11 September 2017

Italy 2016, Day 4.3 - Villa d'Este

It was about an hour's drive to the town of Tivoli. We drove through hillside and dale, pastures with sheep, and quaint little Italian villages. So beautiful. We passed a multitude of shrines wherever we traveled in Italy. Some modest, some elaborate. This one seemed sweet.

Other common sights were the Italian cypress (tall and skinny) and Italian stone pine (tall with umbrella tops). Neither is trimmed or trained. These are in their natural growing state and native to the Mediterranean region.

Also lots of time-worn art, statues, fountains, etc. around. Once in a while you see a piece of modern art as well. I really liked this one...well, maybe not the urn part, but it might be integral to the water system!
Daily life in the charming town of Tivoli.

Our next destination today was the Villa d'Este with its Greek influence and Renaissance gardens. It was created in the 16th century by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este. Construction began in 1560 and the villa mostly was completed by 1572, when the Cardinal died. Completion of the gardens continued for many years after that through various guardians and owners.

Now it is a museum and a UNESCO world heritage site. The beautiful tile work announced its name and was just a preview of things to come.

We met in the central courtyard and heard the story of the villa. Ippolito, as a second son, was destined to have a career in the church. By age ten he was named Archbishop of Milan!!!.

Through his connections with the church and also the French royal family, he amassed a fortune and became an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He tried a number of times to become pope, but his extravagant lifestyle held him back. Finally he was appointed a lifetime governorship of Tivoli.

Tivoli had always been a summer resort for Roman citizens because of its beauty and good water supply. The location of Hadrian's summer villa and gardens (2nd century) was located there. It encompassed 300 acres and upon Ippolito's arrival it was being excavated. He decided it was the perfect spot for his villa as well. Plus there was great opportunity for him to treasure hunt and collect marble slabs and statues from the Hadriana ruins to help decorate his new complex.

Much, much more at: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_d%27Este. Here is a rendering of Villa d'Este and its gardens.

The villa is stunning. Painted walls and ceilings are so colorful and in beautiful condition. Frescoes throughout were designed to mimic tapestries. This is the Hall of Noah and represents him bargaining with God as he lands on Mount Ararat. The white eagle at the lower right of Noah (and other places throughout the villa) is the symbol of the d'Este family.

This depicts a version of the Birth of Venus. How modest!
Our tour guide, Sabrina, is pointing out an important (but forgotten) fact!!
A glass cut-out in the floor shows some of the original Hadriana ruins.

Mosaics were wonderful, showing off colors of marble resourced from various locations.
Here's some gorgeous 3-D tile detail. Again, the white eagle symbol.

Interspersed in the original art and architecture were displays of more modern art. In this interesting juxtaposition are full-size horse statues strutting among autumn trees in this interior space.
Some rooms had a few extra "doors" and "windows" presenting lovely, painted landscapes. A man and his monkey seem to be entering here. It appears to be a likeness of Cardinal Ippolito.
An old press for making wine or olive oil.
Once through the huge villa, we exited to an expansive outdoor terrace, the width of the villa. See the white area below the building in the diagram above. It had spectacular views overlooking the valley and ruins of an old church (love that telescopic lens).

The best was yet to be enjoyed...

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.