The Garden Guide

Villa d'Este

Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Photograph © Neil Hunt
No other garden has such spectacular waterworks and theatrical effects. The Ville d’Este is the most important example of a Mannerist garden and verges into the Baroque. Shunning the simplicity of early Tuscan gardens, this Roman ‘retreat’ was designed for the Estes. Cardinal Ippolito d’Este was as proud as he was rich. Visitors could enter by the garden gate at the lowest point of the garden. As they ascended the hill, the water marvels, and the story, unfolded: the garden tells of the family’s illustrious ancestors. They included Hercules and other heroes of antiquity. The garden has many references of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. If the baroque spectacle achieved its purpose, one arrived at the top believing the Estes to be the most glorious family in the roll-call of history. But the whole garden is only glimpsed from the central axis; one has to keep turning to explore different parts. The Aniene River makes music, with the aid of a water organ, and supplies innumerable fountains. Many of the statues were obtained by excavating ancient Roman sites. Pirro Ligorio supervised these excavations and was the genius behind the garden’s conception. It is the product of archaeology, erudition and a joyous imagination. Few of the original statues remain in position, because the garden has suffered many periods of neglect. Today it is well cared for and immensely popular. The Path of One Hundred Fountains is in good condition and the Rometta Fountain has mellowed. It is a miniature representation of Rome and used to be criticised for its light heartedness.

Piazza Trento, 1, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, 00019

All year, except 1st January. Open 9am to 1 hour before sunset.

Entry free

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  • over 3 years by Anonymous 5 / 5

    In my opinion, one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy. A masterpiece.
  • over 6 years by Anonymous 5 / 5

    I visited the garden this summer both during the day and at night - and both time the place impressed me greatly. The garden, by size, is actually not that big, but the designers managed to squeeze in so many water features without making visitors feeling cramped. I agree with the previous reviewer's comment that it is not a garden to see the variety of plants, but rather a place to experience the spectacular display of baroque garden splendor
  • almost 8 years by Julia 5 / 5

    Wow this garden rocks.... Its just even better than I ever imagined, the classical proportions of the paths, terraces and water is so relevant, it holds this masterpiece together.
    A stunning oasis of cool and calmness in this hectic world.
  • about 8 years by Adam Hodge 5 / 5

    One of the most spectacular gardens in terms of water features. The exuberance and elegance beats anything I've found anywhwere else. Although not a garden to admire plants, they provide a satisfactory structural element to admire the water elements, ornanented paths and site lines.
    An absolute must to visit.
    Go on to Sibilla ristorante for a wonderful lunch.

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