The garden of wonders and the construction of the hydraulic system. Pirro Ligorio based the construction of the garden on the dialogue between nature and art. This gave the birth to an exquisitely Renaissance theme.
The garden stands on a hill that is characterized by a series of artificial terraces crossed by long geometric avenues. The structure allows guest to the discover all the fountains gradually. The plant has great symmetry with a balance between transversal and longitudinal axes.
The realization of a garden of wonders
The purpose was to surprise and amaze the guests through visual elements given by water games also associated with sound effects of musical fountains. The garden has 51 fountains and nymphaeums, basins, pools and waterfalls. There are also artificial caves characterized by a complex hydraulic machine that was moved only by gravity; today they are moved by artificial pumps.
Initially, the water was taken from a pre-existing aqueduct, later it was insufficient to feed all the fountains in the garden. In 1564/65 it was decided to withdraw the water directly from the Aniene. The Estense Canal crosses the city of Tivoli and enters the Villa upstream of the Ovato Fountain and from there it is then distributed to other fountains.
The scheme provides that the water used by a fountain went to feed the lower ones. So at the time, everything worked with gravity. Today is all characterized by artificial pumps and the water is not recycled. The water still arrives from the Aniene River today. The water feeds the garden, then, it is channeled into the Fish Ponds, in order to flow back into the Aniene river again.
Today, in part, water is used for agricultural and industrial purposes. The current plumbing is that of 1550 executed by the engineer Tommaso Ghinucci, over the centuries it has been naturally restored. In 1999-2000 a purifier was also built to improve the quality of the water before the entrance to the Este Canal.
The fountains of the Villa d’Este Gardens
The visit of the garden starts from the Vialone, a large panoramic terrace overlooking the garden. The Viale, about 200 meters long, was used for parties and games. It is closed to the west by a spectacular loggia that, used for banquets. At the end we find the fountain of Europe. At the center of the avenue we find the fountain of the Tripode.
The Oval Fountain, represent the territory of Tivoli opposed to the Fountain of Rometta which is a sort of representation of the city of Rome in miniature. Very famous is the avenue of the Hundred Fountains, a very long nymphaeum, arranged on three canals that symbolized the rivers of Tivoli.
The equally famous Fountain of Diana of Ephesus is next to the Villa’s main entrance in the 16th century.
Here we find a copy of an ancient statue representing the Diana of Ephesus whose worship was practiced not only in Asia Minor but also in the rest of the Roman Empire. Also in Villa d’Este is represented with a tower on the head and with many breasts, the symbol of fertility and the natural world.
The Organ Fountain has a hydraulic mechanism that with the motion of water reproduces the sounds of a hydraulic organ. Its construction is dated back to 1568 by Claude Venard who realized the sound mechanism by studying the models of hydraulic organs described in the works of the Roman architect Vitruvius (1st century BC) and of Erone of Alexandria who lived between I and III sec. A.C.
The Fountain of the Owl is another sound fountain. Its construction started with Giovanni del Duca and was completed in 1566 by Raffaello di Sangallo. Here the hydraulic musical automaton reproduced the chirping of birds whose purpose was to delight guests strolling through the garden.
Between 1660/1661 Gian Lorenzo Bernini worked inside the Villa d’Este on behalf of Cardinal Rinaldo I d’Este to complete the structure of the area facing the Fish Ponds. The Fountain of Neptune, the largest of the Villa, is the only one built in the XX century. Transforming the original Bernini’s Fountain which included a rustic nymphaeum with a central and lateral cascade.
The other great fountain attributed to Bernini is that of Bicchierone; it has a shell shape surmounted by a goblet of a flower from which water gushes.