Villa d’Este, a masterpiece of the Italian garden and included in the UNESCO list of world heritage, with the impressive concentration of fountains, nymphaeums, caves, water games and hydraulic music constitutes a model repeatedly emulated in the European gardens of mannerism and baroque.

The garden should also be considered in the extraordinary landscape, artistic and historical context of Tivoli, which presents both the prestigious remains of ancient villas such as Villa Adriana, and an area rich in gorges, caves and waterfalls, symbol of a millennial war between stone and waters. The imposing buildings and terraces above terraces make one think of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world, while the adduction of water, with an aqueduct and a tunnel under the city, evokes the engineering wisdom of the Romans.


Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, after the disappointments due to the failure of the papal election, revived the splendor of the courts of Ferrara, Rome and Fointanebleau here and revived the magnificence of Villa Adriana. Governor of Tivoli since 1550, he immediately caressed the idea of ​​creating a garden on the steep slope of the “Valle joyful”, but only after 1560 the architectural and iconological program of the Villa was clarified, conceived by the painter-archaeologist-architect Pirro Ligorio and built by the court architect Alberto Galvani.

The rooms of the Palace were decorated under the direction of protagonists of late Roman Mannerism such as Livio Agresti, Federico Zuccari, Durante Alberti, Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia and Antonio Tempesta. The arrangement was almost completed when the cardinal died (1572).

From 1605, Cardinal Alessandro d’Este initiated a new program of interventions for the restoration and repair of damage to vegetation and plumbing systems, but also to create a series of innovations in the layout of the garden and in the decoration of the fountains.

Other works were carried out in the years 1660 – 70, when Gianlorenzo Bernini himself was involved.

In the eighteenth century the lack of maintenance caused the decline of the complex, which worsened with the transfer of ownership to the House of Habsburg. The garden was slowly abandoned, the hydraulic games, no longer used, fell into disrepair and the collection of ancient statues, dating back to the time of Cardinal Ippolito, was dismembered and moved elsewhere.

This state of decay continued uninterrupted until the mid-19th century, when Cardinal Gustav Adolf von Hohenlohe, having obtained the villa from the dukes of Modena in lease in 1851, started a series of works to save the complex from ruin. The villa thus began to be a cultural reference point again, and the cardinal often hosted, between 1867 and 1882, the musician Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886), who composed Water Games at Villa d’Este here, for piano. , and held, in 1879, one of his last concerts.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the villa became part of the property of the Italian State, was open to the public and fully restored in the 1920-30s. Another radical restoration was carried out, immediately after the Second World War, to repair the damage caused by the bombing of 1944. Due to the particularly unfavorable environmental conditions, the restorations have since taken place almost continuously over the last twenty years (among these it should be noted at least the recent restoration of the Organ Fountains and the “Song of the Birds”).