The Garden Landscape Guide

Villa Aldobrandini

The best and most famous example of the early Italian Baroque style. Instead of standing on one edge, the palace is the centerpiece of the garden layout. It is theatrically set into a wooded hill and, like the other Frascati villas, casts an eye across the Campagnia to the dome of St Peters, Rome. Every aspect of the place is aristocratic. It was designed for a 'nephew' of a Pope - this is how the church described papal children until the twentieth century. Villa Aldobrandini occupies an imposing situation with a broad terrace dominating the town of Frascati. To the rear, there is a water theatre with niches for statues and fountains. A statue of Atlas holds a globe stands in the central niche. Behind the theatre, an avenue with a central water cascade pushes upwards into the oak and chestnut woods. There are garlanded Pillars of Hercules. Work on the garden began in 1598 and was finished in 1603. The waterworks were designed by Orazio Olivieri. The Villa was badly damaged during the Second World War and then rebuilt. Many of the statues have gone and some of the fountains, which used to soak unsuspecting visitors, are no longer working.

Frascati, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy

All year, Daily (except Sundays and public holidays), Monday to Friday 9-1pm and 3-6pm, Closes 5pm in winter

Entrance fee applies

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  • almost 5 years by Stephen Harmer 3 / 5

    Villa Aldobrandini is in an advanced state of decay, a problem that exists in various levels in some Italian historic gardens. The Aldobrandini family still own the Villa and plans are afoot to undertake a full restoration that at best will take decades I feel to achieve, if it is ever achieved. The villa was the most sophisticated baroque garden created in Italy and was a marvel of water engineering well ahead of the time.
    The Villa is still worth visiting if only to try and gain a small idea of the former beauty and awe, seen and felt by the orignal guests who came here.
    The villa commands the view from the town of Frascati which lays below it, the residence of the town as they have always done looking up to the villa, the villa expressing its dominance over the people below.
    The villa is in private hands but is open to visitors who can wander around the grounds, but enter and exit from the top as the bottom gate is mostly always locked. You can climb to the source of the water which still enters the garden but the famous water features are all but gone or not working, unfortuantly not helped by the Americans who had a habit of bombing Italian historic villas in world war 2. All in all this is an important historic garden and I hope the planned restoration does take place as I fear otherwise total decay will mean the garden will be lost. Visit the garden, an hour will be enough, and then view the villa from the town square while enjoying pasta and a bottle of wine.

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Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati Photograph © leosagnotti
Villa Aldobrandini, Lazio Photograph © Stephen Harmer
Villa Aldobrandini, Italy Photograph © Stephen Harmer
Villa Aldobrandini, Tivoli Photograph © Stephen Harmer