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Full text of "Italian gardens"

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CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




FINE ARTS LIBRARY 




'm, 



Cornell University 
Library 



The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924064158870 



ITALIAN GARDENS 



THE CASCADE, VILLA CICOGNA 

FROM THE PICTURE IN THE POSSESSION OF 

Major Ernest Makins, D.S.O. 

[Seepagie I43] 



ITALIAN GARDENS 

AFTER DRAWINGS BY 

GEORGE S. ELGOOD, R.I. 

■3. ' 

WITH NOTES BY 

THE ARTIST 



LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. 
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 
NEW YORK, BOMBAY ^ CALCUTTA 
1907 



PREFACE 



The cordial reception given to the volume on " Some English Gardens," 
published in 1904, has encouraged me to hope that a similar volume on 
Italian gardens may be equally welcome. 

When in the year i88i I paid my first visit to Italy, the subjects 
that appealed to me more strongly than any others were those to be 
found in the old pleasure grounds attached for the most part to the 
great country houses. At that time, I commenced the series ot 
drawings which I have since continued, almost without a break, from 
year to year. The reproductions of them in this book represent but a 
tithe of the many drawings I have made during the last quarter of a 
century. Some of these were unsuitable for reproduction, while many 
others, especially the earlier sketches, have passed beyond my reach. 
This may account for the omission of several well-known gardens, and 
of others, less known, but well worthy of a place in this collection. 

Finding how much interest was aroused in the subject of the Italian 
villas by my drawings of them exhibited from time to time at the 
Galleries of the Fine Art Society, I began to collect materials for an 
extensive work on the subject, and filled numerous note-books with 
jottings, plans and sketches of detail. The present book has, to a great 
extent, been written with the aid of my original notes, but it was found 
impossible to include in a work of this class the plans, &c., which would 
have made clear much that is ambiguous in the text. 

I gladly avail myself of this opportunity to express my thanks to 
the owners of the many delightful gardens here presented, for the very 

V 



generous manner in which they have thrown open their villas to me ; 
also my great indebtedness to those who have so kindly lent me their 
pictures for reproduction, without whose courtesy this publication 
would not have been possible ; to Mr. Marcus B. Huish, for his 
valuable help in getting the pictures together ; and to Mr. A. Llewelyn 
Roberts, who has rendered me great assistance by his suggestions, both as 
to the letterpress and in the revision of the proof-sheets. 

And lastly, my thanks are due to the several publishers who with so 
much courtesy have allowed me to make use of quotations from various 
authors : Messrs. Sampson Low, Marston and Co., for an extract from 
" Nice and her Neighbours," by the late Dean Hole ; Mr. Elliot Stock, 
for an extract from " Rome, its Princes, Priests and People," by Fanny 
Maclaughlin ; and Messrs. J. M. Dent and Co., for an extract from 
" Florentine Villas," by Mrs. Ross. 

G. S. E. 



VI 



CONTENTS 



POMPEI 



Casa del Balcone Pensile 



Page 

3 



Roman Villas 

"Villa Borghese 
Villa Medici 
Villa Colonna 
Villa Corsini 
Villa di Papa Giulio 
Villa Piatti . 



II 
i8 

23 
29 

35 
39 



Villas at Frascati and Viterbo 

"Villa Falconieri . 

Villa Lancellotti . 

Villa Mondragone 

'Villa Aldobrandini 

Villa Conti . 
"Villa Lante in Bagnaja 

Florentine Villas 

^oboli Gardens . 
<Villa Palmieri 
-^ Villa Reale di Castello 
Villa Corsini 
Villa Amari . 
A Florentine Terrace , 



49 
53 
56 
60 
66 
72 



81 
86 
89 
96 

99 
104 



Vll 



Other Tuscan Villas 
Villa di Caniparola 
Villa Garzoni 



Page 
III 

"7 



Villas of Northern Italy 

Villa Cavagnaro 
Villa Imperiali 
Villa Arson . 
Villa Cicogna 
La Badia 



127 
132 
141 
146 
152 



List of Principal Works referred to 



159 



VUl 



ILLUSTRATIONS 





From Pictures in the 
possession of 


To face 
page 


The Cascade, Villa Cicogna . . . . 


Major Ernest Makins, D.S.O. Frontispiece 


Casa del Balcone Pensile, Pompei 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


■ 3 


Forecourt, Villa Borghese 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


II 


The Aviary, Villa Borghese . 


Mrs. Parkin 


12 


Villa Borghese : The Sea-horse Fountain 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


. i6 


Villa Medici . . 


Mr. Alfred H. Paget . 


i8 


Villa Colonna ... 


Miss Lyall . 


23 


The Parterre, Villa Colonna . 


Miss Lyall .... 


■ 24 


Upper Terrace, Villa Corsini . 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


29 


At the Foot of the Cascade, Villa Corsini 


Mrs. Fielding Johnson 


30 


Villa di Papa Giulio 


Le Chevalier Carlo Albanesi 


35 


Villa Piatti ... . . 


Mrs. Strickland . 


39 


Terminal Statues, Villa Piatti . 


Col. Ivor J. C. Herbert, C.B., M.P 


40 


Villa Piatti : The Bay Walk . 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


42 


11 Laghetto, Villa Falconieri . 


Lady Mount-Stephen . 


49 


Villa Lancellotti 


Mr. Thomas Bartlett . 


S3 


The Dragon Fountain, Villa Mondragone 


Miss McGhee . 


56 


Villa Aldobrandini : Fountain in the Parterre . 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


60 


—Villa Aldborandini 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


64 


Fountain in the Bosco, Villa Conti 


Lady Mount-Stephen . 


^ 


The Great Fountain, Villa Conti . 


Mr. J. F. Cheetham - . 


68 


Villa Conti ... . . . 


Mrs. Gerald Peel 


70 


~Villa Lante in Bagnaja . 


Mr. C. John Mann 


72 


Azaleas . . ' . 


Mr. R. A. Hadfield . 


74 


ix 







La Vasca dell' Isolotto, Boboli Gardens . 

Villa Palmieri : Flora and Pomona . 

Florence from the Villa Palmieri 

The Palazzo from the Parterre, Villa Palmieri 

Villa Reale di Castello . 

In the Bosco, Villa Corsini 

Fountain, Villa Corsini 

Villa Amari : The Fountain 

Villa Amari : The Belvedere 

A Florentine Terrace 

Villa di Caniparola . 

The Fountain, Villa di Caniparola . 

The Garden Gate, Villa di Caniparola . 

Giuoco deir Pallone, Villa Garzoni . 

The Parterre, Villa Garzoni 

The Great Stairway, Villa Garzoni . 

Head of the Great Stair, Villa Garzoni . 

The Dragon Gateway, Villa Garzoni 

Wistaria, Villa Cavagnaro 

Villa Cavagnaro : The Parterre 

The Lower Terrace, Villa Imperial 

China Roses, Villa Imperiali . 

Villa Arson : Fountain of Venus 

A Stairway, Villa Arson . 

Gateway, Villa Arson 

Villa Cicogna : Below the Cascade 

La Badia : Forecourt of the Monastery 

La Badia : The Monastery Garden . 



From Pictures in tie 


To Jace 


possession of 


page 


Mrs. Parkin 


. 8l 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


• 85 


Mrs. Gerald Peel 


86 


Mr. John Gallatly 


88 


Mrs. Bompas 


. 90 


Mrs, Croft .... 


■ 96 


Mrs. Crawford Hayes . 


• 98 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


. 100 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


. 102 


Lt.-Colonel Rogers 


. 104 


Sir Fredk. Wigan, Bart.* . 


. Ill 


Sir Fredk. Wigan, Bart.* . 


. 112 


Mr. John McKay 


. 114 


Mrs. L. CunlifFe . 


• 11; 


Mrs. Croft . 


. 118 


Mr. R. A. Briggs 


. 120 


Mr. Leo F. Schuster . 


. 122 


Mrs. Croft .... 


124 


Mr. A. D. Acland 


. 127 


Mrs. L. Cunliffe . 


. 128 


Mr. Charles H. Aldridge . 


• 132 


Sir James Whitehead, Bart. 


134 


Mr. George S. Elgood 


. 141 


Countess Granville 


. 142 


Miss Moore 


• 144 


Sir Jas. Lewis Walker, CLE. 
Miss McGhee V . 


. 146 


• 152 


Mrs. Parkin 


■ IS4 



■ Sir Frederick Wigan died in April last 



POMPEI 




tL.^iSiU^'.'Lj.^.yivi 



CASA DEL BALCONE PENSILE 



It would be outside the province of this book to attempt to trace the 
history of gardening from its beginnings. Homer, Solomon, and many 
other writers of antiquity have left us more or less scant references to 
the gardens of their day. All these references have a strong similarity ; 
Homer's poetical description of the gardens of Alcinous would fit equally 
well many a garden in the East even at the present day : "... without 
the courtyard hard by the door is a great garden, of four plough-gates, 
and a hedge runs round on either side. And there grow tall trees 
blossoming, pear-trees and pomegranates, and apple-trees with bright 
fruit, and sweet figs, and olives in their bloom. . . . There too hath he 
a fruitful vineyard planted. . . . There, too, skirting the furthest line, 
are all manner of garden beds, planted trimly, that are perpetually fresh, 
and therein are two fountains of water, whereof one scatters his streams 
all about the garden, and the other runs over against it beneath the 
threshold of the courtyard, and issues by the lofty house, and thence did 
the townsfolk draw water." ^ 

It was from the Greeks that the Romans chiefly learnt the art of 
gardening, as they learnt many another art. In the austere days of the 
Republic, when the Roman thought it no disgrace to cultivate his own 
land, his garden was of the simplest description, being little more in fact 
than a kitchen-garden, and flowers, if he cultivated them at all, were 
represented by some half-dozen kinds only. By degrees, however, the 
simpler villa rustica, or farm-house, gave place to the villa urbana or villa 
pseudo-urbana. The latter, built purely for pleasure, was not only more 
commodious than the town house, but in addition gained the advantage 



of purer air and beautiful landscape surroundings. The sea-shore and the 
lower slopes of the Apennines, more especially in the immediate vicinity 
of Rome, were at an early date occupied by the villas of the wealthy, 
though these were also to be found in every part, not only of Italy but 
of the whole Roman Empire. 

To this class belong the villas described by the younger Pliny in 
his Letters. Of these the description of his Tuscan villa is the most 
complete and interesting. He writes : " My house, although built at 
the foot of a hill, has a view as if it stood upon the brow of it. . . . 
Behind it, but at a distance, is the Apennine mountain. ... In the 
front of it is a portico, pretty large and of a proportionable length, 
in which there are several apartments ; and the court is laid out after 
the manner of the ancients. 

" Before the portico is a terrace, adorned with various figures and 
bounded with an edging of box. Below this is a gravel walk, on each 
side of which are figures of divers animals cut in box. Round a 
level plot is a walk bounded by a close hedge of evergreens cut 
into variety of shapes ; on the other side is a ring, for taking the 
air on horseback, in the shape of a circus, which goes round the 
box-hedge, that is cut into different shapes, and a row of dwarf 
trees that are always kept sheared. The whole is encompassed with 
a wall so screened with box that no part of it can be seen. . . . 
Almost opposite to the middle of the portico is a summer-house, which 
surrounds a small court shaded by four plane-trees, in the midst of which 
a marble fountain gently plays upon those trees and upon the grass-plots 
under them. ... In the corner of the portico is a very spacious bed- 
chamber, facing the dining-room, with windows both to the terrace and 
to the meadows, and before it a piece of water, which delights at once 
our ears and eyes, being near and in the view of the front windows, and 
falling from a considerable height into a marble cistern, where it breaks 
and foams. . . . 

"The disposition of the several parts of the house is extremely 
delightful, although it equals in no degree the beauty of the hippo- 
drome, which is a large open area set round with plane-trees. . 
The strait boundary of the hippodrome changes its figure at the end into 

4 



a semicircle, set round and covered with cypress-trees. The inner circles 
enjoy the clearest day. They are filled with plenty of roses, and relieve you 
from the chilliness of the shade with the agreeable warmth of the sun. 

" When you arrive at the end of all these winding alleys, you come out 
into a strait walk ; nay, not into one, but into several, divided, in some 
places by grass-plots, in others by box-trees, cut into a thousand shapes. 
At the upper end of the middle space is a couch made of white marble, 
over which a vine, supported by four small pillars of Garystrian marble, 
forms an arbour. From the couch several pipes spout forth water, as if 
forced out by the weight of those who lye down. It falls first into 
a stone cistern, and from thence into a marble bason, and is so managed 
by pipes underground, that it keeps the bason always full, without ever 
running over. When I sup here, the more substantial dishes are placed 
upon the border of the bason, whilst the lesser float in the water, in the 
shape of little boats and birds. Over against this is a fountain which 
throws up water. ... In many places of the walks and alleys are marble 
seats, disposed at convenient distances ; upon which when you are tired 
with walking, you may rest yourself with much ease. Near these seats 
are little fountains. In every part of the hippodrome you hear the 
murmur of water, conveyed through pipes by the hand of the artificer, 
in such a manner as best pleased his fancy. This serves to water my 
greens, sometimes in one part, sometimes in another, and sometimes in 
all parts at once, . . . You now see the reasons why I prefer my seat in 
Tuscany to those I have at 1'usculum, Tibur and Preeneste ; the repose I 
enjoy here is more quiet and undisturbed than anywhere else." 

Something may also be learnt of the lesser gardens of the Romans 
from the various wall-paintings that have been discovered at Pompei and 
Herculaneum, as well as of the more permanent adornments of their 
garden-courts, in the few cases where these have been left in situ. These 
gardens are usually small rectangular enclosures, often surrounded by 
a colonnade as is the case in the House of the Vettii. This house, though 
not large, derives its chief interest from its well-preserved frescoes and 
other ornaments, some of which still remain in position. All round the 
garden are placed various fountain-basins, oblong or round, raised upon 
pedestals, into which jets of water played from statuettes standing on 

5 



independent pedestals. Other statuettes and terminal figures are set 
about the garden, and some attempt has been made even to restore the 
box-bordered beds, which are planted with flowers. 

In the small garden of the house of Lucretius we find a niche 
encrusted with mosaic and shell-work, where stands a Silenus from whose 
wine-skin the water is issuing. In front of the niche, five marble steps 
form a miniature cascade, the water from which is conducted along 
a shallow channel to a circular fountain-basin. All round are placed 
statuettes, terminal figures, animals, and birds. In this and other 
gardens Bacchus, with bacchantes and satyrs, figures largely. Occa- 
sionally the sculpture is quite good, but more often it shows a marked 
inferiority, though always interesting and in keeping with its environ- 
ment. 

In these gardens fountains naturally play an important part, and occa- 
sionally, as in the Casa del Balcone Pensile, the garden is so restricted 
(being not more than ten feet square) that little room is left for anything 
besides the amorino and its accompanying tazza. 

Among the wall-paintings at Pompei a few pictures of gardens 
appear. These show beds of flowers and fruit-trees enclosed with reed- 
fences, such as are used about Naples to-day, arbours and pergole of trellis- 
work covered with vines and creepers, fountains, statues, pavilions, and 
aviaries ; in every case tame or wild fowl are depicted perching among 
the trees or strutting in the foreground. 

That topiary work was to be found in these small gardens there can 
be no doubt, for was not the topiarius classed among the higher slaves ? 
It was the necessity of keeping shrubs within bounds that first led men 
to clip trees into various shapes. At no great distance from Pompei, on 
the outskirts of a small town, more than one of the gardens has just 
such figures cut in box as those described by Pliny as existing in his 
own villas. Doubtless the tradition of this adjunct to the gardening art 
has been handed down through the generations. 

With the invasion of the barbarians and the fall of the Empire, 
the pleasant country life came to an end, and for long centuries the 
art of gardening was barely kept alive in the cloister and the castle- 
garth. By slow degrees, however, as civilisation once more began to 

6 



assert itself, gardening, together with the other arts, seems to have revived. 
In the hey-day of the Renaissance, when the demand came from the great 
nobles for gardens to match their splendid palaces and country houses, the 
architect turned instinctively for his inspiration to the writings of the 
younger Pliny and his contemporaries. Many of the new villas were 
laid out on the ruins of the ancient ones, and the statues and antique 
sculptures excavated on the spot were frequently used to adorn both the 
palace and its gardens. 



ROMAN VILLAS 



THE VILLA BORGHESE 



Richard Lassels, in his " Voyage of Italy," writing about the year 
1 670, says, " Crossing over the Fields, I went to Burghesis Villa and 
garden, which are a little half mile from the Town. This is the greatest 
Villa that's about Rome. For here you have store of walks, both open 
and close, Fish-Ponds, vast Cages for Birds, thickets of Trees, store 
of Fountains, a Park of Deer, a world of Fruit-trees, Statues of all 
sizes, Banquetting places, Grotta^s, Wetting Sports, and a stately Pallace 
adorned with so many rare Statues and Pictures, that their names make 
a Book in Octavo, which I refer you to. As for the Pallace it self, it's 
compassed on both sides, by a fair semicircle of Statues, which stand 
before the two doors, like old Penates and Lares. The Wall of the 
House is overcrusted with a world of Anticallie, or old Marble-pieces 
of Antiquity : As that of Curtius spurring into the Forago ; That of 
Europa hurryed away by "Jupiter, become a Bull, with a world of such 
like Fables. Entring into the house, I saw divers Rooms full of 
curiosities." 

