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The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d’Este

The Villa d’Este in Tivoli is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

The villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Alfonso I and Lucrezia Borgia (Ferrara 1509 – Rome 1572), on a site of a Roman villa.

The history of its construction is linked to the events of its first owner. Pope Julius III thanked the Cardinal d’Este for the essential contribution made in 1550 to his election to the papal throne by appointing him governor for life of Tivoli and its territory. The cardinal arrived in Tivoli on 9 September and made a triumphal entry, but discovered that he would have to live in an old and uncomfortable convent attached to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, built centuries earlier by the Benedictines, now held by the Franciscans and partially readjusted to governor’s residence.

Hippolytus decided to turn the convent into a villa. This would have been the twin of the grand palace that he was building at the same time in Rome, in Monte Giordano; while the Roman palace was intended to serve the “official” receptions in Rome, the villa of Tivoli should have been a pleasant place for meetings.

Weird Italy tivoli-waterfall The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Great Cascade, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, between 1890 and 1905.

It is no coincidence that the place where the villa was built had the name “Valle Gaudente”.

Weird Italy hall-of-Glory The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Noble apartment, hall of Glory

The works were entrusted to the architect Pirro Ligorio, flanked by an impressive number of artists and artisans.

Weird Italy The-Godess-Nature-Fountain The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
The Godess Nature Fountain in the garden of Villa d’Este in Tivol, Italy

The Cardinal barely had time to enjoy the solemn inauguration of the villa, which took place in September 1572 with the visit of Pope Gregory XIII; in fact, he died on December 2nd of the same year.

Weird Italy tivoli-villa-d-este The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. View of town. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer. Glass lantern slide, hand-colored.

The first owners were three cardinals of Este governors of Tivoli: the patron Hippolytus II, the nephew Luigi until 1586 and finally Alexander, until 1624.

Weird Italy One.hundred.fountain.at_.villa_.deste_ The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
The One Hundred Fountain (Le Centro Fontane) at the Villa d’Este

In 1918, after the First World War, the villa passed to the Italian State that began important restoration work and opening it to the public. Another series of restorations was then performed after World War II to repair the damage caused by bombings during the last world war.

Tivoli italy gardens images

Weird Italy tivoli-villa-d-este-2 The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Shaded walk. 1925 summer. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer. House Architecture: Pirro Ligorio, 1560-1575. Landscape: Pirro Ligorio and Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este.
Weird Italy Fresco-of-hall-of-Apollo-in-Villa-dEste-Tivoli The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Fresco of hall of Apollo in Villa d’Este (Tivoli)
Weird Italy Villa-dEste-Tivoli-Lazio-Italy-8 The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
View to Sabine Mountains from villa. Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy. Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer.
Weird Italy Tivoli-Villa-Este-second-cave-grotto The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Tivoli, Villa d’Este: second cave grotto between Organ Fountain and Fountain of Neptune (one of the so-called “caves of the Sibyls”)
Weird Italy noble-apartment The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Noble apartment, room of the Hunt
Weird Italy the-hall-of-Nobility The Gardens of Tivoli in Italy: Villa d'Este Italian History What to see in Italy  UNESCO Tivoli Renaissance Lucrezia Borgia Lazio Ippolito d'Este
Tivoli, Villa d’Este: rooms on the main floor, the hall of Nobility

Image source: Wikimedia

Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi

This Roman sanctuary and the Sacred Wood are located on the northern shore of Lake Nemi, just few kilometres outside Rome.

The temple of Diana Nemorensis was preceded by the sacred grove.  Diana of the Wood or Diana Nemorensis was a Roman goddess. Later was hellenised and conflated with Artemis. The temple of Diana Aricina or Nemorense was a huge complex located in Nemi. It covers an area of 45,000 square meters, supported by triangular substructures and by semicircular niches with statues and an upper terrace.

Weird Italy Niches-of-Temple-of-Diana-in-Nemi Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi Italian History Magazine What to see in Italy  temple of diana roman history pagan temple nemi trip nemi travel nemi Lazio Diana Nemorensis
Niches of Temple of Diana in Nemi. Author: Livioandronico2013

The platform is composed by two Doric porticoes, one with columns plastered in red, the other with columns of dark gray lava stone; there were statues, rooms for priests, accommodation for pilgrims, cells, a temple, baths and even a theater.

Weird Italy Walls-of-Temple-of-Diana-in-Nemi Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi Italian History Magazine What to see in Italy  temple of diana roman history pagan temple nemi trip nemi travel nemi Lazio Diana Nemorensis
Walls of Temple of Diana in Nemi. Author: Livioandronico2013

Today, a part of a portico, one votive altar and some columns are still visible. The rest of temple, that spreads over an area of over 5000 square meters, is still waiting to be excavated. The higher parts, such as niches, that emerge from the ground for several meters show the  size of the original temple.

Weird Italy Rests-of-altar-and-temple-of-Temple-of-Diana-in-Nemi Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi Italian History Magazine What to see in Italy  temple of diana roman history pagan temple nemi trip nemi travel nemi Lazio Diana Nemorensis
Rests of altar and temple of Temple of Diana in Nemi. Author: Livioandronico2013

The temple was abandoned with the advent of Christianity and partly robbed of marbles and decorations; the forest gradually covered it almost completely and it was forgotten for centuries.

Weird Italy Rests-of-Temple-of-Diana-in-Nemi Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi Italian History Magazine What to see in Italy  temple of diana roman history pagan temple nemi trip nemi travel nemi Lazio Diana Nemorensis
Rests of Temple of Diana in Nemi. Author: Livioandronico2013

Archaeological excavations began in the seventeenth century by mostly amateurs and foreign scholars, and for this reason statues and relics are scattered in many different museums.

Weird Italy Diana Ancient Pagan Temple of Diana, Nemi Italian History Magazine What to see in Italy  temple of diana roman history pagan temple nemi trip nemi travel nemi Lazio Diana Nemorensis
Diana of the Wood or Diana Nemorensis was a Roman goddess. Later was hellenised and conflated with Artemis.

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