The taste for play and surprise: these are the first sensations and emotions of the many tourists who visit Villa Lante in Bagnaia each year, one of the most significant achievements of the Italian Sixteenth Century. There is no end to the enchantment in the beautiful park with artistic fountains and the lovely Italian garden.
Located at the edge of the medieval village of Bagnaia, a ward of Viterbo at the foot of the Cimini Mountains, the access to the Villa, which occupies more than 20 hectares, is preceded by an arch at the end of a flight of steps, built in 1772.
The village is evocative, like all the small towns in the Tuscia Viterbo area and, the thing that makes it so unique and extraordinary is the Villa with its frescoed buildings and very beautiful park, which preserves one of the loveliest and most famous Italian gardens in the world. It was in the mid-sixteenth century, at the behest of Cardinal Francesco de Gambara, that the fountains, waterfalls, hedges, water games, niches and labyrinths were built by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola.
It is not a true Villa but two twin buildings placed on the same side open on the ground floor and each with loggias with three large arches. The loggias are frescoed, respectively, with views dedicated to the most important sixteenth-century villas in Lazio and grotesque vaults, by Raffaellino from Reggio, and marine views by Agostino Tassi.
Inside the two buildings you can also admire landscapes by Antonio Tempesta and frescoes depicting female deities painted by the Cavaliere d’Arpino.
The Park’s most salient feature is the water that flows from many fountains, embellished with some very fine sculptural groups positioned along five levels of overlapping terraces. At the centre of the square in front of the buildings, the large fountain composed of a triple circle of pools immediately grasps the attention of tourists: it is the so-called Fontana del Quadrato – Fountain of the Square, surmounted by a group of sculptures attributed to Taddeo Landini, depicting Four Moors. And again, the terraced gardens, the Fountain of the Lumini, formed by 70 jets of water that emerge from small cups, and everywhere shrubs and tall trees, holm oaks, plane trees and oaks.
On the third terrace is the Mensa del Cardinale (or Fontana della Tavola), a huge stone table with a central cavity in which water flows: here Cardinal Gambara, who commissioned the Park, loved to hold his summer banquets.
Farther along are secret gardens and mazes in a series of surprises, with amazing scenery that confounds the visitor. Again there is the Fountain of the Dolphins, surrounded by box hedges, the Fountain of the Giants, adorned by two colossal statues of rivers, and the Fountain of the Flood, with water that flows from a cave.
One of the most curious and interesting buildings in the park is definitely the “icehouse”, a cylindrical construction built at the beginning of the seventeenth century, almost 10 meters of which is buried. In winter, it was filled with snow to keep drinks and ice creams cool. Cardinal Alessandro Damasceni Peretti-Montalto, grandson of Pope Sixtus V, was very fond of ice cream.