We could wish that Lassels had given us, in his quaint language, 
a more detailed account of these gardens, of whose early state and 
history we really know remarkably little. 

The Villa Borghese or Pinciana, one of the largest, as it is indeed 
one of the most interesting and varied of the Villas in the vicinity of 
Rome, lies immediately outside the walls of the City, between the 
Porta del Popolo and the Porta Pinciana. Originally of quite modest 
dimensions, it has from time to time absorbed the adjoining podert, 
including the Villa Giustiniani, and it may be noted that the entrance 

1 1 



gateway of the Villa Borghese outside the Porta del Popolo was 
originally the entrance to the Villa Giustiniani. 

Together with the Pincio, which it adjoins, it is the favourite 
evening promenade of the Romans, especially since it has become 
public property; it is also perhaps the best known of all the Villas, as 
visitors must pass through it in order to reach the Borghese Gallery. 

At one time the property of the Altemps family, this villa was 
much enlarged about the year 1608 by Scipio Caffarelli, who took 
the name of Borghese, when his uncle Paolo V. gave him the 
Cardinal's hat. The Borghese family have from time to time enriched 
the gardens and palace by the addition of a number of statues and other 
works of antique sculpture. Happily, many of these still remain, though 
the empty pedestals that encircle some of the minor fountains tell the 
tale of statues destroyed or carried away to already overcrowded 
galleries. 

The gardens were planted by Domenico Savino di Monte Pulciano, 
the architectural work being entrusted to the Lombard architect, 
Girolamo Rainaldi, and the water- works are said to have been designed 
by Giovanni Fontana. 

These grounds are a most fortunate combination of the formal 
garden and the park. The principal roads and alleys are straight, and 
as a rule at right angles with each other. At their intersection there is 
often placed a fountain, a temple, or some other architectural feature 
to give point and interest. A pleasant shade is given to these roads 
by avenues of ilex of sturdy growth, gnarled and twisted with age, 
which originally formed hedges clipped square. According to old 
prints, some of them were cut in two stages ; the lower portion 
was a square cut hedge about breast high ; then came an opening 
free from leafage and only broken by the stems of the trees, and above 
this another square mass of foliage : the idea of this arrangement 
being to get the additional shade provided by a higher hedge, without 
the disadvantage of shutting out the prospect and the air. 

High box hedges, broken at intervals by pedestals carrying vases 
and statues, also played an important part in the laying out of the 
gardens, in the higher part of which stands the palazzo, built for 

12 





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Paolo V. from the designs of Gio. Antonio Vansantio and Flaminio 
Pontico in the early years of the seventeenth century. 

Like the Villa Papa Giulio, this palazzo does not appear to have 
been built as a dwelling, so much as a place in which to entertain 
friends and the numerous strangers who flocked to the Court of Rome 
from all parts of the civilised world. The principal facade was enriched 
with statues and busts, bas-reliefs and other antiques ; many of which 
were discovered on the Borghese estates, though only a portion now 
remains. A feature of the palace is the loggia or portico of five arches, 
raised above the forecourt and reached by a flight of steps. Above the 
grey tiled roof with its projecting eaves, rise two turrets or belvederi 
which give a pleasing variety to its outline. 

Adjoining the Palazzo, on either side of it, lay the giardini segreti. 
The larger of these gardens contains the Aviary, to which Evelyn 
refers as " a volary full of curious birds," one of those quaint 
erections in which the architect's fancy seems to have run riot. 
Broken pediments, swags and vases of flowers, crowned eagles, ball 
finials, gaping masks, and pilasters with dragon capitals, are put together 
with that delightful disregard for law and order which characterises 
the rococo artist. 

These long strips of garden must have been delightful in the old 
days, with their high walls screened by box or bay, with here and 
there a little wall fountain, and beds filled with old-fashioned 
flowers and pot-herbs. At intervals, around and among the beds, 
were lemon-trees planted in terra-cotta vases, and, \w the centre, a dragon 
with expanded wings gave point to a charming fountain. 

After long years of neglect, during which all semblance of garden 
had been obliterated, the giardini segreti have lately been put in order. 
The walls have been thrown down, the rubbish cleared from the 
fountains and some rather uninteresting grass plots and walks have been 
laid out ; it is much to be regretted that some attempt was not made 
to lay them out once more, according to the original scheme as shown 
in old plans of the gardens. 

Even in its restored and mutilated state the forecourt of the palazzo 
is still one of the most notable features of the villa. The court is 

13 



surrounded by a balustrade with stone seats, the pters between being 
carved alternately with the crowned eagle and the dragon of the 
Borghese family. At each of the three openings and at the angles, 
are placed taller bases, which carry antique draped statues, quiet and 
dignified, and which seem specially adapted to their position. The side 
walls are skilfully arranged to suit the slope of the ground, the seats 
which rise one above the other having a particularly happy effect, and 
where the principal alley enters the court, the piers on either side 
have fountain basins attached to them into which the water spurts from 
grotesque masks. 

Before its restoration, not only was the stonework good in design 
and execution, but the scheme of colour was especially beautiful. 
The pleasant grey travertine takes kindly to the weather, its open 
grain being specially favourable to the growth of lichen, moss, and 
small green things, and where it had received the splash of the foun- 
tain, the carved work was almost hidden beneath a mantle of maiden- 
hair fern and rich green moss. In an evil hour, it fell into the hands 
of the restoring mason, who re-chiselled all the stone-work — the statues 
only escaping. Kindly Nature will in time replace the moss and lichen ; 
she is already doing her best, but the re-chiselling is an irretrievable 
damage to such work as this. That no restoration was necessary, goes 
without saying, but some one in authority disliked the exquisite colour, 
and thought it looked " old and dirty " ; and that is a sufficient 
reason for restoration in any civilised country. 

There is a story current in Rome that the original balustrade 
was bought by a wealthy American and carried away to his country 
house in England, and that the Borghese balustrade is a copy. It would 
be a little difficult to accept this story, except on very good authority ; 
it may have arisen from the fact that a similar balustrade has long 
existed in England ; the man who was vandal enough to have removed 
the original would certainly have preferred a brand new balustrade. 

Each of the minor piers formerly carried a vase or great 
pot containing a lemon tree or evergreen shrub ; while the ilex 
trees that surround the court were clipped to form a hedge some 
twenty feet high, with the upper part overhanging ; not an 



uncommon feature in Italian gardens, where shade is an important 
matter. 

A few years ago, small square seats or pedestals, carved in high 
relief with scroll-work, swags and other ornament, existed between each 
pair of benches, but unfortunately these disappeared at the time of the 
so-called restoration. 

Two fountains, designed by Vansantio, which belong to the original 
gardens, are still in existence. They lie among the evergreen oaks 
in the pleasant shady little valley beneath the Casino. From the 
centre of a large oval cistern rises a fountain of simple but excellent 
design, basin above basin, with the familar baluster-shaped support. 

These two fountains, apparently of white marble, but now toned 
and made still more exquisite with lichen, moss and water-weeds, are 
similar in general design, but the details and proportions are different. 
The taller of the two is singularly graceful and satisfying. Surround- 
ing them is a circle of stone seats with pedestals for statues. The 
statues are unhappily things of the past, and the ilex hedges, some 
twenty feet high, shown in old prints, are grown beyond recognition. 

Almost in a line with Vansantio's fountains, but lower down the 
little valley, was the lago^ which formerly received the overflow from 
the various fountains. On the plan made by Felice it is shown as a 
rectangular piece of water, with a couple of woody islands, no doubt 
intended as quiet nesting-places for the waterfowl. When the new 
lago by the Temple of Esculapius was made, towards the close of the 
eighteenth century, the old one was probably filled up by the landscape 
gardener. 

At the back of the palazzo looking northward was another loggia 
or arcaded gallery, open to the cool fresh mountain breezes, and 
commanding an extensive view of the campagna with the valley of 
the Tiber, and of the blue Sabine Hills away to the right. 

Below lies a rectangular court, overgrown with grass, and surrounded 
by statues, of various periods and degrees of interest, sarcophagi, and 
great earthenware wine-jars, picturesquely placed against a background 
of ancient ilex trees. A circular fountain basin marks the centre of 
this court, where formerly stood Vansantio's " Fountain of Narcissus." 

15 



This is only a part of a much larger enclosure, originally planted 
with rows of trees, forming a compact bosco. At the farther end 
an interesting teatro still exists where openings in the wall, giving 
a view of park and landscape beyond, have been made the excuse 
for a quite elaborate architectural enrichment. Opposite to this, a 
semicircle of statues, hedged round with trees, completes a teatro which 
is still a delightful retreat towards the close of a summer's day. 

Another feature which can hardly be passed over without mention, 
is the great gateway at the end of the private gardens, with its scalloped 
wall and oval niches for busts. This, like the very much decorated 
lodge which faces it, is evidently work of the same period as the Aviary. 
The principal entrance to the Villa was originally near the Porta 
Pinciana. This was an arched gateway of travertine with the Borghese 
arms in the pediment, from which an avenue of elms led to a rustic 
fountain placed in the wall of the first enclosure, and close to the 
spot where the " Sea-horse fountain " now stands, which was no 
doubt removed when the wall between the garden and the park was 
thrown down. This rock-work fountain was one of the class so much 
in favour with the seventeenth-century architects, or their patrons. An 
archway in the wall was surrounded by a deep frame of rock-work, set 
beneath a classic pediment, a huge grotesque mask encrusted with stalac- 
titic growth being an important feature above the arch. Below, in 
the shadow of the archway, reposed a river-god, his arm resting on an 
overturned vessel from which the water gushed out. A jet above the 
archway threw a transparent sheet of water, half hiding, half revealing 
the landscape beyond. Kjet d'eau on each side, with water streaming 
down the rock-work into a great basin, completed the tout ensemble. 
Our superior twentieth-century taste laughs at these puerile devices, but 
are we really so far in advance of them ? 

The " Sea-horse fountain," a bold and effective piece of work 
attributed to Bernini, occupies a prominent position where four alleys 
meet. From out the shadow of the great basin issue forth prancing 
steeds, tossing their shaggy manes and flourishing their absurd tails, 
and the fountain rejoices in a plentiful supply of water, without 
which the best planned fountain is apt to look somewhat insipid. 

i6 



Not a stone's throw away lies the Piazza di Siena, a kind of 
hippodrome, with continuous seats, or steps, raised one above another, 
and the running track marked out by tall cypresses, and hedges of box, 
which according to Percier and Fontaine was laid out at the end of the 
eighteenth century. Behind the seats are fine groups and masses of 
stone pines. On a summer's day no more delightful lounge than this 
can be imagined, the cool long grass, the welcome shade, together 
with the pleasant fresh smell of the pines, making a quiet resting-place 
which few can resist. 

The plan made by Simon Felice shortly after the gardens were 
laid out, shows that, in general outline at least, that portion of the 
gardens immediately surrounding the palazzo still remains much as it 
was originally. But outside a line drawn from the aviary to the little 
" Temple of Diana " great changes have taken place ; the Ragnaia 
Grande, a " wood for hunting thrushes " which appears to have con- 
sisted of six or eight rows of trees, planted avpnue fashion, and 
reaching to the boundary wall, has disappeared and the Piazza di Siena 
occupies a portion of its site. To the earlier period belong two 
pavilions on either side of the Piazza, as well as the Ostrich house 
beyond, and the Palazzino with its little terraced garden, near to the 
Giardino del Lago. 

To a much later date belongs this Giardino del Lago, which as 
a matter of fact Percier and Fontaine tell us was in process of con- 
struction during their stay. Divided from the carriage-way by an iron 
fence, and pedestals which carry dilapidated statues, mostly of doubtful 
value, is what was possibly a more private garden. This is partly laid 
out with straight broad walks — but with trees and shrubs planted to 
a great extent in haphazard fashion. Among these are some stone seats, 
and sarcophagi with other ancient sculptures, cages occupied by unhappy 
looking birds and beasts, and, beyond, a lake reflecting in its not too 
pellucid surface a kind of temple dedicated to Esculapius. This mixture 
of the formal and the informal is rarely a success. The best thing in 
the garden is the view away from over the vineyards and the campagna. 

17 



VILLA MEDICI 

Of the many villas within the walls of Rome, and they appear to have 
been almost as numerous as those without the walls, the Villa Medici 
held a very high position, not only on account of its situation, which 
was perhaps the finest in Rome, but owing to the great charm of its 
garden and palace and the important works of art that at one time 
found a place within its bounds, scattered about its gardens or beneath 
the shelter of its toggle. Of these there still remain sufficient to giYt to 
it more than ordinary interest. 

Situated beyond the Church of Trinita de' Monti, on the higher'' 
part of Mte. Pincio, from earliest times a favourite site, it occupies one 
of the most agreeable and salubrious positions within the walls of Rome. 
On this hill, called by the ancients " Collis Hortorum," were situated 
the famous ga,rdens of LucuUus, the wealthy and luxurious. These 
gardens were of the utmost beauty and magnificence, and were adorned 
with many valuable statues and works of art. 

A portion of this site, with the Aqua Virgo flowing beneath it, the 
Villa Medici is supposed to cover. It overlooks that part of the city 
which was once the Campus Martins, towards the Vatican Palace and 
gardens, St. Peter's, the Janiculum and Vatican Hills, with Mte. Mario 
to the right. Begun towards the middle of the sixteenth century from 
designs of Annibale Lippi, for Giovanni Ricci of Mte. Pulciano whom 
Pope Julius III. made a Cardinal in 1 551, it passed shortly after- 
wards into the hands of Cardinal Ferdinando Medici, son of Cosmo I., ' 
who succeeded his brother Francis as third Grand Duke of Tuscany, 
whom he is credited with having poisoned. 

18 



It has been suggested that Michael Angelo designed the garden 
ia9ade of the palazzo, but this is disputed or at least does not appear to 
be proved. That it is a remarkably successful work and worthy of any 
master, no one can deny. The cleverness and originality of the 
decoration of this fafade with its playful beauty and delicate grace lift 
It out of the ordinary, and render it essentially suitable to its garden 
surroundings. As seen from the garden the effect of the palazzo, with 
its slightly projecting wings, its higher middle portion flanked by turrets 
and turret balconies with the connecting balustrade, once adorned with 
statues, as at the Villa Borghese, is faultlessly beautiful. 

Noticeable too is the superb loggia, with its antique columns of 
granite and cippolino placed so as to command the garden, for it should 
not be forgotten that the prospect from these garden loggie was of great 
consequence, since they were intended to play such an important part in 
the daily life. The most essential point in the design is the employment 
in this fa9ade of precious antique bas-reliefs, which with consummate art 
break the monotony of the larger wall spaces without unduly cutting 
them up. Everywhere there is a fulness of detail giving an effect 
similar to that which is to be seen in the best mosaic work, and all is 
kept in strict order by the few strong dividing lines of the greater 
features. 

To turn to the garden. The first essential to an ideal garden is the 
parterre spread out immediately beneath the windows of the house 
displaying the pattern of the flower beds to the best advantage. Beyond 
this should be some compartments on a larger and broader scale, 
preparing the way for the wild or comparatively wild grounds beyond. 
But in the case of the Villa Medici, as so frequently happens, the 
natural lie of the ground interferes with such an arrangement, and 
the parterre lies in front of the palazzo with the simpler garden to 
the left and the bosco, which takes the place of the wild garden, to the 
right. 

Falda has left us twa prints of the villa as it appeared in his day, 
which show that its general lines remain much as they were years ago. 
The loggia opens on to a court with a simple well-designed fountain 
in its centre. Between the windows, and elsewhere are placed statues, 

19 



and in the court there are two great basins of Oriental granite, 
twenty-four palms long, which were brought from the Baths of Titus. 
Immediately beyond this is the parterre, divided into six main 
"quarters," each possessing its small central fountain and embroidery 
of cut box. An obelisk, surrounded by four uncut cypresses, occupies 
the principal position, where to-day stands the so-called fountain of 
Venus. The remainder of the garden on this level is divided by 
high hedges cut in two stages, into sixteen compartments, which 
seem to have been variously planted with fruit and other trees. To 
the right, by the side of the parterre, runs the great terrace wall, 
with its architectural treatment of niches, with pilasters and cornice 
and balustrade above. By a staircase within the wall the somewhat 
formal bosco is reached, through which a pathway leads to the 
" mount " or gazebo, which is ascended by a steep flight of steps and 
is described by Falda as Mausoleo cercondato di Cipressi. 

This " mount," beyond which was another garden of flowers and 
" simples " laid out in geometrical pattern, deserves notice as being 
one of the few to be found in Italy, where, owing to the fall of the 
ground, there is generally no object in having them. In England, on 
the other hand, where the high garden walls made them almost a 
necessity, they were at one time frequently to be found. 

Of all this but little is changed, though the bosco of fine old 
ilex trees with their dark rich foliage and gnarled trunks has grown 
wilder and more picturesque. 

