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The Magical Fountains in Villa d’Este

The Magical Fountains in Villa d’Este

Tivoli is a town east of Rome and where you can find Villa d’Este, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While the most common recommended day trips from Rome suggest Tivoli, not all of them suggest Villa d’Este. The more common recommendation being Hadrian’s Villa.

After a lot of confusion when researching information for this article some people refer to Villa d’Este as Tivoli Gardens. It is common to see either form in English.

Villa d’Este History

Villa d’Este is a stunning 16th-century example of Italian Renaissance architecture and gardens. Construction started in 1550, thanks to Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, who after a failed bid for the papacy, became Governor of Tivoli. He revived many beautiful places in the area such as Hadrian’s Villa. Construction of Villa d’Este was almost complete at the time of his death in 1572.

There were other renovations and additions to the property in the 1600s and by the 1800s it had fallen into ruin and long periods of not being used, so it was restored once again. For my fellow music fans, Franz Liszt played one of his final concerts here in 1879 and composed Giochi d’acqua a Villa d’Este for piano.

Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy
The Fountain of Venus in the courtyard. The only original fountain in the villa.
Villa d'Este
View of the garden from the Villa

Villa d’ Este and its Magical Fountains

The villa features many impressive frescos, but (for me) the garden is where the villa really shines. A Renaissance style garden stuffed with green plants, statues, and intricate fountains.

The fountains are not magical per se but they are an illusion and incredible feat of engineering. The 51 fountains on the property with hundreds of spouts, jets, and over 60 waterfalls all work entirely by the force of gravity. The water is sourced from Aniene River.

The Oval Fountain (Fontana dell’Ovato) was the one of the first fountains built in the gardens. Complete with fake mountains, a statue of Sibyl Albunensa, and various jets spraying water in various directions.

Villa d'Este
Fontana dell’Ovato (The Oval Fountain)
Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy
The Fountain of the Organ (Fontana dell’Organo)
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The Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno)
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The Fountain of the Owl (Fontana della Civetta)
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One Hundred Fountains (Cento Fontane)

Photos of Villa d’Este

Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy
The lower door gave access to ceremonial rooms. The terrace belonged to the Cardinal’s apartment.
Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy
Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy
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Fountain of Rometta (a mini ancient Rome)

Visiting Villa d’Este

Address | Piazza Trento 5, Tivoli
Check opening times here.
Villa is closed on Mondays

Below is an illustration to show the entire grounds of Villa d’Este, it is difficult to show the sheer size and complexity just through photos. It is possible to spend hours slowly wandering and admiring the gardens.

Villa d'Este Tivoli Italy

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View Comments (4)
  • nice article and pictures on Villa d’Este. did you know that the big room where Liszt lived at the Villa is still exactly the same as when he stayed there. bed and piano and his wonderful view of the Gardens. can be seen by special request.

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