Villa d'Este

A place where the real and imaginary worlds meet

Villa d’Este is a magical place that continues to enchant its visitors for 500 years. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful villas in all of Italy and one of the most architecturally impressive. Its many statues and stone staircases, the magnificent gardens and fountains are a paradise for lovers of beauty.

The park of Villa d’Este is not composed in a single design plan. The individual elements, in a peculiar way, are unexpectedly interwoven into the general whole, which forces the visitor to stay for a long time and indulge in deep contemplation of the lovely gardens, the fish ponds, the symbolism of the statues and fountains. Nothing in the design is accidental, every single element has its own meaning. Each object is designed to allude to the dual nature of the world, to the fragile boundary that exists between the real and the imagined.


The creation of Villa D’Este

Villa d’Este was built by order of the extremely wealthy, highly educated and ostentatious Cardinal Ippolito DdEste (son of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia and grandson of Pope Alexander VI). Ippolito was determined to build a remarkable villa to rival the villas of the rich patricians in Rome. He really put great effort into the development of Renaissance art, remaining significant and impressive engineering achievements for his time.

The beauty and its creators

Villa d’Este is a true masterpiece of Italian architecture and garden design. The creator of the beautiful interior decoration is Livio Agrest. From 1550 by 1572 he had created a palace surrounded by a fantastic terraced garden in a late Renaissance manner style, taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded him by the steep slope. The architect Piro Ligorio, drawing inspiration from the nearby Villa Adriana, (Emperor Hadrian’s recreation palace) and influenced to the maximum extent by the Roman technique in hydraulic engineering, created a fantastic garden, whose mixture of architectural elements and water had a huge influence on the European garden design for centuries.

The importance of water

While in Tivoli, Ippolito d’Este felt nostalgic for the eternal city and therefore decided to create his own little illusory Rome. One can discover the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Temple of Vesta and other iconic monuments of the city. On late Sunday afternoons, Ippolito liked to sit in Rometta’s alcoves and gaze into the distance at the outline of Rome. Villa d’Este, a masterpiece of the Italian garden, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its impressive concentration of fountains, nymphs, caves, music, it represents a model for European gardens in the Baroque style.

Immediately after Rometa, the visitor is fascinated by the miracle of the fountains – a hundred fountains brighten the atmosphere along a long avenue – a wonderful combination of stone and water. Above each fountain, in a series, the Roman eagle alternates with an Egyptian obelisk and, of course, with the coat of arms of the d’Este family. At the end of the alley, the giant Kolias drinks the waters of the river Leta – the river of oblivion.


The fantastical, almost mystical Fountain of the Dragon is meant to warn those who dare to pass through the egg of what awaits them – a dragon’s roar and a ferocious hiss that chills the souls of the unbelievers. The visitor will find four heads spewing water in a cave-like alcove, located between two staircases and two hand-carved shell-like basins and dolphins. Water (a key element in Italian gardens) pours from top to bottom, contributing to the chilling roar that reverberates from the dragon’s lair.

After the Dragon Fountain, various paths lead the visitor to different levels of the garden, where an encounter with gods and demigods awaits. What is interesting about the organization of the garden is that it is definitely subordinated to metaphysics, but the aesthetic aspect is not neglected.

The Fountain of the Water Organ – a giant triple spray of water, a veritable pyramid of fountains, dedicated to the god Apollo. Along the top of the fountain is a small temple flanked by two statues revealing the two aspects of the supreme god Apollo – the god-lord of fury and the god-musician. Whatever the origin of the fountain, it is a marvel of its time, adorned with statues of Diana, Apollo, and other delightful carvings, statues, and arches. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll on the functionality of the water pipes, calcification has drowned out the lyrical musical tones that once mimicked birdsong and the howl of the wind.

Behind the temple of Apollo, caves are revealed, hiding impressive fountains, which are again aimed at the illusory ideas about the world and life. In the garden of Villa D’Este, 11 levels of water attractions have been built, which create a unique effect. At the end of these water attractions, there is only one thing – the world of illusion, which is a world of reflection

When the water calms down, the visitor finds in the calmness of the water spread out before him the reflection of the temple of Apollo. Apollo is the epicenter of the Garden d’Este, but in addition to the god of music, dance, poetry, medicine and prophecy, other gods are also present in the garden, such as the god Pan and the goddess Diana.


Description: part of the gardens of the vlla /picture source: Shutterstock/;

To reach the Temple of Pan, the visitor must pass through a maze of stairs flanked by particularly disturbing fantastical figures emitting jets of water. Unexpectedly, he finds himself in front of two identical fountains. Since Pan is the god of night, he is also the god of illusion. Unexpectedly, the visitor finds that the fountain on the left sprays water from above (the water source is a stalactite from the cave), while the fountain on the right throws water from the pool itself. These fountains look the same, but they only look to suggest the idea of relativity

After passing these two fountains, the visitor finds himself in Pan’s cave, filled with strange images and incredible erotic ambiguity. Pan himself is in the center of the pool, busy with his traditional antics. When it was created, the fountain had automation and many of its parts moved – a play of the imagination, a play of the mind, a perfection of image and suggestion.


Description: part of the gardens of the vlla /picture source: Shutterstock/;

Ако Пан обитава света на сенките, то от другата страна, в света на светлината, е Диана.

This is the famous Diana of Ephesus – the mother goddess, a symbol of the quest for knowledge that is fundamental to every Renaissance man. Diana of Ephesus, with her many bosoms, spreads the milk of universal wisdom.

Critics and aesthetes share about the Italian garden that it does not exist because of the flowers, but the flowers in it exist because of the garden. This statement is true for Villa D’Este, which needs no additional decoration to enhance its beauty. Villa D’Este gives an insight into the lifestyle of the rich and famous during the Renaissance. The garden enchants visitors with its wonderful blend of architecture, landscape and water. In the 16th century, the villa’s fountains and gardens were considered the eighth wonder of the world for their magnificence.

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