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Brief History of Villa d'Este

It was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, in 1550 the governor of Tivoli. The garden at Villa d’Este is of particular splendour and was designed by artist and architect Pirro Ligorio, and completed by Alberto Galvani.

Villa d'Este - The 100 Fountains

The rooms of the Villa were decorated and completely finished while the Cardinal was on his deathbed (1572).

Beginning in 1605, Alessandro d’Este commissioned a phase of restoration: repairs in the garden and to the water installations, a new garden arrangement, and improvements to the fountains. 

More renovations took place between 1660 and 1670, involving Gianlorenzo Bernini, while the 18th Century saw Villa d’Este in complete disrepair. 

The Villa’s state worsened tremendously when it came into the hands of the House of Hapsburg, and continued to worsen until the mid-19th Century, when Cardinal Gustav von Hohelohe obtained a royal right to the Villa from the Dukes of Modena, with the obligation to enact the necessary restorations.

New works were begun to bring the Villa back from ruins; again it became an important cultural site and eventually began to host renowned men of culture.

With the start of the First World War, the Villa became the property of the Italian State, and from 1920-30, more restorations were executed, with a subsequent opening to the public.

The Villa was struck during the bombardments of 1944, and immediately after World War II, a radical restructuring was effected to repair the damages. Other restorations followed in later years, a significant one of which was the repristination of the Fontana dell’Organo and of the music it produces, “Canto degli Uccelli” or “Birdsong.”

Useful Information

Portrait of Pirro Ligorio

Portrait of Pirro Ligorio 
(1513, Naples - 1583, Ferrara)

Biography Pirro Ligorio

Pirro Ligorio was born to a noble family in Naples in 1513. He moved to Rome in 1534, where he began his career as a decorator of palaces. He eventually painted the frescoes of the loggia inside the Palace of Urbino in Via del Corso, where he completed The Dance of Salome and The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Having become a member of the Academy of the Virtuosi at the Pantheon in 1549,  (one of ten Pontifical Academies under the Holy See, this one representing the Fine Arts and Letters), he then led excavations at  Hadrian’s Villa and planned the design of Tivoli’s other significant villa, Villa d’Este. 

Hadrian's Villa is also where he recuperated objets d’art and marble with which to decorate the new Villa d'Este. It is thanks to Ligorio's efforts that today we have access to the Ligorian manuscripts, which contributed to the diffusion of knowledge of the Emperor’s famous abode. 

Pirro Ligorio also authored numerous other works, and from 1564 to 1568 he succeeded Michelangelo as architect of the Fabbrica di San Pietro.
He later transferred to Ferrara to become the personal antiquarian for Duke Alfonso II d’Este. 

Ligorio died in Ferrara in 1583.