Tivoli’s Riches: Villa d’Este

View of the garden from the upper terrace of the villa

[This post is for Heather Taylor, who designed our garden. I wish we had lived in Villa d’Este so we could have given you this garden for a project, Heather!]

In the mountains about 15 miles (but about 30 minutes) east of Rome lies the hill town of Tivoli (TEE-vo-lee), which was founded in the 13th century BC. Because of its cool, fresh climate, wealthy Romans have spent their summers here since the second century AD, when Hadrian built his immense summer palace in the valley below. We visited two of Tivoli’s attractions on Saturday, which was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the high 70s.

View of the garden from the Fountain of the Organ – villa in the middle background

In the 1550s, Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, the son of Lucretia Borgia and her fourth husband, Alfonso d’Este, constructed Villa d’Este. Although the house itself is huge and adorned with vivid frescoes in all of the 18 rooms that we could visit, the enormous, terraced garden—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—steals the show! The elaborate gardens feature hundreds of fountains, ponds stocked with huge fish (probably koi), stone pathways weaving through the terraces, wonderful old trees, a lovely light breeze, and a killer view from the plains below Tivoli to Rome. The gardens are gorgeous and peaceful and utterly divine!

We walked through Villa d’Este for 2-1/2 hours and then took a short stroll through the historical area of Tivoli. We then drove down the mountain to Hadrian’s Villa, but I’ll tell you about that in the next blog post.

The photos below will show you the Villa d’Este better than I can tell you about it.


Fountain of Venus at the entrance to the villa. A wedding party was being photographed here–one of two or three weddings that we saw.

Lower part of the Fountain of Venus

Lower terrace from the upper terrace of the villa

Look, Ma! No cane!!

The Hundred Fountaiins – my favorite fountain

The Hundred Fountains – gargoyle

Fountain of the Dragons – my second favorite fountain

Fountain of the Dragons

Fountain of the Dragons

Stairs leading to the Fountain of the Dragons

Detail of the interior of the Fountain of the Dragons

Detail of the mosaic work surrounding the Fountain of the Dragons

Fountain of the Organ, which plays music every few hours (mobs of people here when the “concert” began)

Fish ponds below the Fountain of the Organ

Fountain of the Organ from below (behind one of the fish ponds)

Rotunda of the Cypresses – villa in the background

Fountain of Diana of Ephesus (Mother Nature) – my third favorite fountain

Part of the enormous Fountain of Rome, which featured Romulus and Remus and a wonderful old ship (with loads of tourists in front of it!), among other things

One of several dark, mysterious grottoes



Frescoes on the walls and ceiling of a room on the lower floor of the villa

One panel of a carved wood or carved plaster ceiling

The cardinal’s private sanctuary – gorgeous little jewelbox of a room

The cardinal’s sanctuary – love the old door!

This entry was posted in Italy travel, Rome attractions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Tivoli’s Riches: Villa d’Este

  1. Pingback: Staying Cool in the Garden | EYE ON DESIGN by Dan Gregory

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