Your first look at the garden of Villa Lante will knock your socks off. You enter through an old arch from the piazza of Bagnaia, a small town near Viterbo, and see the magnificent Quadrato with the rest of the garden rising about 48 feet in front of you. The steep garden is formed into five terraces each with its own unique combination of water features, statuary and plantings.The garden was designed by Vignola in the mannerist style and reflects the era’s pride in man’s dominion over nature so that everything is planned according to definite architectural rules and standards. All of the components of the garden are designed to contribute to a lasting effect throughout the year regardless of the change of seasons. Stoneworks, water, and evergreen plants dominate and flowers have no presence.
The Quadrato on the first level is a square parterre surrounded by boxwood hedges on three sides and twin casini on the fourth. A fabulous fountain called the Fountain of the Moors rises in the center and is surrounded by four walkways with balustrades that divide the main pool into four basins and lead to the triple circle of pools. Each of the four basins contains a boat with human figures who blow water from their trumpets.
Ascending the garden through hollies, planes, and oaks to the next level the visitor comes to the Fountain of the Lamps consisting of partially sunken concentric basins with smaller fountains in the form of ancient Roman lamps on the edge of each basin. Camellias, rhododentrons and other ericaceous plants from more recent times add greenery to the setting.
On the third terrace, a large fountain featuring the river gods of the Tiber and Arno feed water to a long, massive stone table with a shallow channel for water running down its center. The table was designed for out door dinning and the water in its center was used for keeping the food and drink cool.
On the fourth terrace the spectacular water chain leads water from the Fountain of the Dolphins on the top terrace to the Cardinal’s dinning table on the third terrace. This is my favorite feature and alone is worth the price of admission!
On the top terrace there are grottos, statues, more fountains and two small casini one of which leads to a secret garden. Old engravings from 1609 show wooded walks and a maze.
This is a garden to be remembered!
The town of Bagnaia is out in the hinterland of Rome. Theoretically, you can get there by bus but my family went by car. We drove from the airport to Viterbo, a very old town dating back to the Etruscans, and stayed in a nice hotel where I had made reservations. The 1 ½ hour drive from the airport to Viterbo was easy even after the over night flight and the stay in Viterbo was delightful. The next day we proceeded on our way to Florence where we stayed for a week, seeing the fabulous Bomarzo Garden on the way.
Let Us know:
If you have visited Villa Lante, what feature did you find most pleasing?