Less than twenty miles west of Rome is the ancient hillside town of Tivoli. Tivoli is older than Rome and is home to ancient ruins, musical gardens, and natural beauty. On this particular Sunday, my father was visiting me in Rome and we decided to take a day trip to visit our relatives there.
After enjoying a four-course meal made by my Great Aunt Enza, me and my father ventured into Villa d’Este. Villa d’Este is an Italian garden that was constructed under the rule of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este during the 1560’s. At the time, Ippolito lost the election to become the next Pope and was sent to govern over Tivoli as a sort of conciliation prize. His villa overlooks Tivoli as well as Rome in the distance. The back entrance to the villa overlooks a spectacular garden built upon terraces in the hillside.
The most interesting aspects of the gardens are that all of the fountains are both intricately engineered and strategically placed. Each fountain has a symmetrical equivalent on the opposite side of the garden. The water that flows through them is from the Aniene River, so the water pressure depends on the river’s conditions. My great aunt demonstrated their symmetry by pressing her finger over one small fountain, as we watched the water rise higher in the opposite fountain. I still am perplexed by how well thought out every little detail is.
The most infamous fountain plays music purely through water pressure. At certain times throughout the day, water is sent through the pipes and plays an instrumental song. For almost fifty years, the musical fountain was broken and no one knew how to fix it. Recently, one engineer was finally able to make it sing again.Interestingly enough, dozens of the villa’s beautiful fountains no longer work for unknown reasons. The engineers from hundreds of years ago were so brilliant that today no one knows how to fix them. Unless of course today’s engineers were to break them open to see inside, which would essentially destroy them in the process. Even though I was disappointed to not see some of them in action, I respect the intricacy behind them. Villa d’Este is a beautiful mystery and I am fortunate enough to live only a short train ride away.