TIVOLI, Italy — Villa d’Este, masterpiece of the Italian garden, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lay Centre residents visited the garden, as well as Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana), both in Tivoli, northeast of Rome, last Sunday on their annual spring day trip.
With its impressive fountains, nymph statues, grottos, plays of water and music, Villa d’Este is a much-copied model for European gardens in the mannerist and baroque styles.
Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, after the disappointment of a failed bid for the papacy, brought the splendor of the courts of Ferrara, Rome and Fontainebleau to Villa d’Este.
As governor of Tivoli from 1550, he immediately nurtured the idea of realizing a garden in the hanging cliffs of the “Valle gaudente,” but it was only after 1560 that his architectural and iconographic program became clear.
The cardinal also revived the magnificence of Hadrian’s Villa nearby. The latter is a second-century archeological complex. Roman Emperor Hadrian, who disliked the city of Rome, had the villa built as his residence; he then ruled the empire from Tivoli.