The past and present of Villa D'Este near Rome

Villa d'Este is a marker of Italian nobility located in the city center of Tivoli on the outskirts of Rome, Italy.

Its history, dating back to the sixteenth century, makes it a great destination for professors, students, and tourists alike. The villa and its sprawling 100-hectare surrounding park house over a hundred fountains and water features, Baroque and Renaissance sculptures and paintings, and towering trees and vegetation.

It is most renowned for its manipulation of water, for example, in the Bicchierone Fountain, the avenue of 100 fountains, and the Organ Fountain Waterfall, which has played music since the inauguration of Villa d'Este in 1572.

Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este commissioned the project. He was the son of Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara at the beginning of the Renaissance, and a lover of the arts and the finer things in life. Julius III and the Pope gifted territories of Tivoli to the Cardinal, so housing there became necessary to manage his property.

The architect Pirro Ligorio conceived the villa and park and the court architect, Alberto Galvani, managed the construction. The Cardinal and other inheritors of the property also commissioned artists, such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who built the cascading Baroque-style rocky fountain that once roared in front of the Organ Fountain.

The Organ Fountain astonished early guests of the villa, including Pope Gregorio XIII, by its surprising technology. The falling water controls the release of air from the organ pipes, while another device plays the keys. Artists of late Roman Mannerism managed the decoration of the interior rooms, such as Livio Agresti, Federico Zuccari, and Durante Alberti.

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Villa unfortunately went through a period of decline, as its various owners neglected to restore the infrastructure and gardens. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe bought the lease from the dukes of Modena and began the first restoration.

It was a lively time for the guests of the estate. The Cardinal often hosted the musician, Franz Liszt, who composed "Games at the Villa d'Este" as an ode to the festivities and hydraulics games.

After WWI, Villa d'Este became the property of the Italian State. The State completely restored it and opened it to the public. In 2001, UNESCO included it amongst sites of heritage. Now, the proprietors of the estate perform regular preservation of the precious art and monuments. It remains a museum and a reminder of great Italian visionaries.

Opening Hours, Prices and how to get there

The Villa and gardens are open for visits and touring under some Covid restrictions.

The open hours are Monday through Friday 8.30 to 17.15 with the maximum duration of visit at two hours. The ticket entry price depends on age and citizenship.

Residents of Tivoli and neighboring municipalities pay six euros with proof of residency, citizens of the EU ages 18 to 25 pay two euros with identification, and all others pay 12 euros, except citizens under the age of 18, who enter for free.

The hydraulic organ of the Organ Fountain plays daily from 10.30 until close every two hours.

For tourists, the estate offers two bookshops and a multimedia room that shows an introductory film about the Villa's history and infrastructure.

Visitors can make the memory last; pictures for personal use are permitted without flash. Although audio guides in Italian, English, French, and Spanish are usually available for four euros, this service is temporarily suspended due to Covid safety guidelines.

Villa d'Este is accessible from the Rome Tiburtina station by Train Italia.