When the Grand Dukes removed the more valuable statues from 
the Gallery to Florence, the garden to a great extent also was 
despoiled of all that was best worth removing. The whole group of 
Niobe and her Children, which occupied a special pavilion at the 
extremity of the garden ; the statue of Cleopatra, which also had a 
casino or pavilion to itself, overhanging the city wall ; the bronze 
Mercury of Giovanni da Bologna, executed for the Grand Duke 
in 1598, which stood in ^the fountain at the top of the steps 
leading to the loggia, and a copy of which has recently been placed 
in its former position, were included with many others in the 
spoliation. 

20 



The fountain in the court near the palazzo deserves special note. 
It is one of those charmingly simple and well-designed fountains 
every line of which is right. Unfortunately this fountain is usually 
so hidden in a mass of arum lilies that half its beauty is lost. The 
fountain of Venus also, in the parterre beyond, I have seen so 
smothered in arums that of the spouting dolphins nothing was visible 
and little of the "Venus herself. 

The somewhat severe lines of the box hedges might be felt a 
little oppressive, were it not for the neighbouring grove of ilex and 
the fine groups of stone pines which are such a striking feature of 
the garden. 

From the approach terrace, at the side of the palazzo, one looks 
over the soft grey roofs and minor domes and turrets to that dominating 
feature in the surrounding landscape, the dome of St. Peter's, which 
nowhere is seen to such advantage. 

On the opposite side of the gardens (from the palace) the ground is 
on a level with the top of the old city walls, and one looks over the 
Borghese park and the Campagna. At many salient points, in the 
hedges and elsewhere, stand terminal statues of marble. Where paths 
cross, the corners are cut off and often hollowed out so as to receive 
marble benches now all mellowed with age. 

Placed at intervals in the gardens are good sarcophagi. Some of 
these are used as fountain basins, in others China roses are planted. Once 
scattered in every direction and converted into cisterns and washing vats, 
and even troughs for swine, they came to be recognised later as works of 
art, worthy to decorate nobles' gardens. 

In the parterre, with its five-foot high hedges of box, there is a pro- 
fusion of flowers, including China roses, pale pink and deep crimson, 
pansies, pinks, poppies, snapdragons and larkspurs, with here and there 
an oleander or magnolia, and all along the terrace wall clambering over 
the statues and niches are various climbing tea-roses, while round the 
court, between the marble benches, set baci; against the box hedge, are 
ranged great pots of red or white azalea. 

Formerly the road that now leads to the Pincian Gardens ended at 
the forecourt of the Villa Medici. This court is enclosed on three sides 



21 



by old ilex trees, clipped square. Beneath the deep shade of these, and 
opposite to the grand portal, is a simple well-proportioned fountain, 
over which arch the ilex trees, forming a vista with St. Peter's in the 
distance. This fountain is mentioned by Evelyn as having a jet fifty feet 
high, but water is not so plentiful now. 



22 



iz 
J3JBM aq; puB 'Suiuado p9t|DaB ub utij^tm psoBid 3Jb suiBiunoj asaijx 
•flBM 3i|i ui suTBiunoj Xq stqj JO apis jaqjya uo ^uBjsiprabs puB 
'qppiui 3X{} UT Xbmjibjs b joj SuTuado paqojB aq; Xq 'saSpuq aajqj 
aqj ajTSoddo 'ua^fojq XyqBaajSB st qojqM 'ypM aoBJjaj b st 'adop 
aq} JO aDBj a|oqM aqj ssojdb papjBD puB "-aauafuvcf siqj puoXag 

•xoq JO XjapTOjquia jo ijjoav-^ojds pa^BOj^diuoo b 
qjTM UI pajjij ajB qoxqM ^/sjouif „ jo sjuaxiUJBdxuoD utbui aajqj oiui 
s^pM paipABjS pBojq Xq paptAip sbm puB ^auuBfuv^ aqj sb jno piB^ 
X|yBjn}Bu SBM jj 'aoB^Bd aqj jo sMopuiM aqj japun XpjBTpauinii 
sai| aoBJjaj }SJij aq} 'patjqnBaq puB pajojsaj Xpuaoaj jnq uaaq SBq 
uapjB§ aq; jBq? sn s^aj oqM 'tsb^ Xq SuxABjSua ub m uMoqs sy 

•aouasajd sji 
^uasaj oj paujpuT ssaj aqj sti sasjBui puB jpsji ui qSnoua jnjpnBaq 
jCyuiBjjaD ST qaiqM 'uaajDS ajqBjjauaduiT ^sotujB ub uijoj oj saajj jaqjo 
puB sassajdXo aqj qjxM pauxquroo aABq puB 'puBq jo jno jaqjBJ 
umojS aABq saSpaq xajx aqj 'ajBuixp aqj Xq pajtioABj 'bjjxa jaqiouB 
XuBui ux SB 'sxqj ux jtxg -uoxjuajux ;Bqj qjxM pauSxsap uaaq aABq oj 
SJBaddB B^jxA aqj puB 'sMopuxM aqj uiojj ajqxsxA sba!V apxs-|jxq apqM 
aqj 'jxxo pxB| jsjy uaqAV '^TII-^ ^H' J° aoBJja^ ;saMO| aqj qjXAV 
aDBpj BUUOJ03 aqj jo joo^ pdpuxjd aqj joauuoo saqoJB asaqx 

•XjBjj ux uapjBS uA\o} B JO sajdiuBxa axxbsajnjoxd puB Suxjsajajux 
}soiu aqj JO auo saq jqSxj sxq oj apxs-i|xq daajs aqj uo ^Bqj sjoadsxis 
apjji 'jaajjs aqj UBds jBqj sapBj^snpq Jxaqj qjxM. saqojB jo saxjas 
auiospuBq aqj qjBauaq SuxssBd puB 'bwojxj bx^ aq; o}ui a^BuoizB^ 
Bx^ ujapoxii aq; jo jno Suxujnj 'auio'g ux jajapuBM pnsBO aHX 



VNNOTIOD ViaiA 



flows into a low curved basin placed between two rudely carved 
caryatides, which support a pediment with a* curved top. Above 
the terrace wall is to be seen a steep slope. The central feature of 
this part of the villa is a double stairway in several flights, which, 
being arranged in a series of curves, recede and approach one 
another at each resting-place. This stair leads up to a Jrontispizio, 
a series of niches framed in with pilasters and entablature, which 
screens part of the great terrace wall. From the central niche 
descends a kind of waterfall. All the architectural features are set 
off by balustrades and statues, slim obelisks, and balls, with many 
vases containing lemon-trees. One other feature of this part of the 
garden was the arbour or covered walk that, starting on each side 
of the stairway, ran the whole length of the slope, and made a 
pleasant shade in what would otherwise have been a shadeless garden. 

The absence of shade may possibly have influenced the changes 
which were shortly afterward made in this lower garden. Ilex 
hedges were freely planted all along the slope, bordering the 
various pathways and the central stair. These, which possibly were 
only intended in the first instance to form high hedges, have now 
grown into large trees, so converting all the lower grounds into a 
shady grove, most pleasant in the early summer, and making the 
hanging garden on the summit of the hill accessible from the palace 
even on the warmest days. 

In his print Vasi does not hint at the existence of a cascade. 
Presuming that this omission is not owing to carelessness on his 
part, and he is usually fairly correct, the cascade, with its accom- 
panying stairways, must have been put in hand very shortly after 
his print was issued. As it now appears, it certainly adds greatly to 
the beauty and interest of the garden, and, though not on a grand 
scale like those at Frascati, for the situation would not permit of it, 
it possesses a peculiar charm of its own. Starting from the fountain 
niche above, the water falls into a succession of shallow basins, 
divided from the stairs on each side by low stepped walls. Conchs 
are placed upright at the lip of each basin ; from these, and probably 
from other points in the descent, jets of water spurted, filling the 

24 



air with coolness and moisture. Much of the architectural detail is 
lost beneath a veil of rich green moss and water-growth, but all is so 
delicious in colour, that we could not wish it to be other than it is. 

One of the pictures shows the point at which the cascade is 
interrupted, midway in the descent, by an oval platform, about which 
the stairway winds. It is surrounded by statues of marble, toned 
and mellowed by age into delightful harmony with the great 
overhanging hedges of evergreen oak. 

In order to reach the upper or hanging garden, as it may be called, 
a steep pathway must be climbed which leads to a broad terrace walk, 
only separated from the main garden by a close clipped screen of ever- 
green. From this walk, with its low parapet, we see at our feet the 
busy city with its many domes and towers, and away in the distance the 
low dark hills beyond the Tiber. An opening in the tall hedge admits to 
the flower garden, the centre of which is occupied by a fountain-basin, 
with some beds of tea-roses round it, and the only thing that disturbs 
the deep reflections is a tiny jet of water. From this fountain broad 
paths radiate in all directions, with good box borders, a foot or more 
in breadth and high in proportion, which hold up the beds of rich 
earth, whose surface is some nine inches above the path. These beds 
are not too small, and are planted full of good old-fashioned flowers, 
peonies and poppies, white lilies and Canterbury bells, pinks and lavender, 
carnations and hollyhocks, with here and there a fruit tree or flowering 
shrub. At intervals about these box borders are placed earthen pots 
containing lemon-trees or showy bushes of crimson, white, or yellow 
azalea. 

Beyond the clipped evergreen hedge that closes in the parterre towards 
the south is a wilder garden, with seats placed beneath the shade of stone 
pine or cypress trees. So secluded indeed is this garden, that it is a little 
difficult to imagine oneself in the heart of a great city. 

Returning once more to the lower terrace, we find at the end, facing 
the long gallery of the palace, a handsome balustrade with a fringe of 
antique marble statues ; below this are three niches placed between 
coupled columns of oriental granite. These niches are occupied by 
statues of three notable members of the great Colonna family ; the one 

25 D 



in the middle representing D. Marcantonio Colonna, the great hero in 
the wars against the Turks ; that to the right D. Fabrizio Colonna ; 
and that to the left D. Filippo Colonna. David Salvagni writes of the 
older Roman families in his interesting book on Rome in the eighteenth 
century : " The great legendary and historical families of Rome were 
always the Conti, Caetani, Colonna and Orsini ; and of these the 
Colonna was first in magnificence and popularity. A succession of 
famous Popes and able warriors had raised the house to which they 
belonged to the prominent position that was acknowledged as the birth- 
right of the Colonna princes by all the other new and noble families ; 
and the deeds and daring which brought about this result, the family 
struggles with the Popes, its partisanship with the Emperor and its 
adhesion to the Ghibelline faction, have long been matters of history. 
With the Roman people the Colonna family was always wonderfully 
popular, and even yet mothers sing their infants to sleep with a nursery 
ditty which commemorates the mightiness of that mighty house. It 
runs thus : 

" Che possa avere cinque figli maschi, 
E tutti quanti di Casa Colonna, 
Uno papa, I'altro Cardinale, 
Ed uno arcivesco di Colonia, 
Ed uno possa avere tanta possanza, 
Da Levar la corona al re di Franza, 
E I'altro possa aver tanto valore, 
Da Levar la corona all'imperatore." 

which may be translated : 

Who would not have five fine sons 
Such as the Colonna ow^n ; 
One a Pope, and one a Cardinal, 
And one Archbishop of Cologne, 
And one who could take the crown away 
From the King of France, in open fray — 
And one who could make the Emperor 
Grace from his warlike hand implore ? * 

Of the many other great gardens which now remain within the city 
walls, one of the most important is the garden of the Quirinal Palace. 

* "Rome, Its Princes, Priests and People." By David Silvagni. Translated by Fanny 
Ma^auglin. (Elliot Stock. 1885,) 

26 



Though the Palazzo Apostolico is in part at least ot earlier date, the 
gardens do not appear to have been laid out until the time of Pope 
Urban VIII., who, feeling the want of a garden suitable to his state, decided 
to make one on the rough hill-side to the north of the palace, where 
the ground was encumbered with the remains of ancient walls. At 
considerable expense these walls were removed, and the ground was 
levelled, but the outlying parts were terraced with new and high walls. 
In connection with the laying out of these gardens the names of 
Maderna and Ottavio Mascarini are mentioned, but it is not easy at this 
distance of time to assign the work with any degree of certainty. 

The garden on the upper level was laid out largely with straight 
alleys and many square plots, with low hedges of box or myrtle, 
enclosing an embroidery of flowers and box-work. To those who do 
not love the ordered garden this will doubtless seem a little tame ; but 
variety was obtained by the great diversity of fountains, statuary and 
other works of ancient art. At the greater walks, avenues of cypress 
broke across the garden, where also casinos were built at various points, 
everything being done to make the place worthy of the great Pontiff. 

In the foreground of one of Falda's views a quaint device is shown ; 
this is a bower erected over one of the principal fountains, which takes 
the form of a cupola of trellis-work, supported on eight pillars, the whole 
being wreathed in greenery, which was possibly composed of evergreens, 
though there is no reason why it should not have been of roses. 

Not far distant from this was a Mount Parnassus, without which, 
apparently, no garden could be considered complete. This unfortunately 
fell into disrepair and its place was taken by a hydraulic organ, which in 
turn fell on evil days, though its remains are still shown to the curious in 
the wonderful grotto beneath the great terrace. 

The gardens have naturally been a good deal modernised, yet much 
remains of the ancient setting. In places, the hedges of ilex, box or bay 
which enclosed the plots have grown to a height of some thirty feet, 
making courts and alleys delightful in the extreme, though scarcely what 
the architect intended them to be. 

Hawthorne gives a pleasant description of the gardens as they were 
before they passed out of the hands of the Pope. " They are tery 

27 



extensive, and laid out in straight avenues, bordered with walls of box, 
as impervious as if of stone — not less than twenty feet high, and pierced 
with lofty archways, cut in the living wall. Some of the avenues were 
overshadowed with trees, the tops of which bent over and joined one 
another from either side, so as to resemble a side aisle of a Gothic 
cathedral. Marble sculptures, much weather-stained, and generally 
broken-nosed, stood along these stately walks ; there were many 
fountains gushing up into the sunshine ; we likewise found a rich 
flower-garden, containing rare specimens of exotic flowers, and gigantic 
cactuses, and also an aviary, with vultures, doves, and singing birds. 
We did not see half the garden, but, stiff and formal as its general 
arrangement is, it is a beautiful place — a delightful, sunny, and serene 
seclusion." 



28 



VILLA CORSINI 



The Villa Corsini lies on the slopes of the Janiculum at the rear of the 
Palazzo Corsini, now the Royal Academy of Science. Purchased by the 
Government about 1884, the lower part of the grounds was devoted to 
botanical gardens, the upper being included in the grounds which are 
attached to the Passeggiata Margherita. Whether this could ever have 
been considered one of the great architectural gardens it is not easy to 
say, owing to the fact that the government officials, for the sake of doing 
something to justify their possession, grubbed up the ancient bay hedges 
and cut down good trees, planting in their place rows of palms and firs 
and other inappropriate vegetation. 

Of the architectural features and works of art a few rather poor busts 
and statues only remain, together with the Triton fountain and a stair- 
way with its accompanying cascade. The Villa is now in a nondescript 
state, at least so far as the part near the palazzo is concerned. But what 
a charming botanical garden could have been created here, had all that 
was left of the old gardens been used as a background for the formal 
beds which were intended to receive the botanical specimens ! In order 
to see what can be done with a botanical garden, one should visit Padua, 
where the old garden has a high circular wall finished with a balustrade, 
great gateways, urns, and busts. It is laid out with firm stone edgings, 
not rock work, each plant or family having a division set apart for it. 
Fountains enliven the principal walks, and, like all fountains in Italy, 
these are useful as well as ornamental, for from them the gardener fills 
his cans when the sun gets low. 

The Villa Corsini appears to have been a possession of the family of 

29 



Riario, from whom it passed to the Corsini family early in the eighteenth 
century, being purchased by Pope Clement XII. for his nephew Cardinal 
Neri Corsini. 

Cav. Ferdinando Fuga, who was employed to enlarge and improve 
the palace, probably extended the gardens and built the present cascade 
with its accompanying stairways. Of the garden as it existed at this 
time' we know little, the accounts of it which come down to us being 

but meagre. 

The Corsini Palace throws out wings gardenwards ; these are 
pleasantly connected by arcades, which carry balustraded terraces above 
and form spacious courts. Stretching the whole breadth of the palace 
is a great garden court enclosed by an iron grille with large piers at 
intervals, which, being decorated with panel work and mouldings, form 
a striking feature. Above the cornice is a pedestal enriched with 
delicate scrolls, which carries a handsome terra-cotta urn with fluted 
body and handles ornamented with masks and foliage. 

The lower part of the garden is nearly level and is now laid down 
with rough grass, broken here and there by beds of rose bushes. An 
avenue of palms leads to the central feature of this level. This is a bold 
handsome fountain-basin with low moulded rim, quatre-foil in plan. 
The centre is occupied by two tritons, two grown-up water-babies who 
sport in the water. These act as supporters to a basket of fruit and 
flowers, from the centre of which the principal jet of water rises to 
a height of some forty feet or more, and, falling back, keeps the group 
in a state of perpetual moisture, which gives them a rich colour like 
old bronze. These tritons have the peculiarity of possessing, in place 
of the usual arrangement, two long and sinuous fish-tails apiece, which 
start from the thighs, and their serpent-like coils appear above the 
surface of the water or peer through the masses of water-lilies, which 
cover the basin and bid fair to take entire possession of it. 

