Visiting Villa d’Este in the evening

I visit Villa d’Este, Tivoli, regularly; I take students to study its place in Garden history.  We are amazed by the amount of symbolism.  You can walk around the garden and be educated the references to Greek and Roman mythology.  The original owner, Ippolito d’Este was a member of one of the richest most cultured city states in Renaissance Italy.  He just missed being voted in as pope five times; his yearning to be in Rome is ever present in the garden.  It is a wonderful place to visit (you can easily take the bus to this UNESCO site from Rome for an afternoon away of the crowds and heat of the city.

When I visited in July I saw the publicity about the garden being open Friday and Saturday evenings for July, August and into September.  During the summer we often go to the beach at the weekends so the trip was put off (as it has been for the last 2 years).  Eventually we organised ourselves to go on the last day of August.

..and Wow!  I was blown away by the different experience, seeing the garden illuminated by lights and candles and a full moon instead of sunlight!

Looking down onto the Tivoli fountain

The fountains were all illuminated, there were candles everywhere.  What surprised me more than anything was that the fountains sounded even more powerful than when you see and hear them during the day.  The water roared!  It thundered.  I was also struck that all the people visiting were there to ENJOY the garden, not to look at it as if were only a piece of art.  It is art too, of course, but it was as if we were experiencing the garden as it was by the numerous visitors when it was first completed in the 1560’s.

There is a link to my garden too.  Villa d’Este’s iconography is based on Hercules’s 11th labour of collecting the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.  In the Renaissance almost all gardens allude to this story a way of stating that the garden was ‘the perfect garden’ where the golden apples (in Greek they were probably Quinces, not apples) could give immortality to whoever processed them.

The dragon Ladon guarded the entrance to the garden and in some versions of the story Hercules had to fight the dragon to gain entry and be able to steal the apples.

In daylight The hundred fountains path is my favourite part of the garden

Not just the fountains were illuminated

The visit has made me want to add more lighting to my own garden.  To create silhouettes of trees, to highlight features.  It becomes dark here earlier than in the more northern latitude of the UK so that when we have dinner on the terrace it is always dark before we finish; we have a light over the table and some lights on the pillars (these need replacing as they fuse when they are switched on after it has been raining.  I am also aware that I don’t want to create a huge amount of light pollution (not that my neighbours seem to consider this) but I will be thinking about making the garden even more enjoyable at night.  I am already concentrating on having white flowers near the terrace and of course perfumed plants are even more important at night.

The courtyard of the Tivoli fountian; I’ve hardly noticedthis amazing tree in daylight

The organ fountain plays music using the power of water! it is amazing and was only recently restored by an English company.

If you have the opportunity to visit next year, do go you won’t regret it at all.