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In and About Viterbo Bagnaia

Bagnaia is a small town on the slopes of Monte Cimino a few miles off Viterbo, known only for its thermal water (Bagno means bath), until it was chosen in the XVth century as summer residence of the bishops of Viterbo. Cardinal Riario, nephew of Sixtus IV (1471-84), felt the palace inside the walls to be a too modest residence and thought to expand Bagnaia by building a villa in the mountain above the town. Thus Bagnaia is made of two distinct parts: the old one (cittą di dentro inside) with a very medieval aspect inside the walls and the new one (cittą di fuori outside) with three streets departing from the same point and reaching the villa.

Main gate of Bagnaia and door of the Palace
Main gate of Bagnaia and door of the palace

The casino was redesigned in 1578 by Cardinal de' Gambara, who had in mind the Orti Farnesiani sul Palatino. A section of the wood of the old villa was turned into an Italian garden, which was divided by a series of fountains originating from a single source. The design by il Vignola provided for two exactly identical casinos facing each other and adding to the symmetry of the gardens and of the fountains.

Villa Lante general view
Villa Lante

In 1580 when only one of the casinos was completed Cardinal de' Gambara, maybe advised by Cardinal Borromeo, thought that the new villa could lead to criticism of his lifestyle and he stopped its completion. Gambero in Italian means shrimp and the coat of arms of Cardinal de' Gambara was a shrimp. The buildings and the fountains erected by him are all marked by shrimps (see in the image here below the shrimps on the little loggia at the top of the garden).

Fountain at the top of the hill and little casino
Fountain at the top of the hill and little casino

The fountains have an extremely high number of small waterfalls, resulting in a very pleasant sound, a sort of background music for the various pastimes of the host and his guests.

Fountains of the Appennines and of the Giants
Fountains of the Appennines and of the Giants

In the 1620's Cardinal Montalto, a relative of Sixtus V (1585-90) completed the villa by adding the second casino, which shows his heraldic symbols (a lion holding some pears and three mountains topped by a star). He also modified the sculpture at the center of the main fountain, by adding to the already existing four moors his heraldic symbol. The villa is now known as Villa Lante as it was acquired at a later stage by the Lante della Rovere family.

Main fountain
Main fountain with the heraldic symbol of Cardinal Montalto

The large park behind the villa is now a public garden: it has has some interesting fountains, although they are not part of an overall design.

Fountains in the park
Fountains in the Park

In and about Viterbo - other pages:
Orte and Vasanello
S. Maria della Querce
S. Martino al Cimino

Walks with Ferdinand Gregorovius in the Roman countryside

some other walks:
A walk to Porta Furba
Via Appia Antica from Cecilia Metella to Torre in Selci
Via Appia Antica from Torre in Selci to Frattocchie

See my Home Page on Baroque Rome or my Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller

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