Large bright blue dragon-flies sport in the sun ; green frogs, invisible 
against the green leaves, jump with a splash into the waterS-when 
disturbed ; and all day long swifts and swallows skim over the| surface! of 
the long seedy grass, seeming to find endless supplies of food amidst 
their beautiful surroundings. 

30 



Until quite recently the beauty of this fountain was much enhanced 
by a tall hedge of bay-trees, which formed a semicircle around it, an 
opening at the back showing the pathway which leads upwards to the 
cascade and bosco beyond; but this too has been destroyed by the 
too zealous hand of the Government official. This hedge may have been 
the last of what was a most interesting feature in the villa, for old 
drawings made early in the eighteenth century show what was called a 
Teatro di verdure. This was a great semicircular arcade cut in ever- 
greens ; columns, capitals, and bases, all being clipped to bear some 
resemblance to their architectural counterparts. - Towards the palace the 
wings terminated with three arches to the front, nine arches going to 
each quarter, the whole being backed by a solid hedge and vaulted over. 

Unfortunately these attempts to reproduce architectural features in 
" greens " are rarely successful and seldom last long ; a little neglect and 
they are past praying for ! Between this arcade and the palazzo, to the 
right of the principal viale, was the laberinto, of which, however, 
nothing now remains. Whether by this word was meant what we call 
a labyrinth it is difficult to say, as the older Italian writers use the word 
sometimes to express a complex pattern in box. 

From the Triton fountain the ground commences to slope gently 
upwards with rough meadow grass on either hand and some beds of 
shrubs half-lost in the long growth, and a short path brings us to the 
foot of the cascade. From this point the ground rises more abruptly, 
giving the architect an opportunity he was not slow to take advantage of. 
A wide flight of steps leads upwards to a platform or resting-place, 
which expands right and left, the low parapet walls curving outwards in 
order to form recesses for stone benches. Here one may rest in the 
shade of the overhanging trees and watch the play of the fountains at 
the foot of the cascade. 

Continuing upwards the stairs divide so as to enclose the cascade, 
which consists of half a dozen falls. At the top, within the curving 
balustrade, is the principal fountain, which throws a jet of water to a 
considerable height. In this basin a dolphin disports itself, and it was 
probably from its mouth, or from that of some amorino who once 
bestrode it, that the jet ascended. At each basin in the descent other 

31 



jets play back and forth across the cascade, forming a series of water 
arches. Vases, finials, and rudely sculptured marbled figures are placed 
at salient points about the cascade and the terrace wall that overhangsit. 

The general effect of the cascade and its surroundings is good. The 
overhanging masses of foliage in which branches of the ilex intermingle 
with those of huge plane-trees, the rich dark colouring, wherever the 
moisture reaches, the maidenhair fern swathing the fountain, all add to 
its charm. The weak point about the cascade, and this marks the 
decadence of the garden art, is the absence of mouldings from features 
which certainly cry out for them ; the upper member of the balustrade 
and of the stepped side walls is cut severely square, with no mouldings 
whatever, and in many other ways it lacks the refinement found in work 
of this kind one hundred years earlier. 

Close around this architectural feature stands a group of fine old plane- 
trees, their huge boles heavily swathed in ivy, which it is to be hoped will 
not ultimately sap their vitality, for they are handsome trees and could 
not easily be replaced. These planes have been taken possession of by a 
small colony of jackdaws, who seem to approve of the comparative quiet 
during the nesting season. Here they are not disturbed by the all- 
pervading tourist or the exploring antiquary, who has made the old 
home of these birds on the Colosseum and Palatine much less desirable. 

Still farther up the hill and beyond the cascade is a niche with 
pilasters and pediments, terminating a vista. Within this there stands, 
upon an antique marble base, a statue of an ancient Roman in toga. 
The flanking walls of the niche end in obelisk-like finials. 

At this point the garden now ends, but twenty years ago it stretched 
to the summit of the hill, and, in fact, only stopped when Urban VII. 's 
city wall was reached. The construction of the Passeggiata Margherita, 
which was opened to the public in 1884, and runs along the summit of 
the ridge from end to end, from near the Porta S. Pancrazio to the Porta 
S. Spirito, cut off all the upper part of the gardens, including part of 
the bosco. 

One would have felt more grateful to the authorities for thus 
making public one of the best views in Rome had the work been 
carried out in a more conservative spirit, for several villas and delightful 

32 



gardens were destroyed which with a little ingenuity might have been 
saved. As it is, we have one more quite uninteresting drive with its 
meaningless walks that meander through a nondescript park and lead to 
nowhere. The view towards the Sabine and Alban mountains, across 
Rome to the ever-changing Campagna, is the redeeming feature. But 
what is the finest landscape in the world with such a foreground ? A 
handful oi forestieri go up there for the view, which the guide-books 
mark with an asterisk, and get away again as soon as they may. 

Though the gardens have suffered so much of late years, good trees 
having been replaced by unhappy-looking fir-trees and palms quite out 
of character with the place, there still remain fine masses of ilex, some 
groups of cypress, and vestiges of sweet-bay and box hedges, to show 
what the grounds have been in the past. 

One who wrote of this villa about the middle of the eighteenth 
century says of Cardinal Neri Corsini : " He made also the magnificent 
and spacious cortile encircled with many piers, with wrought-iron gates 
by which you may pass into the first garden divided into four parts by a 
fountain and very fanciful compartments. . . . Then follow two laby- 
rinths with statues and antique terminals, before you arrive at a magnificent 
theatre encircled with porticoes and columns ingeniously formed of 
clipped evergreens, and there are statues and busts and commodious seats, 
and in the middle there is a broad basin {peschiera) with two tritons, 
which recline upon a rock and which throw up a great spout of living 
water, the which, falling with a great noise, seems to call the spectator to 
observe the constant play of it." 

" Here in the hot summer days comes a noble company of Cardinals, 
Prelates, and literati of every rank to listen to the various compositions 
that they recite before the erudite Accademici Quirini. They sit or recline 
in groups upon the benches and terraces and under the porticoes. . . ." 

Though not included within the city walls until the middle of the 
seventeenth century, the Janiculum was a favourite site for gardens and 
villas ; several of the palaces which line the Strada della Lungara had 
gardens stretching away up the hill which, like those of the Corsini, are 
now much curtailed. The more notable of these were the Villa Corsini, 
the Villa Lante, Giardino Salviati, and the Villa Barberini. . 

33 E 



This last villa was built by Taddeo Barberini, a nephew of Urban VIII., 
about 1626, on a portion of the site of the gardens of Nero; Luigi 
Arrigucci and Dom. Castelli are said to have been the architects. The 
plan of the house is simple but the effect good. The hill here is some- 
what steep and the gardens, entered through the cortile, rise by a series 
of terraces to an amphitheatre at the top, a series of gentle stairways 
flanking each successive terrace. In making the excavations many 
remains of ancient art were discovered. At the time when Percier and 
Fontaine made their survey, these gardens were in a ruinous state, but 
they give an interesting plan of them which indicates how successfully 
even these later architects grappled with the difficulties of the site. 

Not far distant, just without the Porta S. Pancrazio, there is another 
Villa Corsini. The writer before quoted mentions that at this second 
villa, which he describes as " full of delights," there were, besides five 
hundred vases of fruit-trees, oranges, lemons, &c., six hundred great 
pots of flowers ; a fact which shows that the cultivation of flowers was 
not altogether neglected as we are sometimes disposed to think. 



34 



\ 



VILLA DI PAPA GIULIO 



When engaged on some work in Florence, Vasari tells how word came 
of the death of Pope Paul III., and that a Conclave was summoned to 
elect his successor ; he goes on to relate : "It chanced that going out of 
the city gate to meet Cardinal Monte, who was passing through on his 
way to the Conclave, I had no sooner made my bow to that prelate and 
spoken a Few words with him, than he said to me, ' I am going to Rome, 
and shall infallibly be elected Pope ; wherefore, if thou hast anything to 
desire, hasten to follow me, so soon as the news shall arrive, without 
waiting any other invitation than that I now give thee, or seeking any 
further intelligence.' Nor was this prognostic a vain word. Being at 
Arezzo during the Carnival of that year, I was making arrangements for 
certain festivals and maskings, when there came a messenger with the 
news that the aforesaid Cardinal had become Pope Julius III. Mounting 
my horse, therefore, without delay, I proceeded to Florence, whence 
hastened by the Duke, I departed at once for Rome, to be present at the 
coronation of the new Pontiff, and to make arrangements for the 
festivities consequent thereon." 

The new Pontiff was as good as his word, and Vasari had constant 
employment found for him. " It was myself, for example, with whom 
originated the first arrangement and plans of the Vigna Julia, which the 
Pope then caused to be constructed at an incredible cost ; arid although 
the works were executed by others, it was I who made drawings of all 
the fancies which Pope JuHus invented for that place, and which were 
afterwards examined and corrected by Michelagnolo ; when Jacopo 
Barozzi da Vignola completed various apartments, halls, and ' chambers 

35 



of the Vigna, with their appropriate ornaments from his designs. The 
lower Fountain, however, is after my own design, and was executed by 
Ammannato, who subsequently remained to construct the Loggia, which 
is above the Fountain. That artist could, nevertheless, not show what 
he was capable of, nor do anything in its due order in that place, because 
the Pope was daily taking into his head some new fancy, which had then 
to be instantly put into execution, under the orders, given daily, of 
Messer Pier Giovanni AHotti, Bishop of Forli." 

Thus we see that architects, even in those halcyon days, did not 
sleep on beds of roses. 

Percier and Fontaine seem, however, disposed to dispute Vasari's 
claim. That more architects than one were employed upon the 
villa there can be no doubt, for the evidence on the spot is quite 
conclusive. 

The villa has somewhat fallen from its ancient splendour : the 
statues that once adorned it have almost without exception been trans- 
ferred long since to the Vatican gallery, and the gardens with which 
it was once beautified have been absorbed into the neighbouring vine- 
yards ; yet even now, in spite of long years of neglect, it is one of the 
most graceful and interesting of the villas in the environs of Rome. 

Passing through the vestibule, we reach an open gallery or loggia 
which extends the whole width of the casino and opens into the grand 
cortile. This court is enclosed by an architectural screen which is made 
a pretext for the display of the most versatile and charming scheme of 
decoration. The Ionic order is adopted as a framework, both pilasters 
and three-quarter columns being used, within and around which is 
wrought with much naivete and grace a scheme of interlacing ribbon- 
work, garlands and swags of fruit, honeysuckle, and other ornament, 
with dancing nymphs and fauns, centaurs and mythological subjects, in 
marble-framed panels. 

In order to understand the kind of work to be found here, and at 
the Villa Pia, it is necessary to compare it with the delicious stucco- 
work of the ancients, as shown in the tombs on the Via Latina and 
elsewhere. We then see how closely the best of these cinquecento 
artists were in touch with the ancient art, and how they had saturated 

36 



themselves with the classic ideal so deeply that they could reproduce it 
in such a manner as to show that they were no mere copyists. 

In line with the entrance to the casino is a loggia or portico open on 
both sides and raised upon some half-dozen steps ; beyond it is situated 
what can only be described as a sunk court, for the loggia is placed on a 
level with the third story of the court. This court is semicircular in 
plan, and curving stairs lead down from the loggia to the second floor, 
which is decorated with river gods and niches for statues. In the centre 
is an opening surrounded by a marble balustrade. Leaning upon this, 
you look down into what is perhaps the most fantastic dining-hall ever 
conceived by man. The pavement beneath your feet is honeycombed 
with grottoes and subterranean passages, and fountain niches festooned 
with maidenhair occupy the intervals between the broad pilasters. On 
one side a large semicircular recess is hollowed out, the panelled roof of 
which is supported on the heads of caryatides. A wide channel is carried 
along the side of the court and passes round the recess into which the 
various fountains play. An old print shows these fountains decorated 
with amorini and youthful satyrs, and upon the balustrade above other 
amorini riding sea-monsters. The whole of this lower section of the 
court, including the pavement, of which only a portion now remains, is 
constructed of marble. 

Facing the loggia, on the opposite side of the court, is a second 
pavilion of the most dainty and fanciful description. It is smaller than 
the first, and looks into the court on the one side and into the little 
giardino segreto on the other. Raised upon a balustrade, slender columns 
of delicate veined marble support an entablature, the central opening only 
being spanned by an arch, on each side of which are busts in circular 
niches. The old print already mentioned depicts statues standing out 
against the sky above each corner, and in the place of the present tiled 
roof a geometrical trellised dome overhung with vines. To what extent 
the exterior of the villa was decorated in colour it is not easy to tell ; in 
all probability the whole of it was painted. Several of the grottoes and 
underground chambers still retain their frescoes, and the semicircular 
colonnade at the rear of the casino is adorned with frescoes by the 
celebrated Taddeo Zucchero, who has here given rein to his fancy 

37 



in the most playful fashion. The walls are covered with grotteschi, 
and the vaulted ceiling is painted as a trellised bower, wreathed 
with " roses, jasmine, and various other flowers, interspersed with 
birds, saytrs, and great numbers of little naked boys, sporting in various 
ways." 



38 



VILLA PIATTI 



It is only necessary to glance at Giambattista Nolli's great Plan of Rome, 
published in 1748, to see, that dovetailed in between the villas of the 
great Lords and Cardinals were innumerable smaller villas and vigne. 
Those which have escaped the net of the speculative builder are now 
chiefly to be found in the more open ground beyond the Colosseum, and 
are of more than passing interest, for they form a valuable link in the 
development of the art of gardening. 

One that is fairly accessible is the little garden of the " Priorato " or 
Knights of Malta on the Aventine. It is but a few yards square, with 
a little terrace overhanging the Tiber and looking across to the Ripa 
Grande, with the coasting-vessels lying at their moorings, and beyond the 
Trastevere to the dome of St. Peter's and the blue hills behind. 

Set back from the river, and enclosed by high walls of greenery, lies 
the tiny garden laid out with, tall box-edging, and adorned with many 
pots of oleander, azalea, and lemon. Here and there are simple fountain ^ 
basins, and busts and broken statues fill niches in the wall ; making a 
very complete little town garden, much better worth looking at than the 
absurd keyhole vista that has such an absorbing interest for the average 
visitor. 

The piazza, from which the garden is entered, is surrounded by an 
ornamental wall embellished with tall obelisks, ball finials, and ornate 
vases ; stone benches are set back against the wall at intervals, and about 
the gate is a pedimented erection decorated with pilasters and trophies 
of arms which are a little out of character with the modest garden 
within. This has evidently formed a kind of forecourt to the small 

39 



villa, where carriages and serving-men could wait their masters' 

pleasure. 

It would be interesting to know to what extent the piazzas of Rome 
were originally merely forecourts to the great palaces. About some 
there can be little doubt ; the fine fountains which flank the entrance- 
gate and which bear the arms of the family tell their own story, as in 
the case of the Piazza Farnese with its splendid pair of fountains which 
carry the lily of the Farnese as their chief ornament. 

One of the most picturesque of these minor gardens, of which there 
is no lack beyond the walls if you but take the trouble to seek them out, 
is the Villa Piatti. It lies some short distance outside the walls, in a 
fold of the Campagna, and away from the beaten track ; so cleverly 
concealed that few people would suspect its existence. At the side of 
the rough country lane an archway, covered by a great penthouse roof, 
admits to both villa and podere. The casino, half hidden behind a bank 
of trees, is set back some distance from the road, and it is only on a 
nearer approach that you discover into what a truly delightful place you 
have stumbled. 

The gardens lie on the side away from the road and occupy a 
comparatively narrow strip of ground, some hundred yards in width, 
which runs in a straight line across a shallow valley. The podere which 
closes them in on every side is to a great extent shut off by high hedges 
of sweet bay. 

The flower-garden is no longer laid out in the old style, the box- 
work parterre having been replaced by grass with beds of flowers and 
flowering shrubs arranged about it, with a few taller trees scattered over 
the lawn, slim peach and almond trees contrasting pleasantly with the 
denser foliage of nespoli. 

At the end of the parterre is a slight drop in the level, marked by a 
wall and short flights of stairs. Beyond that is a great circular plateau 
enclosed by a low broad-topped wall, upon which pots of lemon, oleander, 
azalea, and all kinds of flowers are ranged at convenient height. 
From openings to the right and left, guarded by terminal figures, 
pleached alleys of bay lead away far into the cultivated land. In the 
middle of this terrace is an unusually large fountain-basin, or pescbiera ; 

40 



its centre is marked by a great cockle-shell, in which an amorino sits con- 
tentedly splashing and playing the live-long day amidst the gold-fish. 
These little unsophisticated fountain-figures are always a delight, and add 
much to the colour and life of a garden. To this fountain, as evening 
fell, came the contadini to water their cattle, great slow-moving, sleepy- 
looking creatures. One lad in drab shirt, and knee-breeches made of 
goat-skins, like some good-looking young satyr, would perchance linger 
in the twilight till you half expected to see some nymph appear from the 
fountain to welcome him. 

The architectural features of the garden, though well enough planned 
and eminently well fitted to the lie of the ground, are, like S9 much of 
the later baroque, poor in detail and sadly deficient in mouldings. But 
this weakness is to a great extent atoned for by the clever way in which 
an exceptionally interesting lot of antique marbles have been handled. 
These are not disposed around the villa as if it were a mere museum, but 
are used to emphasise the architectural features and salient points of the 
garden. Sarcophagi, some of which are beautifully sculptured, are used 
as fountain basins ; terminal figures guard the principal alleys and heads 
of stairways ; and many beautiful examples of cinerary urns, simply 
carved altars and cippi, besides certain busts and statues, have all been 
used with excellent effect. 

