In the sixteenth century Cardinal Francesco Gambara started the construction of one of the most beautiful Renaissance villas in Europe, characterized by a garden in “Italian style”.
Info Villa Lante: tel. +39 0761 288008
Closed: Monday, January 1st, May 1st, December 25th
Ticket: full € 5.00, reduced € 2.50, without prejudice to the concessions provided for by the regulations for admission to Italian cultural sites, which can be consulted on the MiBACT. website. Free opening on the first Sunday of the month.
Vedi anche: Villa Lante Beniculturali
HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION
Just a few steps from Viterbo, the county seat of Tuscia, is Bagnaia which is home to Villa Lante. From Piazza XX settembre, travel up Via Gian Bologna to its peak, and the entrance is situated with a ticket office for the park and Italian gardens. The Villa, along with the park, fountains, villas and gardens, were commissioned by Cardinal Gambara (Bishop of Viterbo during the mid-sixteenth century), who wanted to transform the existing “barco” (hunting reserve) at the existing villa. The work was probably entrusted to Vignola under the direction of the Sienese architect Tommaso Ghinucci, although there is no documentary evidence to support this. The gardens were constructed on a natural slope, and from the lowest point (Fontana dei Mori) to the highest point (Fontana del Diluvio), walking through a series of terraces, there is a difference in elevation of sixteen meters. The water, coming from Monte S. Valentino, feeds into a natural waterfall fountain that creates a succession in a straight line, a series of evocative and enchanting giochi d’aqcua. The first fountain you come across is the Fontana dei Quattro Mori in peperino stone and so called because of the dark color of the stone created by the flow of water over the centuries. The fountain shows four young and strong athletes that remind onlookers of Cardinal Montalto, from the early seventeenth century, who commissioned the fountain, replacing a previous pyramid.
The fountain is surrounded by a splendid Italian garden, reflecting on the rationalism of the era, affirming the dominion of man over nature. One of the two small twin palazzos belonged to Cardinal Gambara (frescoed by great artists including the Zuccari and Antonio Tempesta). The other was that of Cardinal Montalto, erected by the cardinal, nephew of Pope Sisto V Peretti (Cavalier d’Arpino and Agostino Tassi are the artists of the cardinals in the rooms of this Palazzina). Ascending the staircase will lead to the first terrace where you will find the Fontana dei Lumini, seventy water jets inserted among the magnificent rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and a delicate gioco d’acqua. Make this part more straightforward, less fluffy The next terrace hosts two fountains: la Tavola del Cardinale, a large table of peperino stone with wide borders and a canal in the center with flowing water in which, during banquets under the cool sycamore, like oak, and chestnut trees, the diners could cool their drinks and fruits. The Fontana dei Giganti is modeled after the personification of the Arno and Tiber rivers. In the time of Gambara, it was called Fontana della Sirena, and was formed by a statue of a woman on the back of a shrimp, symbolizing the official emblem of the Cardinal.
The fountain was struck by lightning three centuries ago, and as a result, construction began on the Fontana dei Giganti, which symbolized Rome and Florence, the Papacy and the Medici, the principal patrons of art during the sixteenth century. From that terrace, it is possible to make out the pincers of the wide shrimp that constitutes the next fountain. The so-called Catena del Gambero is nothing more than an homage to the commissioner, who loved to celebrate himself with inscriptions that recall his name (IO FRANC CARD DE GAMBERA). On the last terrace, you find the Fontana dei Delfini, an octagonal basin between decorations and dophins, with a small cup at the top where the water sprays from; and the Fontana del Diluvio, the last fountain you see, but the departure point of the complex system of water: an artificial grotto created by a cluster of rocks from which flows the water that goes and feeds into all of the fountains below it. Concluding the garden, there are two loggias called Logge delle Muse, that flank the cave that functioned as a place that allowed the Cardinal to retire in solitude and in prayer.
Any person who wants to walk through the park will find, especially during the summer, fresh air and many shaded paths. The scattered fountains are less monumental than those in the garden but are just as pleasing to the eyes and the ears.
AA.VV. (con presentazione di G. DE ANGELIS D’OSSAT), La Villa Lante di Bagnaia, Milano 1961;
B. ADORNI, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Milano 2008;
F. BARTH, Die Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Stuttgart – London 2001;
A. BATTELLOCCHI; Il palazzo della loggia di Bagnaia. Tesi di Laurea dell’università degli studi della Tuscia, Viterbo A.A. 2002/2003;
C. BENOCCI, Villa Lante a Bagnaia tra Cinquecento e Seicento. La Chiesa in forma di Villa, Sutri 2010;
D. COFFIN, Some Aspects of the Villa Lante at Bagnaia, in Arte in Europa.Scritti di Storia dell’Arte in onore di Edoardo Arslan, Milano 1966, pp. 575-596;
M. FAGIOLO, Vignola. L’architettura dei principi, Roma 2007;
S. FROMMEL (a cura di), Villa Lante a Bagnaia, Milano 2005M. MARTORELLA; Liber Statutorum Balnearie 1565. A cura di. Viterbo 2012;
C. LAZZARO BRUNO, The Villa Lante at Bagnaia, PHD Princeton University 1964, Michigan – London 1976;
C. PERCIER, P. FONTAINE, Choix des plus célebrès maisons de plaicence de Rome et de ses environs,Paris 1809.