Este”. The gardens are opening during the summer but you will find it difficult to see them at any other time of year. Staying in the buzzing centre of Rome, in superb Rome accommodation is a brilliant way to enjoy your break in Rome and you can be at the Villa d’Este for opening at 8.30am if you’re quick! The gardens close one hour before sunset.