At the farther side of the circular plateau the garden falls away 
sharply with a drop of some fifteen to twenty feet. The great curve of 
the terrace wall is broken in the centre by a projecting balcony, which 
overhangs a fountain in the face of the wall beneath. Here four lesser 
termes or btfrons are used as supports for the simple wrought-iron railing. 
Wide stairways of easy gradient lead down from either side of the terrace, 
and following the curve of the wall meet at the fountain below. What 
little architectural detail this fountain once possessed is now completely 
lost beneath a delightful tangle of weeds and ferns, which fortunately no 
one troubles to clear away, and which presents a spectacle far more 
beautiful to look at than the usual fashionable rock-garden. 

From the balcony you look right over the little valley to a corre- 
sponding belvedere terrace on the same level, backed by a glorious circle 
of stone pines. The strip of garden ground between is enclosed by bay 

41 F 



hedges, which open out midway for the introduction of a quite simple 
fountain. This has a round cistern built of thin red Roman brick ; above 
it is a plain moulded tazza pierced with a dozen holes, from which as 
many spouts discharge the overflow from the great central jet. 

Prato, or meadow, is the name appropriately enough given to the rough 
grass lawns that in so many instances have usurped the place once occupied 
by the parterre in Italian gardens. In this lower section of the villa the 
gardener has made some attempt to introduce beds of roses among the 
grass, but it is an unequal fight, and Nature seems destined to be the con- 
queror. In spring time these prati are bespangled with wild flowers of 
every hue. Here and on the rough terrace beside the belvedere were 
violets and anemones, poppies, ox-eye daisies and love-in-a-mist, campanula 
and marigold, scabious and mallow, campion and the scentless mignonette, 
together with a hundred other lovely weeds forming a veritable " wild- 
garden " in themselves. 

Amongst other things besides flowers to be met with in the long grass 
were the large emerald-green lizards, as well as the smaller sorts ; great 
horned beetles ; and not a few snakes of the larger black, as well as of the 
striped kind, which basked in the warm sun and seemed at times almost 
loath to move ; yet the contadini walk fearlessly, and as often as not bare- 
foot, among them. 

Beneath the belvedere is a vaulted grotto or salle fraiche, with a wall- 
fountain that spouts into a marble sarcophagus. On each side of this, 
stairways wind upward to the much more desirable open-air chamber 
above, where marble benches invite you to sit in the cool shadow thrown 
by the great stone pines which encircle it. From this point pleached 
arbours formerly led, parallel to those on the other side of the little 
valley ; probably they even joined hands across the vineyard, but only 
traces of them now exist. 

The casino is an unpretentious cream-coloured building, with green 
persiennes and low-tiled roof flanked by two dove-cotes. An interesting 
and unusual feature of the house is the arched gateway which pierces it 
from front to back, and creates one of those vistas so beloved by our 
ancestors. 

All about the villa, and forming an integral part of the " lay out," 

42 



stone pines are planted in avenues or circles, but always in such a way as 
to add a picturesque touch to the surroundings. Some are perhaps as old 
as the villa itself, and with their sombre, bushy heads add greatly to the 
beauty of the garden. 

What a striking feature too are the hedges and alleys of bay, laurus 
nobilis it may well be called, used with such excellent effect throughout 
this villa. The trees are thirty feet high, and their principal stem is 
often nine inches in diameter. So closely are the branches interwoven in 
the long covered walks, that even at midday the sunlight filters but thinly 
through. 

One wonders why this most beautiful tree, such a favourite in years 
gone by, is passing out of the Italian garden ! Is it that we no longer 
recognise its superiority to such things as the palm, the acacia, the 
common " fir-tree," or even the magnolia, all of which are well enough 
in their way but feeble by comparison with sweet bay, ilex, stone pine, 
or cypress ? Nowadays apparently we have no use for the bay save to 
extract essences from its leaf. During the writer's stay at the Villa 
Piatti, ragged young urchins and their w itch-like grahdam were busy 
stripping the leaves, and stowing them in great sacks for the market. 

Terminal figures, or termes, are such an important feature in this, as 
in many another Roman garden, that they deserve more than a passing 
word. Among the Romans, Terminus was the god under whose special 
protection all boundary stones (termini) were placed, and he was supposed 
to punish any unlawful usurpation of land. In early times his statue was 
a mere stone or pointed post driven into the ground to mark the division 
between two properties. The customs connected with these stones carry 
us back to the days of King Numa. When a new boundary-stone was 
set up, it was consecrated in the presence of the people, a sacrifice was 
offered, and the stone, bedecked with garlands and ribbons, was sprinkled 
with incense, honey, corn, and wine. Annually on February 23, the 
last day of the Roman year, a festival was held in honour of the god, who 
at a somewhat later date was represented with a human head, but 
without arms or feet, as an intimation that he never moves from the spot 
where he has been placed. 

Among the Greeks the corresponding god was Hermes, who was not 

43 



only the god of boundaries but also the god of roads and traffic, and in 
both these capacities he is represented in a similar manner. Stones, Hermce, 
were placed along the roads, and especially at cross-roads, where they 
often had three or four heads. When death occurred sacrifices were 
offered to him as conductor of the soul of the deceased, and Hermee were 
placed upon the grave. Many statues exist of other deities, similar in 
form to and doubtless originating in the same manner as Herma. Some 
have a double head and combine the characteristics of the two deities. A 
mantle is frequently hung over the shoulders, at whose sides there were 
often projections upon which to hang garlands. Among the wealthy 
Romans Herma of all kinds were in great request for the decoration of 
their houses and villas. It is also stated that they were used as posts for 
ornamental railings to a garden, in which case they were usually decorated 
with the busts of philosophers and eminent men. Some of these may be 
seen at the Vatican and other museums, with the square holes in their 
shoulders into which the transverse rail was inserted. 

The existence of ancient vaulted chambers in the podere, attached to 
the Villa Piatti and now used for the storage of wine and oil, suggests 
the possibility that many of the antique marbles employed for the 
decoration of the villa were excavated on the estate. As at Frascati, so 
in the environs of Rome, many modern villas were built on the ruins of 
ancient ones. 

It is interesting to compare a villa of this simple type with such a 
princely one as the Villa Pamphilj-Doria, or Belrespiro, as it is sometimes 
called. The grounds of this villa are of vast extent, being even larger 
than those of the Villa Borghese, to which they bear a superficial 
resemblance. It was laid out about the year 1644 by Cardinal D. 
Camillo Pamphilj, nephew of Pope Innocent X., from the designs of 
Alessandro Algardi, and lies just without the Porta S. Pancrazio, occupy- 
ing, it is alleged, the site of the Gardens of the Emperor Galba. 

As it exists at the present day, the villa is a pleasant combination of 
the formal and the picturesque ; the more symmetrical arrangement in 
the immediate vicinity of the casino is admirably carried into the wilder 
part of the park by means of bold avenues of holm-oak and the regular 
planting of stone pines. The " lay out " of the gardens has been attri- 

44 



buted to Le Notre, but on quite insufficient grounds, and there is every 
reason to suppose that the planning of both the casino and the gardens 
was Algardi's. Unhappily, like the Villa Borghese, the gardens fell at 
a later period under the blighting influence of the landscape gardener, 
who made a clean sweep of all the beautiful lower terrace, leaving only 
some fountains, and portions of the architectural work which are lost 
amidst a tumble of shrubs and wild growth not at all interesting in itself. 
The only portions which escaped were the terraces near the casind, 
with the parterre and some ilex avenues. 

The casino, which betrays the influence of the Medici palace, is a 
charming piece of design, decorated with busts, statues, medallions, and 
bas-reliefs in a frame-work of the three orders. It is built on the edge of 
a terrace overhanging tht parterre, the ground floor being on the lower 
level. In a print issued by "Jo Jacobi de Rubei," low wings are 
shown crowning the terrace wall and terminating in octagonal turrets. 
It would be interesting to know if these were ever built, for the fagade 
seems to require something of the kind. 

The giardino segreto, partly enclosed by terrace walls and decorated 
with grottoes and niches for statues, has the most elaborate and extensive 
parterre de broderie to be seen in the vicinity of Rome. A double stair 
on each side of the " Fontana di Venere " leads from it to the lower 
level. 

On the slope to the right a highly wrought system of fountains and 
guiochi d'acque formerly existed, disposed on either side of a semicircular 
teatro. This took the form of a low wall divided into panels, with bas- 
reliefs of subjects taken from ancient mythology which were set between 
small fountain basins, other fountains forming a fringe along the top. 
At the foot of the wall a channel received the overflowing waters. 
Above the teatro was a fountain, with Neptune and sea-horses set within 
the curve of a horse-shoe stair that led to the great avenue beyond. 

Equidistant from this, on each side, were grottoes and peschiere with 
tritons and syrens. In one of these grottoes a Faun was represented as 
playing upon a pipe, and in order to give an air of reality an organ was 
hidden behind it which not only made music for the pipe but also 
produced an echo, " Wherefore spectators run ecstatically to hear the 

45 



melody that is played ; but then at the exit they meet with so many jets 
of water that few escape a wetting." 

Many engravings were made of this villa, and the old artists give us 
various touches of manners and customs which lend interest to their 
work. Ladies and gentlemen are to be seen walking hand in hand 
through the gardens, the lady often provided with a nosegay or carrying 
the flag-shaped fan then in vogue. Children, who are much in evidence, 
run about with toy windmills, like those still sold at country fairs, or 
play with a bird tied at one end of a string, just as they do in Italy to- 
day, and a maid wheels a very primitive perambulator, chariot shaped 
with solid wheels. In another picture two men are shown playing a 
ball-game with long-handled mallets. This can be no other than the 
ancient game of Pall Mall, or " giuoco del Palamaglio" to which an old 
author refers as having been played in his time at the villa. 



46 



VILLAS AT FRASCATI AND 

VITERBO 



4 




VILLA FALCONIERI 



The steep rough lane, or rather bed of mountain torrent, which skirts 
the Villa Lancellotti winds upward between terraces of corn and vine and 
olive to the Villa Falconieri, 

The first indication of the villa is a handsome gateway on the left, 
wrongly attributed to Vignola. This is in a showy, decadent style, and 
its authorship may be left to the decision of others. Though standing 
invitingly open, the gateway now leads only to the podere. No great 
distance beyond is reached the cancello of the villa, a plain modern gate- 
way. Across a meadow sprinkled with many gay-coloured flowers lies the 
entrance to the garden. 

Leaving the casino out of consideration, this gateway is the only 
remaining architectural feature that possesses any special merit. It is 
well proportioned, eminently adapted to its position, and was probably 
designed by Fontana. Flanking an archway, with Ionic pilasters 
supporting an ornate and somewhat unusual pediment, are lower walls 
with niches, shell ornament, and grotesque statues, and outside these are 
piers supporting other statues of buffoons. Scrollwork and ball-ornaments 
lead ofFto the general wall level. Crowning the pediment appear richly- 
carved vases and a seated lion. Over the arch a label is inserted bearing 
the inscription , 

HORATIVS FALCONERIVS, 

and among the carving appears a falcon displayed^ the arms of the 
Falconieri. Rustication is freely used in this gateway, which is carried 
out in warm travertine stone that has weathered to an exceedingly 

49 G 



pleasant colour. A broad walk leads direct from this gateway to the 
portico of the casino. 

Even as far back as the fourteenth century the Popes were in the 
habit of making Frascati an occasional residence, especially during the 
warm summer months, but it was not until the sixteenth century that 
there sprang up the great princely villas of which the Villa Falconieri 
claims to have been the first. It was erected before 1550 by Monsignor 
Rufini, but his earlier building, if it still exists, is masked by later 
additions. In the following century the villa passed to the Falconieri 
family, and the casino was restored and much enlarged for them by 
Francesco Borromini, who also built the Falconieri Palace in Rome. 
Borromini is one of those architects of whom it may be said that, though 
he broke every law laid down by the older architects, he nevertheless 
fails to make his buildings either impressive or picturesque. 

According to Matteo Greuter, the parterre occupied the space between 
the entrance gate and the casino, and was laid out with box or myrtle 
hedges set in geometrical pattern, with various fountains and other 
centre-pieces. One among these was a circle of seats overshadowed by a 
great tree, whose spreading branches are trained to form an arbour with 
a huge boss over the centre. At a farm in Tuscany the writer came 
across just such a tree as this, which the peasants had amused themselves 
by training into the form of an umbrella, the constant clipping having 
created a perfect network of twiggery. Besides the arbour Greuter 
shows indications of other topiary work about this parterre. It is, how- 
ever, needless to say that this garden has entirely disappeared, though 
half hidden among the thickets may be found some seats and rude circles 
of stone which may possibly be the remains of it, though they prob- 
ably belong to a much later date. 

At the rear, the casino looks out upon another terrace on a lower level. 
There is little left to indicate what was the nature of the garden on this 
terrace. Was it another parterre, with arbours and fountains, or a formal 
bosco intersected by long shady alleys ? Shade was such an essential 
matter in connection with these summer retreats that the bosco seems to 
our northern minds to attain almost undue importance. To-day it is a 
pleasing mixture of orchard and kitchen-garden, with just a sprinkling of 

50 



flowers. A vine pergola leads from the gate to a little fountain that 
overhangs the wall and is presided over by Vertumnus, who, as usual, is 
represented with a lapful of fruit. On the base of the statue is the 
punning inscription : 

ASPICE VERTUMNUM DANTEM SUA POMA PUELLIS 
SUNT MALA QUA CERNIS DETERIORA LATENT. ANNO MDCCXXXI. 

Vertumnus being the god of orchards and the husband of Pomona, 
who doubtless found a place elsewhere in the garden, it may be taken for 
granted that, whatever arrangement may have been adopted in laying out 
the garden, fruit-trees played an important part in it, as indeed they 
usually do in Italy. 

The view from this terrace is little inferior to that from the Villa 
Mondragone. At your feet lies the Villa Taverna nestling among its 
wood of stone pines, amidst which one giant, the last of his generation, 
rears himself high above his lesser brethren ; to the left is the Villa 
Lancellotti, its avenues of dark ilex contrasting pleasantly with the softer 
grey of the olives ; while high up to the right lies Mondragone, a 
prominent feature in the landscape, with its great terrace, its fountain, 
and its detached columns standing out against the grey sky ; and beyond 
this foreground of villas and farms stretches the ever-changing Campagna 
with the shadows chasing each other over its broken surface. 

An important adjunct to these villas is the reservoir, in which the 
water, often brought a considerable distance, is collected, and from which 
it is distributed by a complex system of water-works to the various 
fountains and giuochi (Tacque. Sometimes, as at the Villa Conti, this is 
quite an elaborate architectural feature ; here it is an absurdly plain and 
unsophisticated piece of work. It lies in the higher part of the villa 
and is called indifferently by the peasants il lago or il laghetto. A very 
modest /ago this, being only some forty paces long by twenty at its 
wider end ! The word peschiera, so often given to garden pools, 
would have better described it, for it abounds with gold-fish large and 
small. 

Within a dark belt of cypress lies the little pool, reflecting the tall, 
silent trees, its still surface at rare intervals disturbed by bird or fish. Its 

51 



only architectural feature is the wall of weather-stained masonry that 
supports one end. This is quite simply decorated with pilasters which 
carry ball-ornaments. A niche containing some fragment of antiquity 
marks the foot of the gently sloping stairways that descend on each 
side. 

Richard Voss, the German novelist, has made this villa and especially 
the lago a favourite rendezvous with the more sentimental of his country- 
men, who arrive, usually in batches, hot and dusty, conducted by some 
ragged urchin who has been picked up by the way-side. They are not 
always quite satisfied with the reality, after reading the novelist's some- 
what inflated description of the place, and will indignantly demand to 
be taken to the great lago^ thinking there is some conspiracy to defraud 
them when they are assured there is no other. Yet the little pool is 
charming enough if only they would take it as it is. 

Perched on the hill high above, on the way to Tusculum, is the 
Villa Rufinella, also built by Monsignor Rufini. It has passed through 
many vicissitudes, at one time being the property of Prince Lucien 
Buonaparte, the only one of Napoleon's brothers who had no ambition 
to wear a crown. He enlarged the villa and amused himself by making 
a Parnassus on the slope of the hill, over which presided the Apollo now 
at the Villa Lancellotti. He had the names of all the great poets cut in 
myrtle, a quaint device, more curious probably than beautiful. 



52 



VILLA LANCELLOTTI 



Adjoining the Villa Aldobrandini, and sharing with it the same well 
wooded hill-side, is the Villa Lancellotti. The dividing line between 
the two villas is the rough mule track which passes by the Capuchin 
Convent and climbs up the shady road to ancient Tusculum. 

What little we can learn of its history is not specially interesting, 
nor does it help us to arrive at the date when first the villa was laid out. 

