The Villa d'Este is a 16th-century villa in Tivoli, near Rome, famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains: the extraordinary system contains fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades, and all working entirely by the force of gravity, without pumps. It is now an Italian state museum, and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Tivoli had been a popular summer residence since ancient Roman times due to its altitude, cooler temperatures and its proximity to the Villa Hadriana, the summer residence of the Emperor Hadrian I.
The Villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este (1509-1572), second son of Alfonso I d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara and grandson of Pope Alexander VI, along with Lucrezia Borgia. d'Este commissioned a prominent classical scholar, Pirro Ligorio, who had studied the Villa Hadriana and other Roman sites the vicinity, to plan a new villa and garden which would exceed anything the Romans had built. He obtained an abundant supply of marble and statuary from the ruins of Hadrian's villa.
The construction began to slow in 1569, probably due to the financial difficulties of the Cardinal. He spent more and more of his time in the villa, reading and meeting with the leading poets, artists and philosophers of the Renaissance. In 1572, the Cardinal died in Rome, and was buried in a simple tomb in the church adjoining the Villa.
With the death of Ippolito in 1572, the villa and gardens passed to his nephew, Cardinal Luigi (1538-1586), who continued work on some of the unfinished fountains and gardens, but struggled with high maintenance costs. After his death in 1586 Cardinal Alessandro d'Este (1538-1624) carried out a major renovation of the gardens and water systems, as well as building a new system of fountains in the lower garden.
Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle.
In 1728, the Bavarian court architect François de Cuvilliés took over and made the palace into one of the most glorious residences of its time. Until its completion in 1768, numerous outstanding artists of European renown contributed to its beauty. A prime example of the calibre of artists employed here is Balthasar Neumann, who created the design for the magnificent staircase, an enchanting creation full of dynamism and elegance. The magical interplay of architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design made the Brühl Palaces a masterpiece of German Rococo.
UNESCO honoured history and present of the Rococo Palaces by inscribing Augustusburg Palace – together with Falkenlust Palace and their extensive gardens – on the World Heritage List in 1984. From 1949 onwards, Augustusburg Palace was used for representative purposes by the German Federal President and the Federal Government for many decades.
In 1728, Dominique Girard designed the palace gardens according to French models. Owing to constant renovation and care, it is today one of the most authentic examples of 18th century garden design in Europe. Next to the Baroque gardens, Peter Joseph Lenné redesigned the forested areas based on English landscaping models. Today it is a wonderful place to have a walk.