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  • View in the garden of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Isaac de Moucheron, c. 1725

    Public domain via Rijksmuseum

  • Orange blossom

    © Amelia Phillips

  • Villa d'Este, Tivoli

  • The Oval Fountain at Villa d'Este

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Tour Director

  • Discover classical and Renaissance villa culture in the Roman campagna, visiting beautiful gardens in the Italian spring sunshine

  • Marvel at fantastic constructions, including the elaborate fountain complexes at the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, and unlock the iconography of famous garden schemes

  • Enjoy a morning excursion to Rome to view the famous suburban Villa Farnesina

“Lucrezia is so knowledgeable and is able to communicate… in a way that is informative but also open to discussion”

- ACE customer on a previous tour led by Lucrezia Walker

From the age of antiquity through the Renaissance and Baroque periods and up to the present day, villas and country gardens have served as centres of rural leisure, aesthetic reflection, philosophical debate and even political strategy. Nowhere is this multiplicity of roles more in evidence than in those of the Roman campagna.
The emperors of ancient Rome expressed their authority by constructing vast rural retreats, with the Villa Adriana at Tivoli, the largest country estate in the Roman Empire, setting the precedent for much future garden planning. During the Renaissance, the classical ideals of villeggiatura – escape to the country – were developed further by the princes of the Church.


This tour will explore many of the beautiful gardens to be found in the Lazio region, delving into their design, iconography and the history of their patrons, as well as offering opportunities to contemplate and absorb the beauty of their form, planting and place within the wider Italian landscape.
Our tour will take in Cardinal Alessandro Farnese’s villa at Caprarola, complete with cascade and underground water theatre, and the extravagant narrative garden of Villa Lante at Bagnaia, where stunning views of the picturesque landscape are the backdrop to beautiful water fountains. The Mannerist garden at Bomarzo, meanwhile, with its strange sculptural collection of monsters, compels the viewer to consider the darker side of nature. A further highlight of our tour will be a visit to the delightful Renaissance Castello Ruspoli.
We also hope to enjoy a privileged visit to the Giardino di Ninfa, a modern earthly paradise dreamt up among the ruins of a medieval town and home to many varieties of rose, whose scent drifts across the air as the petals are warmed by the gentle sunshine of an Italian spring day.
The first three nights of our tour will be spent at the elegant four-star Hotel Niccolò V in Viterbo, a recently renovated property enjoying smart and comfortable rooms, well located for our visits. We will then move to the delightful four-star Park Hotel Villa Grazioli, on the hills of Frascati. A former 16th century cardinal’s residence, featuring frescoed interiors and enjoying spectacular views of the Roman campagna, our stay at the Villa Grazioli will enable the group to become immersed in villa life.
This tour will be led by Lucrezia Walker, BA, MA, a specialist in art history with over 20 years’ experience leading cultural tours in Europe. Lucrezia lectures at the National Gallery and teaches the London Art History programme for the University of North Carolina. She has lived, studied and worked in Italy, and is the author of several books. We will also enjoyed the expertise of local guides who will share the stories of the gardens as well as design and horticultural insights.

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