About the year 1590 the property was acquired by Monsignor 
Alfonso Visconti ; it was again sold in 1609 to Mario Mattel ; in 16 17 
it passed to Roberto Primo, a Pisan noble whose daughter carried it to 
her husband, Silvio Piccolomini, and in his family it remained until 
about the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was acquired by 
Principe Massimo-Lancellotti. Which of its earlier owners laid out the 
villa and built the casino^ I have been unable to learn. Over an entrance 
to the villa are inscribed the words, " petr : piccolomens : 1730," which 
help but little to a solution of the question. The casino^ with its 
grey-tiled roof and overhanging eaves, is almost severe in its simplicity. 
The windows are few and wide apart, as is to be expected in a house 
built purely for the villegiatura. The garden fafade is almost level, only 
a slight break occurring in the centre, where a loggia of three arches, 
entered from the piano nobile^ is introduced above the entrance doorway. 
This section of the front is carried above the roof and is finished with a 
balustrade and statues. 

From each end of this front project avenues of evergreen-oak, 
clipped into compact hedges. These, lying parallel to each other, 
enclose the pleasure garden, which they shelter and over which they 

53 



cast their pleasant shadows. The enclosure is completed by a " water 
theatre " of the simpler order at the end opposite to the casino. 

Within this enclosure lies the parterre, which consists of six plots of 
clipped box, some of the beds having flowers, others depending for their 
effect solely on the rich green of the box and the play of light about it. 
Of these plots the two principal ones occupy the whole centre of the 
garden and are composed of two shields of arms and their mantling 
or frame work, all cut in box about six inches high. The shield to the 
right bears the arms of the Aldobrandini family, which was connected 
with the Lancellotti by marriage. 

Of such coats of arms, which are frequently to be found in Italian 
gardens, good examples are to be seen in the Villa Chigi, the Villa 
Garzoni, and at the Vatican, where four of them are ranged round the 
central fountain in the private garden. These are the coats of arms 
of the reigning Pope, the older ones having been destroyed to make 
place for them. 

Instead of terminating abruptly at the ends of the parterre, the beds 
bend away gracefully to right and left in a series of scrolls and curves. 
Immediately within the straight outer box border, which forms the 
frame work, low stone pedestals stand at intervals supporting the usual 
lemon pots. These are rather more ornate than usual, the lower part 
having acanthus-leaf ornament in low relief, the upper half having 
festoons of fruit and flowers hung from masks or rosettes with coats 
of arms between them. 

This parterre occupies a place midway between the simpler geo- 
metrical garden, common enough in England at one time, and the 
somewhat over-blown Parterre de Broderte, which correctly should have 
no flowers at all. 

At the further end of the garden, opposite the casino, is the " water 
theatre," that pleasing combination of terrace-wall and fountain, which 
is a characteristic feature of the Frascati villas. Nowhere else is it to be 
found carried to such a pitch of perfection, thanks no doubt, in the first 
instance, to a plentiful water-supply as well as to the skill of the 
architects. 

This fountain, however, compared with that, for instance, in the 

54 



neighbouring villa, is on a very modest scale. Seven niches are arranged 
in a wide curve with rusticated pilasters between, and these support an 
entablature with a balustrade above. From the niches gods and 
goddesses look out over the pleasant garden ; the central niche being 
occupied by an Apollo, while other statues line the balustrade above. 
Within the curve lies a broad fountain basin, its protecting balustrade 
reaching from side to side. In the return face of the wall, to right and 
left, are square-headed portals with broken pediments, from which 
stairways lead to the terrace above. About this fountain there is little 
superfluous ornament. The Ionic capitals have the oft-used festoon 
motive, and the heads of the niches are decorated with the favourite 
shell ornament , but its chief charm lies in its simple lines and pleasant 
colour and its background of low-toned ilex. 

Of later date and much interest is an extension of the villa beyond 
the narrow lane on the left of the casino. This extension is connected 
with the older portion by a stone bridge, which leads to more alleys 
shaded by avenues of ilex ; but the principal feature is an amphitheatre 
hollowed out of the hill-side and sheltering another parterre. At the 
top of the grassy bank, that encircles it, runs a stilted ilex hedge, 
left open below so as not to shut out the view from pedestrians 
who wish to take advantage of the shade. Below this, and parallel with 
it, is a line of evergreens cut into fanciful shapes, " balls and cheeses " 
predominating. Within this amphitheatre lies a second parterre with 
repeating scroll-work, somewhat of the nature of our carpet bedding. 
This has for its central feature a large basin, or peschiera as the Italians 
call it, surrounded by a balustrade in eight short sections, in which 
openings are left for busts ; from the centre rises a pedestal carrying a 
fountain figure. 



SS 



VILLA MONDRAGONE 



The Villa Borghese in Mondragone, or as it is commonly called the 
Villa Mondragone, lies back some little distance from the town of 
Frascati, above the road to Monte Porzio. It occupies a commanding 
position on one of the numerous spurs which descend from Tusculum 
and lose themselves in the woody slopes below. 

The villa was formerly approached direct from the main road by way 
of the beautiful old cypress avenue that climbed the steep hill to the 
palace from below the great overhanging terrace. This road has, how- 
ever, long been discarded in favour of a more gentle ascent, which 
passes in front of the Villa Taverna and approaches the Villa Mondra- 
gone through a long avenue of ilex-trees which stretches across the fields 
and olive yards. 

The palazzo is of great size, approached only by that of the Villa 
d'Este. It was commenced by Martino Lunghi the elder for Cardinal 
Marco Sitico de' Conte Altemps, nephew of Pope Pius IV., whose inten- 
tion it was to erect a villa more sumptuous than any then existing, but 
who did not live to see the completion of his darling project. 

After his death it was taken in hand by Gregory XIII., who, with his 
court, frequently made this his summer retreat. Still later, that inde- 
fatigable builder Cardinal Scipio Borghese added largely to the palazzo^ 
and did much to beautify the gardens. 

Among the many architects who had a hand in the building scheme, 
it is a little difficult to assign to each his special share. Martino Lunghi, 
Flaminio Ponzio, Giovanni Vasanzio, Giov. Fontana, Carlo Rainaldi, 
and even the great Vignola himself are mentioned in connection with it 

56 



by the old writers. The great terrace, with the Dragon fountain which 
overlooks the campagna, and that other fountain or teatro cPacqua in the 
private gardens, are undoubtedly the work of Giovanni Fontana, whose 
hand is recognised in more than one of the neighbouring villas ; while 
the laying out and planting of the villa can with equal certainty be 
assigned to Carlo Rainaldi. 

The great cortile, which is entered by an archway beneath the 
building, measures some hundred paces each way. Round three sides of 
this the palazzo is built, the fourth side being formed by the high wall 
of the garden. 

The gtardino segreto was formerly laid out with a number of simple 
but interesting box-bordered plats of a not too intricate pattern. Among 
these were placed fountains large and small. The lower part of the 
enclosing wall was masked by hedges of sweet bay or possibly by 
espaliers of lemon, the upper section containing a number of oval 
niches for busts, and the coping above having ornaments at frequent 
intervals. 

Owing to the fact that the palazzo is now used as a college for boys, 
and that this enclosure has for some years served as a playground, it is 
hardly necessary to say that the parterre and its accompanying fountains 
have completely disappeared ; but the charming teatro d'acqua which ter- 
minates the garden is still in a very fair state of preservation. 

This fountain, designed as I have already mentioned by Giovanni 
Fontana, is raised upon a terrace about ten feet above the level of the 
parterre. Up to this a double stairway leads, with handsome balustrades 
and decorated until quite recently with beautiful fountain tazze above 
the piers. 

The terrace has on three sides an architectural screen, with a broad 
semicircular recess at the rear. This, in many respects, is similar to the 
one at the Villa Lancellotti, having niches for statues placed between 
rusticated pilasters. The niches, from which the statues have disappeared, 
have an elaborate background of stucco-work and mosaic, which is an 
attempt to represent in perspective a gallery or deep recess, the panelled 
sides being ornamented with low reliefs in which strange water-beasts 
play an important part. High up in the central niche, festooned with a 

11 H 



rich damp growth of moss and fern, is a fountain mask from which the 
water flows into an oval basin beneath. 

Within the broad recess is a half-moon shaped cistern, which has a 
very beautiful balustrade, with a small fountain tazza above each pier. 
This cistern, unlike the one at the Villa Lancellotti, is completely 
detached from the terrace wall, so that there is a free passage all 

around it. 

Beneath the grass and weeds that to-day carpet the terrace is a pave- 
ment of vari-coloured marbles. The face of the terrace was formerly 
encrusted with mosaic in which the Borghese dragon was conspicuous, 
traces of which, as well as of the mosaic that lines the steps, still 
remain. Besides the statues that once adorned the niches, many others 
crowned the parapet above the teatro, and in a niche at the foot of the 
stairway stood a figure of Pan playing upon his pipes. 

Thanks to the masonry having been built almost entirely of the good 
warm local stone, the weather has not played the havoc which has been 
wrought with similar work at Tivoli, where stucco has been used in the 
most reckless way, even among the fountains. 

Even to-day, though we cannot but regret the absence ot the many 
statues and busts, and though we miss the sparkle of the numerous foun- 
tains, the Villa Mondragone still remains one of the best examples 
of garden architecture in Italy. 

Evelyn writes of this villa, to which he appears to have paid a hurried 
visit in 1645 : 

" We went hence to another house and garden not far distant, on the 
side of a hill called Mondragone, finish'd by Cardl. Scipio Borghese, an 
ample and kingly edifice. It has a very long galerie, and at the end a 
theater for pastimes, spacious courts, rare grotts, vineyards, olive grounds, 
groves and solitudes. The aire is so fresh and sweete, as few parts of 
Italy exceed it ; nor is it inferior to any palace in the cittie itselfe for 
statues, pictures, and furniture ; but it growing late we could not take 
such particular notice of these things as they deserv'd." 

Before we quit this most fascinating spot, one other feature must be 
noticed. On the side of the palazzo towards Rome stretches a wide 
terrace, the principal ornament of which is the Dragon fountain of our 

58 



picture ; a beautiful piece of work, well proportioned and dignified. 
The principal ta%za is supported by the four great winged dragons from 
which the fountain and the villa deiive their name, and the upper vase is 
supported by the Borghese eagle, but on a smaller scale. Surrounding 
the terrace is a balustrade of stone, and at each end are tall Tuscan 
columns, two of which act as chimneys to the vaulted kitchens beneath. 
The balustrade seems to have been made for the peacocks which perch 
upon it and spread their glorious tails in the sunlight. 

In front of this terrace a wonderful panorama is spread out. Looking 
over the dark spires of cypress and the deep green of ilex in the avenues 
below, the eye ranges over the fields of silvery olive and across the ever 
changing Campagna, with its shifting lights and shadows, to the grey 
Sabine hills and the distant shimmering sea. 



59 



VILLA ALDOBRANDINI 



From the end of the sixteenth century onwards especially favourable 
conditions prevailed in the neighbourhood of Rome for the production 
of great gardens. The country was gradually settling down after the 
petty wars that had kept the peninsula for so many years in a ferment. 
Money appeared to be plentiful ; furthermore there was at this time no 
lack of architects and sculptors who were prepared to undertake work on 
any scale, however grand. 

Not the least skilled amongst these architects was Giacomo della 
Porta, a native of Milan. He was perhaps the greatest of the architects 
who followed Vignola, and after the death of Michael Angelo he had 
been entrusted, in conjunction with Domenico Fontana, with the com- 
pletion of the dome of St. Peter's. It would be too long a story 
to give a list of his works, of which the Villa Aldobrandini was 
the last. 

Here he seems to have had the fullest scope for his talents, and to 
have used thbm to excellent purpose. The unusual handling of the 
baroque casino itself, with its gable corners and stilted roof-gable, surprises 
rather than satisfies, and we recognise that in the building of this casino 
della Porta has shaken himself free from the usual laws that govern the 
architect, and has allowed himself a liberty which he would not have 
taken with more serious work. 

The main lines of the villa, the arrangement of the mighty terraces 
and stairways, present a splendid example of the more powerful style of 
that time, the work being extremely well carried out under della Porta's 
supervision by Orazio Olivieri and Giovanni Fontana, who are here seen 

60 



at their best in work of a lighter vein, which forms a pleasing contrast to 
the more robust style of della Porta. 

The hill side, from the lowest terrace to the summit, has been orna- 
mented with a great variety of fountains, large and small, including a 
magnificent cascade, ending in a thedtre d'eau. Immediately behind the 
casino^ and only separated from it by the width of a terrace, is this thedtre, 
on lines similar to those at the Villa Lancellotti and the Villa Mondra- 
gone. But this one is much more highly decorated, and the wings, ex- 
tending some forty paces on either side, are a more important feature ; 
the hemicycle, though larger, has only five principal niches, below which 
are five circular basins connected with each other by a channel. 

An engraving of the thidtre d'eau, made by Barriere about 1647, '^^^ 
also gives a short description of its principal features, shows how few 
changes have been made since his day. In the central niche he shows us 
a group of Atlas bearing the world upon his shoulders with Hercules 
about to relieve him of his burden. From the globe innumerable tiny 
jets of water issue and fall down in finest rain. 

On each side of this are niches which contain a detached fountain- 
basin supported by tritons, and all around, in smaller niches, stand 
" nymphs, Neptune, and other marine gods." Beyond these are two 
other niches with a background of stalactite-work ; the one to the left 
has a seated Cyclops, who " discourses most excellent music " upon the 
pan-pipes. In the fellow niche to the right is a Centaur who blows a 
horn or bucina, " the sound of which may be heard four miles away." 
Between the principal niches are placed statues within smaller square- 
headed niches. 

The entablature, which has a long Latin inscription relative to the 
founder and his villa, is supported by Ionic pilasters, except where these 
are replaced by figures, male and female, among which are to be seen 
some curious water-creatures, like those to be found at the Villa d'Este, 
furnished with two tails so twisted around each other that they resemble 
certain long sea-shells. 

Above the cornice is a handsome balustrade with statues over each 
pilaster. These unhappily are things of the past, their places having been 
taken by vases containing aloes. 

61 



Within the wings are vaulted chambers. A porch or ante-chamber 
on the left side gives entrance to the chapel of S. Sebastian, the patron 
saint of the house of Aldobrandini ; on the right, in a similar chamber, 
is " a miracle of human ingenuity, w^here the Muses and Apollo in life- 
like attitudes are found on Mt. Parnassus, executed with such art that 
they seem to live and breathe." Wind, generated by some hidden 
device, causes the instruments with which Apollo and the Muses are 
provided to sound, and "produces the sweetest harmony from the 
trumpets, flutes, and horns, without the intervention of any human 
agency." 

Appropriately enough, the walls were decorated by Domenichino 
with a series of paintings of subjects taken from the myths of Apollo; but 
the frescoes, having suffered a good deal from the damp, were removed to 
the Palazzo Borghese in Rome. 

The vaulting is painted so as to represent an open trellis-work roof, 
with vines trailing over it, and birds in great variety sitting among the 
branches : a favourite device with the old artists, but not often used 
nowadays, though occasionally it is to be met with in some unsophisti- 
cated little wine-shop or trattoria. 

To return to the fountain-theatre. Above this, and evidently de- 
signed to be seen to advantage from the loggie of the palace, is the 
cascade, which, with its accompanying stairways, leads the eye upward to 
a couple of detached columns. These originally had fountains at their 
summits, and the spent water made its descent by way of a spiral 
channel which wound round and round the column. The cascade itselt 
was bordered by fountains from top to bottom, some of which were 
concealed ; for hidden at the edge of each step were tiny nozzles, ingeni- 
ously designed to sprinkle the unwary stranger. 

Still higher up the hill-side were other fountains, with channels 
connecting them and arranged at different angles in order to suit the 
slope. One of these fountains, now fallen into a state of considerable dis- 
repair, but still picturesque, mellowed with age, and mossy, is shown in 
one of Falda's prints. The full force of water comes down over a 
jumble of rocks between two tall niches containing rustic figures, at 
whose feet water also issues forth. Outside these niches are flanking 

62 



walls, built with a double curve like a huge console, behind which a 
flight of stairs descends horse-shoe fashion. Within the hollow thus 
formed lies a broad basin, the triple curve of its rim corresponding with 
the three streams. All the architectural features are encrusted with 
rude mosaic and sgraffito, scroll-work and coats of arms. At the foot of 
the stairs are two fluted tazze, above the centre of which is suspended 
the Aldobrandini star, from which jets of water spurt. Here, too, 
the giuochi d'acque are much in evidence, zampille rising from the 
mosaic pavement and from the steps. Youths who have ventured to 
climb^ the treacherous stair fly precipitately, losing their hats and 
sometimes falling headlong in their efforts to escape. 

Evelyn, who is often singularly reticent about the Italian villas, 
describes much more fully than usual this one, which seems to have been 
looked on as a kind of show place in his day. He writes : " 5 May. 
We tooke coach, and went 15 miles out of the Cittie to Frascati, 
formerly Tusculanum, a villa of Card . Aldobrandini, built for a country- 
house, but surpassing, in my opinion, the most delicious places I ever 
beheld for its situation, elegance, plentifull water, groves, ascents, and 
prospects. Just behind the palace (w'^'' is of excellent architecture) in the 
center of y^ inclosure rises an high hill or mountaine all over clad with 
tall wood, and so form'd by nature as if it had been cut out by art, from 
the sum'it whereof falls a cascade, seeming rather a greate river than a 
streame precipitating into a large theater of water, representing an exact 
and perfect rainebow when the sun shines out. Under this is made an 
artificiall grott, wherein are curious rocks, hydraulic organs, and all 
sorts of singing birds moving and chirping by force of the water, with 
severall other pageants and surprising inventions. In the center of one of 
these roomes rises a coper ball that continually daunces about 3 foote above 
the pavement by virtue of a wind conveyed secretely to a hole beneath 
it ; with many other devices to wett the unwary spectators, so that one 
can hardly step without wetting to the skin. In one of these theaters of 
water is an Atlas spouting up the streame to a very great height ; and 
another monster makes a terrible roaring with an horn ; but above all, the 
representation of a storm is most naturall, with such fury of raine, wind, 
and thunder, as one would' imagine ones self in some extreame tempest. 

