Villa d'Este

sights / Parks & gardens

Lonely Planet review

In Tivoli's hilltop centre, the steeply terraced gardens of Villa d'Este are a superlative example of the High Renaissance garden, dotted by fantastical fountains all powered by gravity alone. The villa, originally a Benedictine convent, was converted into a pleasure palace by Lucrezia Borgia's son, Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, in 1550. Later, it was home to the composer Franz Liszt who stayed here between 1865 and 1886 and was inspired to write To the Cypresses of the Villa d'Este and To the Fountains of the Villa d'Este .

The villa's rich mannerist frescoes merit a glance, but it's the gardens that you're here for: water-spouting gargoyles and elaborate avenues lined with deep-green, knotty cypresses and monumental fountains. Look out for the Bernini-designed Fountain of the Organ , which uses water pressure to play music through a concealed organ, and the 130m-long Avenue of the Hundred Fountains .