Villa d’Este, Italy

Villa d’Este, outside of Rome in Tivoli, is a fountain-lover’s paradise. That means it was a little slice of Eden for me to visit. UNESCO considers the five hundred water jets in fountains, pools and various water features an “illustration of Renaissance culture at its most refined. Its innovative design along with the architectural components in the garden (fountains, ornamental basins, etc.) make this a unique example of an Italian 16th-century garden.”

villa d'este


If you don’t have a car, Villa d’Este is easy to reach by train from Rome, less than an hour’s ride. From the train station in Tivoli, it’s a simple walk or bus ride to the Villa. Villa Adriana, the country estate of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and another UNESCO site, is also close by the Tivoli train station. The two villas taken together make for an excellent day trip from Rome.

From the villa palace (once a monastery), the gardens descend several levels to the main area on the bottom. The water for this ambitious garden comes to the villa through an underground canal connected to the Anio River which flows through the town of Tivoli, dug for this purpose. The terraced design of the gardens facilities the water flow via natural gravity.

villa d'este

One of the most fun features of the garden is the water organ. Historical descriptions describe the incredulity with which observers watched the organ produce several madrigal songs as if by magic, with nobody at the helm. Indeed, I must confess it seemed perfectly magical to me as well. A relatively simple interaction of water and air makes trumpets blow and fills the air with music.

villa d'este

I can only imagine what great fun the designer had in conjuring the variety of stone statues and little hidden grottoes that play with the water in so many different ways. Many of them are whimsical, others ethereal. Some form still, reflective pools, others create a lively flow of water gurgling and splashing, babbling and rushing. There’s no predicting what lies around the next corner, which makes it a truly delightful playground for both children and adults.

villa d'este

villa d'este

It was kind of hard to leave the gardens at Villa d’Este, to be honest. If I’d been by myself, I’m sure I’d have hung around until the security guards kicked me out. But alas, my traveling companions became hungry and we left to search for dinner before taking the train back to Rome. That night – and I’m not just saying this to make a poetic ending – I really did dream of water shooting and flowing all around me. Clearly, the gardens impressed my brain enough to carry them over into my dreams.

This article was ubmitted by Shara Johnson of

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