The hilltop town of Tivoli, back in time, could have been only a summer retreat for ancient Romans, but today, it is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Villa Adriana, the sprawling estate of Emperor Hadrian and the 16th-century Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa famous for its landscaped gardens and over five hundred lavish fountains.
And you, have you ever heard of Tivoli Gardens?
I wanted to talk about Tivoli, specifically Villa d’Este, for about 15 years now. Why? Because of The Lizzie McGuire movie! If you grew up watching Lizzie McGuire, then you probably watched that movie. In the movie, Lizzie went to Rome with her friends. There she meets an Italian singer and tours Rome with him on his red Vespa; she even performs at the Colosseum as an Italian pop star!
Total dream, right? What stuck with me were the sights, the food, the cobblestoned streets and the beautiful fountains at Villa d’Este.
Many years ago I had a girlfriend in Rome for two years and as soon as I could I would have left Milan to meet her…
On my third visit to Rome, we went to Tivoli. Let me tell you a little bit about that day.
I had imagined Villa d’Este to be grand, majestic and awe-inspiring. But it turned out to be something more than that, something magical and unrealistic.
Villa d’Este dates back from the mid 16th century when Cardinal Ippolito d’Este decided to make changes to the convent he was given, upon his appointment as the governor of Tivoli, Italy.
In the picture, you can see the beautiful palace courtyard located after the entrance gate, with the very Mediterranean lemon trees placed all around the top of the portico and throughout the gardens.
We (my girlfriend and I) had originally planned to spend 3 days exploring the Tivoli Gardens. In fact, there are 3 villas and gardens to explore in Tivoli: Villa d’Este, Villa Adriana and Villa Gregoriana. We wanted to see them all, but after careful consideration, we decided to visit Villa d’Este only for a day and then go back to Rome for the rest of the time. We opted to explore the gardens and the cobblestoned streets of Villa d’Este because they are very very beautiful!
I love Rome. I mean, it’s Rome!! But I highly recommend making a half-day or day trip to one of the gardens from Rome. Unless you really want to see all three, you’ll only need a day in Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Insightful Travel & Tours shares how to get to the gardens if you are not driving. If you are driving, there is a lot of parking catered to tourists coming in to visit the gardens.
A day in Villa d’Este & gardens
Cardinal Ippolito d’Este was a member of a powerful family and was also known for loving luxurious things in life. He commissioned his architect (Pirro Ligorio) to build a new palace and adorned with the most beautiful and precious things he could find and by utilizing abandoned goods from the close by Villa Adriana. The result was one of the most magnificent examples of Renaissance architecture and gardens ever built.
You can either choose to walk through the various rooms in the Villa first or head straight to the gardens. We decided to explore the gardens first.
Walking around the garden with its 500 plus fountains feels like being in a mythical place of the ancient past. With its statues, grottos, columns, and reliefs, each path reveals a new mossy fountain in a carefully landscaped panorama. The entire premise of Villa d’Este gardens fits so harmoniously into the overall landscape that it seems not to have been created by humans, but by nature itself.
There is so much to see and admire that you will frolic through the gardens which bring you into a fairy-tale with your mouth wide open for hours. Not to forget the sweeping views of around the Villa, that make you wonder what life could be like, living in such a place.
…and the love story to will continue…
Years have passed… and today, I still encounter this wonderful villa in my everyday life. My love for these gardens is endless and I wonder: What could you do to go beyond this dream? How can you add new beauty to this timeless place?
With lighting! This is the answer.
…and, now, I am here to tell you this new story!!!
Thanks to light, now, Villa d’Este gardens are poetry, even in the evening. In the dark, when all the outlines of things are lost, light is the only thing that can bring the magic back to this place. Lighting and the droplets of water together create something wonderful.
Only here, some photos of the garden lighting of these enchanting gardens.
I have collected precious pictures and materials of the Villa d’Este lighting project in my book, together with the secrets of how to light a garden.
Look at my book …and find out what you can learn!!