63 



The garden has excellent walkes and shady groves, abundance of rare 
fruit, oranges, lemons, &c., and the goodly prospect of Rome, above all 
description, so as I do not wonder that Cicero and others have celebrated 
this place with such encomiums. The palace is indeed built more like a 
cabinet than anything compos'd of stone and mortar; it has in the middle 
a hall furnish'd with excellent marbles and rare pictures, especially those 
of Gioseppi d'Arpino; the moveables are princely and rich. This was 
the last piece of architecture finish'd by Giacomo de la Porta, who built 
it for Pietro Card'. Aldobrandini in the time of Clement VIII. . . ." 

Upon the palace level we pass through a beautiful grove of ancient 
plane trees, planted symmetrically with the boughs trained into a con- 
tinuous roof overhead, whose deep shadow enhances the delicate colouring 
of the gnarled trunks. Beyond the grove lies the private garden, well 
screened on every side by tall trees; even the view over the Campagna 
has been excluded for the sake of shelter, though this was not 
always so. 

A pergola wreathed in roses and other climbing plants leads from the 
entrance wicket to the great central basin with its lovely boat-fountain, 
the " Fontana della Navicella," where gold-fish sport among the water- 
lilies and rejoice in the cool limpid water. Originally this fountain stood 
within a semicircular recess at the end of the main path and was backed 
by a boschetto. In it, as in the other boat-fountains, there is no attempt 
slavishly to reproduce a vessel of any sort, the idea merely is taken by the 
architect-sculptor, who succeeds, as only the old artist could, in producing 
from his own fancy something infinitely satisfying. The curving and 
gracious lines of the boat lead upwards at each end to a figure-head, 
which, Janus-like, has two faces, and is large in proportion to the body 
of the boat. Water-stained and mossy, the colour is as satisfactory as the 
form, and only requires the ever-varying reflections to make a most 
exquisite tout ensemble. 

All around are beds planted with good old-fashioned and harmonious 
flowers. No begonias, cannas, lobelia cardinalis, or other atrocities, with 
their vicious colouring, are here, but simple Madonna lilies, sweet- 
williams, larkspur, snapdragon, carnation, lavender, hollyhocks, and 
many another old garden favourite, and last, but not least, roses of 

64 



every tint — the dear old China-rose, pink and crimson, having its due 
place. 

When first laid out, this truly delightful garden was divided into four 
rectangular plots, which were further subdivided into beds of fairly 
simple pattern, edged with box or myrtle, among which the arms of the 
family occupy a prominent place. From this garden, stairs led to a lower 
terrace, now grassed over, but, according to an old plan, this was another 
box-garden laid out in equally simple fashion. 

Yet another delightful little garden is entered from the grove 
of plane-trees. It is planted irregularly with fruit-trees and flowering 
shrubs, and is rendered specially charming by some beds of delicate tea- 
roses which rejoice in the pleasant shade cast by a giant stone pine. At 
the edge of the garden, and overhanging the terrace wall, is another 
fantastic boat-fountain, " Fontana della Barchetta," but of quite different 
design from the one in the parterre. Placed between two piers is an oval 
basin, some ten to fifteen feet in length, which overhangs a grotto and 
fountain on the lower level. Floating, or seeming to float, in this basin 
is a barchetta, the sides of which are panelled and decorated with the 
Aldobrandini star. 

In the' midst of this is a spirited group of two amorini astride on 
dolphins ; what they are doing in this gaPere it is no concern of ours to 
inquire so long as they look picturesque and help the composition. 

To-day a solitary jet of water rises between them, and falling back 
keeps the group and all around in a state of perpetual moisture, which not 
only has the effect of making the stone-work a most exquisite colour, but 
has encouraged a marvellous growth of yellow mimulus, converting the 
fountain into a veritable water-garden. In one of his prints Falda shows 
a variation in this fountain ; the two flanking vases being replaced by 
great convoluted shells, in which playful youngsters are seated, who hold 
conchs to their mouths through which they blow water over the central 
group of amorini, who return the compliment. 

On the opposite side of the palace is the companion fountain, backed 
by a grove of ilex on a lower level, which is shown in one of the accom- 
panying pictures. 

65 



VILLA CONTI 



Of all the hills surrounding the city of Rome those in the neighbourhood 
of Frascati are the most accessible, and possess the most delicious air. 
The advantages of this site were recognised at an early period, and the 
hill-sides were covered with villas, conspicuous amongst which were the 
pleasant country houses of LucuUus and Cicero, supposed to have been 
built upon the ground now occupied by the Villas Conti, Aldobrandini, 
Muti, and Montalto. The exquisite air, the abundance andpurity of the 
water, the charm of the situation, all combined to lead the nobility of 
Rome to build on this spot their beautiful palaces with the accompanying 
magnificent gardens. To this day it is at Frascati, at Marino, or at 
Albano that the Romans are in the habit of spending the autumn season, 
in order to escape from the vitiated atmosphere of the city, and to breathe 
the pure air of the mountains. 

On the outskirts of Frascati, to the right of the high road that leads 
to Marino and Rocca di Papa, is the entrance to the Villa Conti ; a villa 
that appears to have suffered less from the innovations of fashion or the 
devastating hand of Time than perhaps any other. 

The principal alterations took place during the first hundred years of 
its existence ; since then it has remained almost unchanged. This may 
be seen by reference to the drawings and bird's-eye views which were 
made by Falda, Matteo Greuter, Blaeu, and Rossi during the first half of 
the seventeenth century. These show the palace with the fountain and 
projecting terrace in front of it, the cascade or cascatella, and the great 
fountain-reservoir as they are now. But the beautiful series of stairways 
on a line with the palace had yet to be built. 

66 



The ground between the present carriage way and the foot of the 
cascade, now occupied by boschetti of ilex, then sloped steeply and was only 
slightly terraced. The gardens were laid out in rectangular plots with 
fountains, statues, and terminal figures ; while in the centre of the upper 
section was a circular arbour or cabinet, which probably sheltered a 
fountain, a device commonly used by the older gardeners. At the foot 
of the cascade were two shallow terraces protected by balustrades, and all 
seems to have been of the simplest order, as was usual in the earlier 
gardens. 

Shortly afterwards, however, Domenico Fontana, a brother of 
Giovanni, appears upon the scene. At his suggestion the ground was 
excavated and brought up to a level with the first floor, the piano nobile, 
at the rear of the palace. The terrace wall, with its accompanying 
niches and fountains, was built below the cascade, and probably to the 
same period belongs the magnificent series of stairways arranged to mask 
the great terrace wall at the lower side. One cannot but experience a 
feeling of regret at the destruction of the old parterre, especially as 
nothing of the kind seems to have been provided in the later 
arrangement. 

Though the grounds were now considerably enlarged, the newly 
levelled portion was chiefly given up to a wood or bosco laid out with 
broad straight drives. As in many another villa, this may originally 
have been arranged with plots, surrounded by cut ilex hedges ; but the 
trees have far outgrown the original intention, and are now so ancient and 
venerable that all appearance of formality has departed. The grey-green 
branches meet overhead, casting a grateful shade over the moss-grown 
walks. At the intersection of the chief pathways are placed circular 
pedestal fountains, of delightful design and equally charming colour, 
whose jets play high up among the branches, and one of which still 
bears the inscription, GREG : XIII PONT : MAX : 

The central alley leads to a wide piazza among the trees, the farther 
side of which is entirely occupied by the so-called Girandola, a series 
of fountain niches which line a terrace wall some hundred yards in 
length. A channel six feet wide, into which the fountains discharge, 
runs at its foot. In the middle this widens out into a large semicircular 

67 ' 



basin about a rockwork centre-piece, with minor fountains surrounding 
a great central jet. Above the cornice runs a long line of stone vases, 
now filled with aloes and other plants, each of which formerly was 
a fountain adding its quota to the general effect. Doubtless when all the 
fountains were in working order, and the air was filled with the spray of 
falling water, it well deserved its high-sounding name. It is seen at its 
best in the early morning, when half hidden by the mist-wreaths that 
roll up from the Campagna, only to be dispersed later as the sun asserts 
his power. 

Though the Girandola is attributed to Domenico Fontana, it 
cannot for one moment compare with similar work by his brother 
Giovanni in the neighbouring villas. In fact, both in conception and 
detail it is so poor that one is tempted to place it a hundred years later ; 
yet so unequal is the work produced by contemporary artists, that it is 
more than possible for it to be of the same date as the grand stairways 
in the lower part of the villa, which are a very different stamp of 
work. 

Above the Girandola is the cascade, whose principal interest lies in its 
peculiar sinuous outline, and in the sloping stone ledges which connect 
its series of oval basins. Flights of moss-grown steps follow the curving 
lines of these basins to a belvedere, which dominates the cascade, and 
beneath which a stream of water gushes from the mouth of a huge 
grotesque mask, almost hidden beneath a wealth of maidenhair which 
takes complete possession of the damp and open-grained stone. 

The ground on each side of the cascade — in fact, the whole summit of 
the hill — is clothed with a dense growth of evergreen-oak. A narrow 
passage only is left for the cascade, high above which the trees tower. 
Beyond, the trees open out, and encircle the great fountain, in its present 
state perhaps the most beautiful feature in all these Frascati villas. Two 
pictures are devoted to this fountain, but it is on so large a scale that 
portions only of it can be satisfactorily shown. 

Its total width is about thirty-five yards, and it may roughly be 
described as having four great lobes or semicircles, the segments of 
which are united by two short angle-pieces. It is surrounded by a 
richly carved balustrade, raised on a wide step ; facing the water, each of 

68 



the numerous piers carries a fountain-mask, in carving which the artist 
has shown endless invention, and above each pier shallow moulded foun- 
tain basins are provided. 

The centre-piece is a six-foot basin raised upon a foundation of rock- 
work, which appears to be of much later date than its surroundings. It 
throws a powerful jet of water twenty to twenty-five feet above the 
basin, though during a storm the jet will occasionally rise to double this 
height. 

The mouldings and other detail of the stone-work, as well as the 
general proportions of this fountain, are eminently satisfactory, and from 
a pictorial point of view its beauty is enhanced not' a little by the 
charming growth of every sort of limestone-loving weed too numerous 
to mention. 

Falda's engraving of the fountain shows it enclosed by a tall hedge of 
clipped evergreen, above which the natural trees appear. He also shows 
a much larger centre-piece than the present one, and this is supplemented 
by four other jets rising from the surface of the water. All the lesser 
fountains also are represented as spurting so vigorously that the 
gentlemen who lean in negligent attitudes upon the balustrade in 
close proximity would in a short time certainly be drenched. 
Surrounding the broad step is shown a channel to carry off the water 
that splashed .over ; a very necessary adjunct, for such tiny basins could 
not be expected to catch more than a tithe of the falling water. A 
similar arrangement was in use at the Villa Mondragone, where a gust 
of wind frequently carried the water quite clear of the basin. 

The palazzo lies between two terraces, and is entered from either level, 
in this point resembling many of the Frascati villas. It is an interesting, 
picturesque, and rambling old house, with thick walls, grey-tiled roof, 
and projecting eaves ; in all likelihood older than the gardens, and 
certainly much older than the grand stairways, and its situation is one 
which could not be improved. 

The elaborate series of stairways that lead to the principal terrace and 
the boschetti is unique, and forms the striking feature of the villa. These 
stairways, of which there are no fewer than four, which are set at various 
angles, with a double pente douce in the middle, stretch from end to end 

69 



of a terrace some 200 yards in length. The staircases are balustraded and 
decorated with fluted balls and vases ; the latter, though now used for 
aloes, doubtless at one time were fountains. The spaces between the 
various flights are filled with roses of all sorts and other flowers, the 
effect of which, in conjunction with the warm grey stone, is pleasing in 
the extreme. 

This villa served as a retreat to Pope Gregory XV., of the family ot 
Ludovisi, who bought it from the Due d'Altemps shortly before he was 
elected to the Papacy. After remaining in his family but a few years, it 
passed successively to the Conti, the Sforza, and finally to the 
Torlonia family. 

But a short distance beyond the Villa Conti, or Torlonia as it is now 
called, are two other villas, less known but full of interest, both of which 
at one time belonged to the Muti family. 

The nearer of these, formerly known as Belpoggio, but now as the 
Villa Palavicini, stands on a spit of land, and is terraced on all sides. 
Specially interesting is the complex system of grottoes with which the 
upper terrace was honeycombed, and which extended the whole length 
of the terrace on bpth sides. The villa, which is not extensive, is 
divided into two main levels, the lower being reached by a double ramp. 
This terrace was formerly laid out with an elaborate arrangement of 
cabinets connected by arbours or pleached alleys, with openings like 
windows at intervals, through which glimpses of the garden might' be 
obtained. In the more open parterre and interspersed among the foun- 
tains, several of which still remain, both Greuter (1620) and Blaeu show 
a number of box-trees clipped into quaint shapes of ships, or birds, 
or animals, such as lions, peacocks, or spread-eagles, with other topiary 
work on the upper terrace, all of which have long since perished. 

Another delightful villa, though unhappily much modernised in parts, 
is the Villa Muti. The casino is surrounded by terraces on different 
levels, which follow the trend of the ground and have been most 
ingeniously treated by the architect. It is not a large place, the whole 
garden being barely 150 yards square, but its great charm lies in its 
simplicity and homeliness. 

The lower terrace, partly enclosed by walls of bay or ilex, is laid out 

70 



as a green-garden in a most delightful and unusual style, with the hedges 
planted in simple pattern, the centre of each plot being formed by large 
bosses clipped into fantastic shapes. Some flame-coloured poppies give 
the only touch of bright colour, for this was never intended to be a 
flower garden, which was reserved for the adjoining terrace. Here is to 
be found a delightful mingling of marble statues and trailing vines. 
Madonna lilies and China roses, with other simple flowers growing in a 
setting of geometrical box with a background of ilex grove. Here too 
a tiny fountain forms the centre of a frog-haunted pool, and helps 
to make " beauty to the eye and music to the ear." 



71 



VILLA LANTE IN BAGNAJA 



Into the early history of this villa, which is too long to be recounted 
here, it is not necessary to enter at length. Let it suffice that the 
property came into the hands of Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Gambara, 
of Brescia, about the year 1564. 

A small house] already existed on the site, and something had been 
done by his predecessors towards laying out the garden, but it is to this 
Cardinal that we owe the conception of the present villa. The mania for 
building villas was beginning to make itself felt in Italy, and the Cardinal, 
desirous of providing one suitable to his rank, appears to have lost no time 
in securing the services of architect and craftsmen of no mean order to 
carry out his wishes. The misfortune is that no reliable name has come 
down to us in connection with this exceptional piece of work. 

Under the Cardinal's personal supervision such progress was made that 
the fame of it was noised abroad, and he received an intimation from Rome, 
which he could not afford to ignore, that the money he was spending so 
lavishly on the embellishment of his villa would be better employed in 
works of charity. Fortunately much had been already completed, but so 
interested had the Cardinal been in the fountains and other works about 
his garden, that only one casino of the two he had planned was built, and 
so matters remained until his death. 

No such restrictions seem to have been placed upon his successor, 
Alessandro Damasceno Peretti, Cardinal Montalto, a nephew of Pope 
Sixtus v., who, about 1588, built the second casino in order to balance the 
first, and made various changes and additions in other parts of the villa. 
The work done in his time may be readily distinguished by his armorial 

72 



bearings (the lion, the three-lobed mount, and the star), which in some 
form or other are introduced on several of the fountains, &c. 

When it is considered that the various works about this villa must 
have extended over a period of fifty years or more, it is impossible to 
praise too highly the spirit which animated the successive artists who 
carried them out. So entirely in harmony are these works, that they almost 
give the impression that the whole villa was the conception of one mind. 

The ground on which the garden is laid out falls with a gentle slope 
and is cut into a series of four or five terraces. The water, brought from 
a distance in an aqueduct, enters the villa at the topmost level, and, 
working its way downwards, passes through the various fountains in suc- 
cession ; thus giving the maximum effect. 

