Do any of you recall the famous scene in the Lizzie McGuire Movie where Lizzie and Paolo run down a path of beautiful fountains and then go and sing in a concert hall? No..? Me either… To my embarrassment this was the first time I’d seen Villa D’este. I thought it looked beautiful and magical and I wanted to know more. I searched the internet for information on this place and found Francesco da Mosto’s Top to Toe of Italy very fun and wonderful tv series. Villa D’Este for those who don’t know is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, a wonderful home and stunning gardens. It was commissioned by Cardinal D’Este, a member of a family famously known for being big patrons of art. No Shrinking Violet
The villa is located in Tivoli, about 40 minutes outside of Rome and the town is a popular retreat for those wanting to escape the summer heat. Tivoli was already a widely popular location due to Emperor Hadrian I building his large residence and gardens here. I’ll discuss Emperor Hadrian’s Villa in another post but for this one I’d like to focus on this extremely luxurious residence, in particular the gardens. The gardens contain fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades and what is most amazing? Not one of these is operated by Electronics. I couldn’t get my head around this, but the architect and hydraulic engineers used gravity to ensure the fountains could run without assistance. Oh and FYI it’s a 16th century villa so isn’t that impressive work bloody fascinating?
There are many different architects/sculptures who worked on this garden. Bernini (one of my favourite artists of course made an appearance) but arguably the most famous work is the Hundred Fountains (Cento Fontane). These fountains have to be cleaned by hand which means one man is tasks with a pokey instrument to clean the mouths out frequently to ensure no blockage. The works would take me days and days to explore completely and understand, but in short many of these fountains were inspired by literature or mythology. If you look closely there is often a small detail hinting back to the D’Este family, check out the image above and see if you can spot the eagle lurking known as a ‘D’Este Eagle’.
Everywhere I looked there was a stunning detail that could easily be overlooked, a small shrub, a fountain around a corner of the maze, a step with shell detailing… it really does put into perspective the work we undertake in construction now which is largely glass and steel.
Even the floor detailing was simply stunning. If you like the shoes, and indeed the outfit, you can find all the details over on my earlier post.
If you’re looking to visit Villa D’Este (which I highly recommend you do) there are a few ways to go about it. Like me, you could book a tour- with a guide to show you the key parts of the building and explain a little of the history. This cost me about 60 euros for half a day trip including hotel pick up and drop off from Rome and a visit to Hadrian’s Villa. I used the company GrayLine and have put a link to the tour here. For a very detailed way to get to Villa D’Este from Rome you can look here. No Shrinking Violet
Meanwhile, I’ll be sat in England, in the darker days of Winter dreaming about sitting on the edge of a fountain that forms a huge masterpiece. No Shrinking Violet