The gardens of Villa Lante are the most breathtaking Renaissance gardens in the world

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Marija Georgievska
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One of the most beautiful gardens in the world is the garden of Villa Lante at Bagnaia, Italy. The Villa is one of the major works of the architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It was built in the 16th century in the period when the garden design was trendy in Europe, and it stays as one of the greatest examples created in Mannerist style.

These Renaissance gardens were made very grandiose with a lot of fountains, artificial lakes, waterfalls, and caves. They are designed to show a relationship between human and nature.

In the 17th century, the estate was owned by the Duke of Bomarzo, Ippolito Lante Montefeltro Della Rovere and it became more popular in the country because of the improvements that were made by him. The Villa has two almost identical square houses that were built by different owners and are treated as garden ornaments.

The main Fontana del Quadrato. Author: Roberto Ferrari. CC BY-SA 2.0

The first casa was completed by Cardinal Gambara in the mid 16th century, and the second by Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto who was a nephew of Pope Sixtus V. The houses are different only in their frescoes which were made in various styles. In the first one, the vaulted frescoed rooms are very colorful, and in the second the painting style and plaster sculptures almost look like they were made in the trompe l’oeil art technique.

Cardinal Gambara commissioned the great architect Vignola to work on the garden, and the first parts that were completed quickly were the upper garden and the house. After this, the work was suspended because of Vignola’s death. Building continued when di Montalto became the owner.

The whole site is filled with many fountains, caves, and sculptures. Author: Renehaas. CC BY-SA 4.0

After he had built the second house, di Montalto finished the whole design of the gardens, and they are still beautifuly maintained as they were in the 17th century. The Cardinal called on Tommaso Ghinucci to complete the mechanical perfection of the water flow. He did the job so perfectly that even today water is coming through the many fountains, cascades and dripping grottoes without any problems.

One of the houses. Author: Jeff from Sacramento, CA. CC BY 2.0

The largest and lowest terrace on the site houses the most famous monumental fountain of the estate known as Fontana del Quadrato. High box hedges enclose this square shaped basin and in the center, there is a low sculpted hedge which is formed into decorative patterns around other small fountains and statues.

It is an astonishing Renaissance Garden. Author: Ljuba brank. CC BY-SA 4.0

The structure is formed of four basins separated by little bridges decorated with pineapples and urns. It was modified by Montalto who added the central group which represents a glorification of the heraldic symbols of his family. The group contains the Fontana dei Mori made by Giambologna, and the symbols are four moors surrounding two lions, and they hold high the heraldic mountain which is surrounded by Montalto coat of arms.

One of the smaller fountains in the gardens known as Pegasus. Author: Tom Toft. CC BY 3.0

One of the ascending terraces is the Fontana dei Lumini surrounded by smaller fountains which imitate Roman oil lamps which blaze like flames at night. It is surrounded by various flowers which were added in the 19th century. Another important water feature is the catena d’ aqua which is typical for the gardens of the 16th century, and it can also be noticed at the famous Villa Farnese and Villa D’Este. There are two smaller houses called Houses of the Muses, and they frame the Fountain of the Deluge.

The Garden with the stone table in front. Author: Brookie. CC BY-SA 3.0

The texture of their facades is roughly made to be similar to the natural rock of the basin. Both buildings bear the name of Gambara, so it is thought that they also were built by Vignola. The most admired part of the garden is the stone table which is very long, and it is believed that it was used when the Cardinals had guests at feasts, and they kept wine bottles cool in the central part filled with cold water.