The Garden Landscape Guide

Villa Lante

In the eyes of many, this is the consummate example of the best period in the history of garden design: the Mannerist phase of the Italian renaissance. It was designed for Cardinal Gambara, who had a modern taste for outdoor living and eating al fresco. The buildings are treated as garden ornaments, illustrating a good principle, and the overall design is attributed to Vignola. It uses the Palladian circle and square. Every aspect of the garden is perfectly proportioned and richly detailed: a square terrace subdivided into smaller squares, a water parterre, a wonderful fountain in a central position. Design ideas are drawn from earlier projects. The geometry was inspired by the Belvedere at the Vatican; the use of water by the Villa d'Este; the circular island echos Hadrian's 'marine theatre' a Tivoli and the isolette at the Boboli. There is an echo too from the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut: terraces command views down a sloping hillside. A grotto sits at the summit of the hill, from which flows water which is full of delight. It does not follow the central axis. Symbolically, the garden represents the tale of humanity's descent from the Golden Age (based on Ovid's Metamorphosis). It has a Grotto of the Deluge. Paths lead to an outdoor dining area with a fountain table, and then to other enclosures. The Water Chain is the best and earliest example of a stepping cascade. The Villa also has a park, now in some disrepair, which had the character of a hunting park but is too small for a hunt.

Bagnaia, nr Viterbo, Lazio, Italy

All year, Daily (except Mondays and public holidays)

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Designers and Influences


  • almost 5 years by Anonymous 5 / 5

    Fantastic! Well worth a visit.
  • over 7 years by Anonymous 4 / 5

    when i was there, the photo policy was that you couldn't take photos of the fresco s inside the building.
  • over 7 years by Anonymous 5 / 5

    I was there in July 2007, and took loads of photos, but was asked not to use a tripod.
  • almost 8 years by Steve 5 / 5

    I visited on Sunday, June 15, 2008 and did not encounter a 'no photography' policy. I found the staff to be very very friendly in spite of the fact I was chasing around three children who were running and shouting and treating the garden like a jungle gym.

    There is, however, a 'no dogs allowed' policy that is strictly enforced. Our barboncino had to give this garden and all of its delightful things to pee on a miss.
  • about 8 years by Tom 3 / 5

    Anyone wishing to visit this gem should be aware that there is a new, strictly enforced, 'no photography' policy.

    It seems to be applied only to those who speak English, whereas the dozens of italian schoolchildren who were photographing there were not scolded or threatened with expulsion, as I or other groups of English speakers were.

    Go figure...

    This definitely 'cast a shadow' on our long planned visit.
  • about 8 years by Adam Hodge 5 / 5

    An awesome place !! The whole experience of the progression of the water, even though one now advances through the garden the wrong way, is stunning. It is a garden more of water features, ornamentation and gorgeous stone work with a stunning formal garden to clinch the whole experience more than an indulgence in the glory of plants !
  • over 8 years by Vicenzo 5 / 5

    It has to be five stars - so many garden historians are putting the Villa Lante at the top of their lists of 'best gardens'.
  • over 8 years by Anonymous 5 / 5

    i give it 5 stars

The reviews and ratings originate in all cases from third parties. Gardenvisit is in no case responsible for the correctness or accuracy of the reviews. Reviews and similar information are not an expression of Gardenvisit's opinions.

Villa Lante, Lazio Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Villa Lante, Italy Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Villa Lante Garden Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge