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MY TOURS » Italian gardens: VILLA FARNESE & VILLA LANTE

PALAZZO FARNESE OF CAPRAROLA
In 1504, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the future Pope Paul III, acquired the estate at Caprarola. He had designs made for a fortified castle or rocca by the architects Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Baldassare Peruzzi. Surviving plan drawings by Peruzzi show a pentagonal arrangement with each face of the pentagon canted inwards towards its center, to permit raking fire upon a would-be scaling force, both from the center and from the projecting bastions that advance from each corner angle of the fortress.
The villa is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. Ornament is used sparingly to achieve proportion and harmony. Thus while the villa dominates the surroundings, its severe design also complements the site.

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The villa's interiors are arranged over five floors, each floor designed for a different function. The main rooms are located on the first floor or piano nobile, where a large central loggia (now glazed in) looks down over the town, its main street and the surrounding countryside. The suites are famous for their Mannerist frescoes. The iconograhic program of frescoes expressing the glory of the Farnese were worked out by the humanists in Farnese's court

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The gardens of the villa are as impressive as the building itself. The villa's fortress theme is carried through by a surrounding moat and three drawbridges. Two facades of the pentagonal arrangement face the two gardens cut into the hill; each garden is accessed across the moat by a drawbridge from the apartments on the piano nobile and each is a parterre garden of box topiary with fountains. A grotto-like theatre was once here. A walk through the chestnut woods beyond, leads to the giardino segreto, or secret garden, with its well known casino, a small habitable summerhouse with two loggie for al fresco dining.

The casino is approached by stairs contained between heavily rusticated grotto walls, with a central catena d'acqua, a cascaded rill, which the water flows down to a stone basin. At the top of the steps and set in an oval space are large statues of two reclining river gods to either side of a large central vase fountain. Stairs built into the oval walls lead up to the parterred terrace in front of the south facade of the casino. This part of the terrace is lined by stone herms with cypress trees. To the north of the casino is a private garden which steps up slightly and accommodates roses.

VILLA LANTE DI BAGNAIA
The Italian Renaissance garden was a new style of garden which emerged in the late 15th century at villas in Rome and Florence, inspired by classical ideals of order and beauty, and intended for the pleasure of the view of the garden and the landscape beyond, for contemplation, and for the enjoyment of the sights, sounds and smells of the garden itself.
In the late Renaissance, the gardens became larger and more symmetrical, and were filled with fountains, statues, grottoes, water organs and other features designed to delight their owners and amuse and impress visitors. The style was imitated throughout Europe, influencing the gardens of the French Renaissance and the English garden.

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