The Gardens of Villa Lante

October 20, 2014 / Places
Bagnaia, Lazio

At the height of the Renaissance, Cardinal Gambara commissioned an elegant garden to be built near Viterbo, inspired by designs of the gardens of his friends at Caprarola and Villa d’Este.


Cardinal Gambara liked to eat and to entertain. For him, the centerpiece of his garden consisted of a series of paths leading to an outdoor dining area with a fountain table of peperino stone, water coursing through its midst to keep the bottles of wine chilled, and along its base so you could cool your feet while dining during hot summer evenings.


Today, solemn stone structures and watercourses form an eerie reminder of his role as a member of the Inquisition in charge of heretical literature under Pope Pius IV. No surprise to hear that the garden’s design depicts the archetypal themes of man’s fall from grace and his redemption.

But what draws you in the most is the garden’s symmetry. Its geometry, with a series of elegantly maintained box, was inspired by the Belvedere at the Vatican, while its use of water was inspired by Villa d’Este. Here, water springs from a grotto at the top, landing at a water chain that forms one of the earliest examples of a water cascade, its pristine waters flowing from the nearby Cimino hills via an ancient aqueduct.


This final image, courtesy of Roberto Ferrari from Campogalliano (Modena), is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License (cc-by-sa-2.0) Grazie!


Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant.

4 Responses to “The Gardens of Villa Lante”

  1. The garden wasn’t originally planted with box as can be seen in the Frescos of the time. small shrubs such as rosemary or sage would have been used. The change to box was related to its easier maintenance and fashion from France. The symbolism in this Mannerist garden is on many levels the most important of which is Man’s control over nature. Art and Nature were seen in perfect harmony in this important garden.

  2. Onofrio Curatolo

    Evanne, your search for the Italian art treasures unveils the Italian heritage to the world. Your wonderful discoveries satisfies my learning desire to learn more every day. Queste ricerche mi riempono la mente ed il cuore di gioia: scopro ogni giorno la nostra bella Italia. Grazie.

  3. I thank you for this splendid showing of beauty that greeted me this morning. Ti ringrazio!

  4. Thanks, Evanne, for reminding to all of us of this beautiful villa…I never understood why it is not as visited as the other villas around Rome. Thanks!


Leave a Reply