As a child I yearned for a garden just like the one belonging to Mary’s uncle from the novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Over the years I have watched the film many times and it became a muse of sorts, following me into my adult life as a writer.
Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy forms part of a luxurious palatial estate and garden, by far the most magical I’ve ever seen. For me, it was the story of The Secret Garden made tangible.
Brief History of Villa d’Este
Villa d’Este is an incredibly beautiful 17th century villa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is built in a breathtaking Renaissance style and its garden, complete with immaculate fountains and greenery, is the highlight of the estate. However, the rooms inside this splendid villa, albeit empty, are equally worth a look.
The villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, grandson of Pope Alexander VI. The cardinal was appointed as governor of the area of Tivoli and was given the villa as a gift by Pope Julius III.
At the time, the garden required special innovations in order to obtain adequate water supply. This can be seen in the many beautiful water jets, fountains, troughs and pools designed to supply the entire estate.
Much of the marble used inside the villa was obtained from the nearby Hadrian’s Villa, another must-see while you are in the area.
What You Can Expect
I visited Villa d’Este in the middle of an Italian winter and travelled by bus from Rome to get there. Upon entering, I was overwhelmed by the moving frescos and interior of the building. One can easily imagine the grandeur of the place in its heyday. As soon as you venture outside, you’ll equally be bowled over by the endless, rolling lawns and fascinating fountains.
You can also explore the town of Tivoli which is quite charming with many lovely little cafes and restaurants.
How to Get To Villa d’Este in Tivoli from Rome
Getting to Tivoli from Rome is relatively easy. Villa d’Este is situated just a few hundred metres from the bus stop in Tivoli so it’s easy to navigate – all you need to do is find the signs when you get there and follow them.
I suggest you take the Cotral bus and not the train to Tivoli since the train station doesn’t stop in Tivoli itself and the stop is below the hilltop town. Rather take the Cotral bus since it brings you right into the centre of Tivoli on the hill. Cotral buses to Tivoli depart from Ponte Mammolo, a stop on the Rome metro. When you arrive at Ponte Mammolo simply find the Cotral ticket office to buy your tickets.