Visiting Tivoli is a fantastic cultural experience. In addition to the ancient imperial villas such as Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa, there are also the beautiful temples dedicated to Hercules Victor, Vesta and the Sibyl. Hence visitors can relive Roman history when they come to this part of the countryside near Rome.
In the 1800’s, the Grand Tour of the Roman Countryside started here in Tivoli in the town that today offers its Unesco world heritage sites. Today we are talking about one of these wonders: Villa d’Este, with its amazing Italian garden full of its famous fountains that have been imitated all over the world. This enchanting place to merits a visit at least once in a lifetime. Arriving in Rome and allowing yourself at least one day to discover Tivoli and Villa d’Este means getting to know one of the most important and beautiful historical places in Italy.
Villa d’Este in Tivoli (Rome) is famous for its fountains and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Gardens of Villa d’Este in Tivoli
At Villa d’Este you can walk through the avenues of its gardens, which lead to various fountains within a magical and enchanting ambiance; its fascinating history captivates visitors as they learn about the historical juxtaposition of Tivoli and Rome.
The place that struck me most is called the Road of the Hundred Fountains at the beginning of which we found the Rometta fountain, in the center the Hundred Fountains and finally the Oval Fountain.
All the fountains and statues seem to look from afar, as if to challenge each other …. a real challenge if we consider that at the time of construction, Pope Pius V, impeded Cardinal Ippolito II from building his castle in Rome. The latter, however, built his home, but decentralizing it from Rome, so Villa d’Este was built with its gardens in Tivoli. The Cardinal still succeeded in disappointing the Pope.
Today it is really a pity that visitors cannot observe the La Rometta fountain in its original splendour as it was designed so long ago. In fact, the once-present miniatures around the fountain that were destroyed in 1850 in a landslide (the original drawings show the details that are missing today). However, there is also the magnificence of this fountain that continues to show the grandeur and importance of Rome with its statues, such as the Lupa and her twins, Romulus and Remus, or the statue of victorious Rome.
The Hundred Fountains
Walking along the avenue, you find yourself in front of a very special fountain called the Hundred Fountains; it is a series of small fountains taking on the shape of lilies, eagles, obelisks and small boats from which jets of bubbling water emerge in a fan shape, while on the lower level the water spouts from one hundred masks. The fountain consists of 3 levels which symbolize the rivers Albuneo, Aniene and Ercolaneo; to make everything elegant and characteristic is the mosaic floor, but what gave me the feeling of well-being and serenity was the lush vegetation surrounding the fountain.
The Oval Fountain
The Oval Fountain symbolically represents the waterfall of Tivoli and, with its rocks, the Tiburtini Mountains. Statues of mythological heroes rise around the fountain and exhalt the Estense dynasty and the grandeur of the city. In addition, this fountain has a large open area in front of it and you can imagine various performances, games and maybe even outdoor concerts that could be held here to benefit from the excellent acoustics.
The Fountain of Neptune
Beyond the history that the Road of the Hundred Fountains unwittingly reveals, there is another fountain that captures the attention of visitors for its magnificence and for being as spectacular as it is magical; it is the Fountain of Neptune. This fountain is striking for the amount of water that is projected in very high columns which, as the water falls during sunny days, reflects the colors of the rainbow. But there is a continuous discovery in observing the Fountain of Neptune. In fact, if at first you are caught by the water jets, immediately afterwards you notice an imposing waterfall of water behind which you can see a statue, thestatue of the god Neptune.
Bernini’s Bicchierone Fountain
A fountain could certainly not be missing under the loggia of Cardinal Ippolito II (Loggia di Pandora), built by Bernini. This is the Bicchierone Fountain. Compared to other fountains, this fountain, that was recently restored, is striking for the use of materials and its shape. In fact, if until now you have observed waterfalls and gushes that defy the laws of nature, the main characteristic of this fountain is its shape; a large, shell-shaped vessel and in the center a shape of overlapping notched glasses. The gush of water is not very high, as Bernini did not want to cover the beauty of the loggia. Another detail that is noticeable is the difference in height between the two areas behind the fountain, so much so, that one thinks that it was built precisely to cover up an error. The use of the materials of this fountain are striking; they are not the majestic marbles that can be seen in all the fountains of the villa, but they are poorer materials like bricks, stucco and mortar. This feature makes the fountain even more interesting!
The Fountain of the Organ
The Fountain of the Organ is named as such because at established intervals the streams of water produce sounds very similar to that of an organ. This ‘hydraulic’ organ was created by the Frenchman Claude Venare. He had invented a device that combined air and water that exited from pipes in such a way that music was produced. At that time, it was a marvel that never failed to stupefy and entertain guests of the Villa. Even Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 was amazed. After numerous attempts to restore the hydraulic organ, the last interventions were successful, returning the original charm to the Villa.
The Fountain of the Owl
Even the Fountain of the Owl, like the Fountain of the Organ, is based on a hydraulic device that exploits the fall of the water and allows a fake owl to approach the bronze birds chirping happily while perched on some branches. The effect produced is like what happens in nature: the birds, out of fright, stop chirping. Their twitter is produced by making use of the thrust of air that comes out of the birds’ beaks (just like how a whistle works). All of these ’special effects’ were made by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este to amaze his guests, who never failed to be amazed and fascinated by the fantastic birds of this magical fountain.
The fountains of Villa d’Este perform wonderful water games. All of this was made possible thanks to cutting-edge hydraulic engineering techniques of the era in which they were conceived. Everything was mechanical and operated thanks to the natural water pressure of the water expertly channeled by engineers. This technology expresses is best in the Fountain of the Organ and the Fountain of the Owl.
Villa d’Este, with its gardens and its fountains, should be visited with the curious eyes of those who want to take a closer look at ancient beauties, and discover the Roman province by retracing the steps of the fabulous Grand Tour of the Roman Countryside.