Hidden away on a hillside at Tivoli, just 20 miles east of Rome, is one of the finest and most extravagant of Italy’s renaissance gardens, built in the 1560s for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, son of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia. It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Although comprising only 10 acres, within this small space is packed a profusion of fountains, pools, cascades, grottoes and statues. There are about five hundred jets of water. At times during the day a strange type of music is produced by the Organ Fountain and bird song by the Fountain of the Owl.
Amid the many water features, there are some attractively laid out pathways, terraces and balconies, with sweeping views over the plain below.
I’ve visited Villa d’Este twice. Once was in the heat of mid-summer when the watery mist from the various fountains had a very pleasant cooling effect. The other time was in January in the middle of a cold spell, when all the fountains and cascades were frozen into strange icy shapes, sparkling that day in bright sunshine – quite a unique experience.
The Villa d’Este palace is itself of course well worth looking around, including the Museum of Ancient Books. Special exhibitions are arranged throughout the year.
Entrance fee for adults is €8. There are elevators between the different levels and electrical vehicles are provided free of charge to disabled person. The official Villa d’Este website gives details of how to travel from Rome by bus or train.
If you plan to visit Rome, then make certain to include some time in your itinerary for Villa d’Este for what will be an unforgettable experience, whatever time of the year.
A worthy member of my Top Ten Gardens, even though it has relatively few plant species!