Pirro Ligorio, conceived in 1550—1559 the vast Villa D’Este for the Cardinal Ippolito D’Este. Son of Lucrezia Borgia and brother of Duke Ercole II, he was created Cardinal in 1539 and Governor of Tivoli in 1550. Lying to the west of the town, to which it adjoins rather than belongs, there were two main features in the selected site for this palatial villa, a stream of the Anio, to supply the indispensable water effects, and a great fall in the ground, which admitted of magnificent terraces and descending stairways. The villa itself is ledged on the hillside and the whole lay-out is dominated by a magnificent axial vista extending down the centre of the gardens, and bordered by immense cypresses some two hundred and ten feet high, with trunks nearly ten feet thick. About half way down is a great cross view over a series of lake-like ponds leading up to the grand organ fountain, which is built into the flanking hillside at right angles to the main terrace. The famous alley of the hundred fountains is a level walk below that of the main terrace. The vista down this alley is effective, extending to the end fountain, whose white spray is seen enclosed in a setting of laurel foliage. Eagles, boats, obelisks and fleur-de-lys, all in masonry, line the bank above the jetting fountains of this unique gallery.
Besides the main stairwav descent on the axis line there are raking, sloping ways that descend to the various levels that step down the hillside in succession. The slopes are thickly planted so that the scheme is not too visible, and a great and interesting variety of vistas is thus secured. The main idea was that of spreading the waters of Anio over the gardens so that a great concerted piece of water music should be created. The tinkle of the small fountains leads up to the grand roar of the more massive cascades falling into the great basins. Everywhere the sound of waters pervades the gardens, bringing freshness and a lulling sense of repose in the heated atmosphere of the Italian noonday. The villa is the creation of its own time, of an age obsessed with the recovered glories of old Rome.
The great water organ is a great fantasy rather than a serious piece of architecture. It shows still signs of colouring, a chocolate brown being particularly evident. Very probably it was rather crude in all its original freshness. The figures have backgrounds of coarse mosaic. There is a fine view from this high balustraded level over the pools below. To the left is the great flat mass of the villa, with its unfinished but impressive façade, behind which the campanile of the church raises itself as though ¡placed there as an intentional central feature. The great cypresses of the main axis form a supporting base to the façade, counteracting by their vertically the long, horizontal lines of its architecture. The central projecting loggia of golden-columned masonry is finely detailed, and the staircase on either side of it is well worked out. The character of this feature suggests that the façade as a whole would have been completed in a good style. Rubble masonry, for which the locality supplies a quantity of bluish rock, is used for the main walling as well as the brown material of the true tufa formation.
Below this central feature is a great built-up shell of rubble masonry faced with a rough mosaic of tufa fragments. In the centre rises the curious fluted expanding stem of a flower, so large in scale as to be a prominent feature on the axis. Evidently it was designed for some water effect, the idea of which is not clear in its present condition of disuse. In front of this feature is a paved balcony overhanging the central axis, and containing a stone table with sufficient room for seats all round. Adjacent to the water organ is an enclosed court with high walls, architecturally adorned with tabernacle features and stone seats . Here there is a thundering fountain cascading into a pool, in which is a drowning nymph . Higher up is a standing figure, now draped in greenery, while around in niche recesses are smaller statues. A wall running round behind the vaulted apse enables you to pass behind the falling waters and enjoy the cool air of the descending
The fountain of Neptune and the fish ponds. The fountain could have been designed by Ligorio. Unfortunately it was never totally completed.
Fountain of Proserpine. In Latin, "proserpere" means "to emerge, and Proserpine was a Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of springtime.
The fountain of the dragons on the main axis of the garden (map 8) It was built for the visit of the pope Gregory XIII in 1572. The mythological dragons guard the garden of Esperides.
Fountain of Tivoli or Ovato fountain, named after the egg-shaped motif, was designed by Ligorio. The design was inspired by the triclinium of the canopus of the Adrian's Villa. The fountain is topped by a statute of Albuna who was said to have carried a prophecies through the midst of a river, without its being touched by water.
The one hundred fountains (map 11)
Fountain of the organ, a construction which played “ madrigals and other music.”(map 28)
Fontana de la civetta or fountain of the Owl designed by Giovanni del Duca and built by Rafaello Sangallo. It has been said that the fountain design comes from "Pneumatica" a book written by the Greek mathematician, engineer, and inventor Hero (or “Heron”) of Alexandria.
Fountain of Rometta (means ancient Rome.) This is one of the most original fountain of the Villa d'Este. Unfortunately it was partially demolished in the 19th c.
Fountains of papal Rome by CHARLES MAC VEAGH
Italian gardens of the Renaissance by Julia Mary Cartwright
Italian villas and their gardens by Edith Wharton
The Gardens of Italy by E. March Phillips