The two casini are placed at the opposite ends of the first terrace 
from which they are entered, the ground floor being occupied by a 
loggia of three arches which opens on to the parterre. This flower garden 
is about eighty yards square and is laid out with box-bordered beds, some 
of simple geometrical design, others of more complex scroll-work, and 
many of these are filled with all sorts of old-fashioned sweet-smelling 
flowers of the kind endeared to us by the memories of childhood. The 
whole centre of the garden is taken up with perhaps the most beautiful 
fountain in Italy. This consists of a square cistern or peschiera raised above 
the garden level and having in its centre an island-fountain in two tiers 
with balustrades, one above the other. Access to the island is gained by 
means of four causeways which are also protected by balustrades. As a 
centre-piece, and above all, stand four graceful nude figures which hold 
aloft the mount and star of the Montalto family. In addition to the 
great central jet, water flows from the points of the star and from various 
masks, keeping the fountain in a state of delicious moisture and giving 
the centre-piece the look of polished bronze. In the outer basin 
float four stone barchette, similar to those at the Villa Aldobrandini, 
and the fountain is further embellished with innumerable fountain 
masks, pine-cone finials, obelisks, and tall fluted vases which at one time 
also were fountains. 

The surrounding garden is pleasantly broken by vases containing 
lemon-trees hedged about with square cut box, breast high, free-growing 

7Z ^ 



roses, and flowering shrubs. Between the casini, the slope is embroidered 
with patterns of box, flanked by bold stairways which lead the eye 
upward to a series of fountains and cascades overshadowed by masses of 
dark foliage that lend an air of mystery to the vista. 

The second terrace is enlivened by a circular fountain, built partly 
within and partly without the sustaining wall. Its central jet is encircled 
by minor fountains and several concentric water channels ranged one 
above another. At the next terrace is a semicircular basin within which 
recline two gigantic river-gods, enriched by brilliant patches of moss and 
lichen. On either side of this fountain, stairways lead upward, flanked 
by stepped walls, with tall sculptured vase-fountains and spouting masks, 
the water falling from one to another. To these fountains the water is 
conveyed by a mossy channel, the " catena, " so called from its curious rim 
of interlacing scroll-work, which takes the place of the usual cascade and 
makes a pleasing variety. Beyond it you reach the delightful upper 
terrace, shaded by giant plane-trees and surrounded by tall columns set 
at intervals in a balustrade. At the further side, where the aqueduct 
enters, is a fountain in a semicircular recess, and on each side of it are 
open pavilions of graceful proportions. These were built by Cardinal 
Gambara, whose name is inscribed on the entablature and whose arms, 
with the crayfish, appear in a panel above. A curious octagonal fountain 
forms the centre of the terrace, with several channels rising one above 
another in steps, quaintly sculptured with tazze dolphins and masks, from 
all of which issue supplementary jets. This is surrounded by a high clipped 
hedge, with stone benches that follow the curves and angles of the 
enclosure ; a most delightful bower in which to while away a lazy 
afternoon, to the drowsy accompaniment of the murmuring waters, and 
the rippling song of birds. 

Thus it may be seen, that in the Villa Lante are to be found, carried 
to the highest pitch of perfection, all those features which go to make the 
ideal villa ; casini large enough for all reasonable requirements ; the parterre 
spread out beneath the windows, which is always a delight, winter or 
summer ; shady places near at hand ; fountains with a plentiful water 
supply ; and beyond the garden, away towards the hilly background, wild 
woodland stretches. 

74 




.M'^i" 



A not inconsiderable feature of the well cared for Italian villa is the 
use of flowering plants in pots, disposed around and about the fountains 
and stairways, to which they lend colour and variety. These are often 
concentrated in the vicinity of the fountains for convenience of watering, 
or in some favoured corner of the house terrace. Here, shaded from 
the extreme heat of the sun, is a group of azaleas, of pearly white or 
pink, or vivid crimson, and nodding carnations of every hue, making 
together a most delightful " smash " of colour in contrast with the more 
sober background. 

Of the only two engravings of this villa, which I know, by Francesco 
Pannini and Frigie respectively, that by the latter is certainly the more 
reliable. Pannini gives us a large plate, but the drawing is faulty and 
unconvincing, and the fountains seen between the casini are incorrectly 
and miserably drawn. The inscription on the margin is " Veduta 
principale della Villa Lante in Bagnaja. Architettura del Celeb re 
Giacomo Barozzi detto il Vignola," which shows that in the i8th 
century, or two hundred years after its foundation, the villa was 
attributed to Vignola. 

Frigie's print is on quite a small scale and is very rudely engraved ; the 
minor features are merely indicated, yet in such a way that there is really 
no difficulty in identifying them. At the foot is a crabbed Latin inscrip- 
tion which may be translated — " This villa, comprising gardens, fountains, 
and woods, was created in a marvellous manner and at great cost, from 
the foundations, by the Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Giovanni 
Francisco Gambara of Brescia. At the present time, however, it belongs 
to the Most Illustrious and Reverend Cardinal Montalto, who with all 
zeal and diligence has extended the beauty of the place to greater elegance 
and spaciousness, sparing no expense in order that the celebrity of its fame 
should bring thither all the princes of the earth, and justly, abundantly, 
and completely satisfy them." 

He gives a list of the various fountains, &c., and we learn from 
him that the villa was called the "Barco di Bagnaia^ The parterre still 
remains as originally laid out, and twelve plots surround the great fountain, 
each with its little central jet. These plots appear to have a low trellis- 
fence such as was common in mediasval gardens. The peschiera is shown 

7S 



with its balustraded island and four little boat fountains, but with a centre- 
piece having two tiers of basins capped by the Montalto arms. 

At either end of the house terrace facing the casini double porticoes 
stand. The lower colonnade of these is open ; the upper forms an aviary 
which is approached from the higher level. 

Flanking the two pavilions on the topmost terrace, Frigie shows two 
other aviaries, on a grand scale, enclosing groves. All that now remains 
of these is the row of tall columns which formed one side of the great 
cage. The centre of this same terrace appears to have been occupied by 
a building of the grotto class, which he calls " Fons coralli," and from 
which the catena took its rise. 

The park, or barco, which is often supposed to be a later development, 
was laid out with walks and avenues leading to various fountains and 
objects of interest, which were half hidden among the thickets. On 
the higher ground lay the supply reservoir, apparently surrounded 
by a colonnade, but Frigie's print is not quite clear about this. Facing 
the entrance to the park is a large circular basin partly excavated from 
the hill-side, and having a retaining wall decorated with nine tall consoles 
which carry busts, presumably of the Muses. The terrace above is 
guarded by a balustrade, which is repeated on the lower level and so 
completes the circle. Frigie names this " Fons Parnasi," and also 
shows Pegasus prancing in the midst of it. Pegasus has since taken to 
himself wings, but the fountain remains. There was also a fountain 
dedicated to Bacchus and another of the Unicorn ; the latter being shel- 
tered by a pleached arbour which stretched some little way on either side 
of it. Besides various other fountains scattered about the park there was 
a labyrinth, not so intricate that you could not hope to find your way 
through it unaided. 

Only some dozen miles away, over rough country lanes, by well-tilled 
farms and olive-yards gay with many a flower, lies Caprarola and the 
Villa Farnese. At the rear of the huge pentagonal palace, the chef d'ceuvre 
of Vignola, may be found the remains of a most fantastic garden. 
Fountains and stairways, terrace walls and grottoes, are embellished with 
all those strange and whimsical creatures that emanated from the fertile 
brain of the baroque sculptor. Great river-gods, tritons, and sea monsters 

76 



play in the fountain-basins ; dolphins and ta%ze fringe the stairways and 
cascades ; and statues, vases, masks, and finials are to be met at every 
turn. 

The most fascinating portion of the villa is that which lies in close 
proximity to the little pavilion. The ground rises to this point and the 
pavilion is constructed in two stories, with lo^k on each, opening on to 
the upper and lower levels. On the one side a loggia looks away over the 
broad gracious landscape to the snow-capped Apennines ; on the other it 
looks upon the parterre where stout box-hedges, severely geometrical, 
serve as background to certain low-lipped fountain basins with sea-horses 
prancing and spouting water. All around, ranged on the low wall, are 
grotesque terminal statues backed by beautiful old cypresses. At a break 
in the parapet tritons and unicorns play with the water before it finally 
descends to the lower level and the long cascatella. Unfortunately 
the architect has not been so successful as the sculptor ; much of his 
work is heavy and ill-proportioned and would not pass muster but 
for the help he constantly receives from the sculptor and the " water- 
artist." 

The pavilion with its frescoed loggie strikes a much higher note ; it is 

a most refined piece of work and might be placed fifty years earlier than 

the bulk of the architectural work. Much of the sculpture is singularly 

. happy and fanciful, and we seem to recognise the hand of one at least of 

the artists from the Villa Lante. 



77 



FLORENTINE VILLAS 



THE BOBOLI GARDENS 



Owing to exceptional circumstances it was in Rome and its neighbour- 
hood that the most important development of the maison de plaisance took 
place, both in the purely country and the suburban villa. Around 
Florence, with the exception perhaps of the Grand Ducal villas, no 
attempt was made to enter into competition with the special luxury of 
the Eternal City. 

Lord Orrery, writing from Florence in 1754, says : " Luqa Pitti, a 
Florentine gentleman, more rich than wise, more envious than prudent, 
heard with great uneasiness the palace of the famous Filippo Strozzi 
much commended and admired. It was the largest palace at that time 
in Florence. ' It shall be so no longer,' exclaimed Luca Pitti ; ' I will 
build a larger. The palace of Strozzi shall be measured to stand within 
my court. Every one of my windows shall be as large as his portal.' 
Luca Pitti verified his boast, but ruined his fortune. He built his 
palace, and he erected a most magnificent front on the outside, magnifi- 
cent but heavy ; truly Tuscan, durable as the world itself. By which 
design the great arch of each window is, on the outside, noble ; on the 
inside, six parts in seven of it are bricked up to adapt the windows to 
the size of the rooms ; nor are the chambers divided with the least 
attention to regularity. . . . Cosmo I,, whose riches and grandeur were 
boundless, bought the palace Pitti, which from his time till the total 
extinction of his family has been receiving additional ornaments of every 
kind that can be named. Behind the palace is a large garden, called 
Boboli, laid out in what is now deemed the old-fashioned taste. I mean 
statues, fountains, long straight alleys, and dipt hedges, the garden 

81 L 



being at present in a desolate and almost ruinous state. Heretofore 
crowds of people have enlivened Boboli ; of late it is totally deserted. 
An amphitheatre of evergreens, formed and fitted exactly to the garden 
front of the palace has a charming effect, especially at this dead time of 
the year ; they rise naturally, gradually, and in variety of pleasing shades, 
one above another. They are absolutely beyond the power of description. 
On the top of one part of the garden is the great fort which defends the 
town. In another part a gentle ascent leads to a banqueting-house, 
which commands a view of the whole city. The banqueting-house is 
the plainest building imaginable. Such an edifice would not be per- 
mitted to hold scythes or shovels, in the gardens of Stow, Chiswick or 
Claremont." 

When Luca Pitti died he left his grandiose palace but half-finished, 
and his heirs so impoverished that they were unable to carry on the 
work ; so it came about that in 1 549 it was sold to Leonora di Toledo, 
wife of Cosimo I., who bought land adjoining, and in the following year 
commenced to lay out the Boboli Gardens, The work was begun under 
the direction of Niccolo Pericoli, nicknamed II Tribolo, and was 
continued by Bernardo Buontalenti ; but much of the architectural 
work, the fountains, and statuary, as well as the garden court, are due to 
Bartolommeo Ammanati. 

Closing in the court on the side towards the garden is a heavy grotto- 
structure adorned with a figure of Moses and certain symbolic statues ; 
putfi and sea-monsters play around them, and the arms of de' Medici and 
della Rovere are disposed on either side, the work being carried out in 
marbles of various colours, porphyry, and bronze. 

Above the grotto, upon a terrace level with the piano nobile of the 
palace and of the garden beyond, is an octagonal fountain, constructed 
with much originality by Susini and Ferucci in 1641, and forming a most 
delightful foreground to the amphitheatre and its overhanging banks of 
evergreen trees beyond. 

Dolphins and imps of boys disport themselves in the water, and- 
tritons support the upper tazze. On the side towards the palace the 
overflow is ingeniously carried off through four minor basins arranged as 
cascatelle, and deep-ribbed seashells, dolphins, and puttini complete the 

82 



fountain on either side. Baldinucci states that Susini was paid the sum 
of 1250 scudi for his various works in marble in connection with this 
fountain, which is said to have replaced an earlier one by Baccio 
Bandinelli, some of the statues from which were distributed about the 
gardens. 

Opposite the centre of the palace is a spacious theatre, or amphi- 
theatre as it is commonly called. This has served in times past not only 
for jousts and games, but likewise for those gorgeous pageants conceived 
and conducted for the pleasure not only of the audience but also of those 
taking part in the spectacle, and in the preparation of which some of the 
greatest artists were employed. A more delightful background for such 
a purpose it would be difficult to imagine. 

This theatre is surrounded by six tiers of stone benches, finished with 
a balustrade and niches for statues and vases which stand out boldly 
against the dark ilex hedge with its fringe of cypresses. Until the 
middle of the eighteenth century the piazza of this amphitheatre was 
kept free from any embellishment, but about 1740 it was planted as 
a parterre with " various sweet-scented flowers in squares bordered by 
little cypress and box trees," and marble statues and vases with many 
kinds of orange- and lemon-tree were set about it. Of late the older 
arrangement has been restored, and gravel paths and rough grass have 
again taken the place of the parterre. The baldness of the present 
arrangement is emphasised by the two miserable little beds of geraniums 
and sickly palms that are left. The ugly, modern-looking area, too, that 
divides the fountain from the garden, helps to give a poverty-stricken air 
to what might so easily be made the most delightful section of the 
garden. 

The curve of the amphitheatre is broken by a wide walk, 
which follows the slope of the hill and leads upwards between high 
hedges of evergreen oak to the Vivaio or Fountain of Neptune. This is a 
capacious cistern or peschiera, hemmed in by grass terraces, which 
supplies the fountains in the lower part of the grounds. The centre- 
piece of this vhaio represents the Triumph of Neptune, and was set up 
by order of the Grand Duke Cosimo I. It is formed of a great mass of 
stalactite with Tritons, marine monsters, and huge conchs, " with other 

83 



ornaments appropriate to the representation of the Triumph^ from which 
spurt in all directions various jets and giuochi d'acque." Perched on 
the summit of the rock is the bronze statue of Neptune, larger than life, 
from whose trident streams of water issue. It. is believed that the 
Triumph was designed for this fountain by Stoldo Lorenzi of Settignano, 
in imitation of the Chariot of Neptune which, together with other 
chariots, went about Florence on February 22, 1565, in the grand 
masquerade representing the genealogy of the gods. 

On the slope leading to the amphitheatre below, the steep walk was 
in all likelihood lined with fountains and a cascade, for which the place 
seems to have been prepared ; but water was never plentiful here, 
and many of the fountains that still exist have only a scanty supply. 

On the brow of the hill, overhanging the city wall, is the giardino del 
CavalHere ; a most charming little private garden, box-bordered, and 
bright with roses and lilies and many another sweet-smelling flower. In 
the midst stands a delightful marble fountain, which an amorino above 
and three bronze babbuini at the base enliven with jets of water. 

From this spot, which is open on two sides, a wonderful view is 
enjoyed of S. jyiiniato and the Colli with the Val d'Arno and the snow 
mountains beyond. The thoughtful Baedeker marks it with an asterisk, 
consequently crowds of tourists, chiefly German, come to gaze and hang 
over the low wall in ecstasies of voluble delight. That a landscape could 
be improved by a foreground never seems to occur to them, so the 
fascinating little garden is ignored, not one in a hundred deigning to 
give it so much as a passing glance. 

The surface covered by trees in the Boboli Garden is curiously 
disproportionate to the area of the grounds, being fully two-thirds of the 
whole. Long straight walks intersect it in all directions, several of the 
boschetti thus formed being subdivided by minor walks arranged in 
concentric circles, one of which is called a labyrinth, though the name is 
equally applicable to all. 

By far the most finished and harmonious piece of work in the whole 
garden is the Vasca deW Isolotto. It lies in the inner grounds near the 
Porta Romana and its conception is claimed by Vasari. 

Encircled by a wall of evergreen oak is an oval pool, some hundred 

84 



pacesJong by seventy wide. An island of the same form, reached from 
either side by bridges, has for a centre-piece Giambologna's celebrated 
fountain with Oceanus and the rivers Nile, Ganges, and Euphrates, 
represented by heroic statues. This group is placed above a huge 
granite tazza, the pedestal of which is encircled by a seat, and through 
the water which falls from the lip of the basin into a runlet below is 
shown the garden : a quaint conceit of the fountain-artist. 

The island makes a most charming private garden, and rejoices in a 
constant succession of flowers disposed about it in pots as well as in the 
box-bordered beds. At the waterside is a well-designed balustrade, 
broken into short sections, the stone-work curving downwards to 
bracketed pedestals on which stand vases with lemon-trees. 

At the landward end of the bridges are wrought-iron gates placed 
between coupled columns, above which are Capricorns carved in marble ; 
an old device of Cosimo I. who was born under that constellation. At 
the water's edge, close by these gateways, are grotesque creatures spout- 
ing into great sea-shells from which the water falls into other shells 
beneath. Four other fantastic fountains are disposed around the verge, 
which form pedestals for certain graceful amorini who appear to be 
playing tricks with the human heart. One places his foot upon a heart 
which he is about to strike with a hammer ; another holds a heart in his 
hand and attempts to open it with a key. Each of these is by Domenico 
Pieratti, their fellows in the opposite quarter being by Cos. Salvestrini. 

Connecting the various fountains is a wrought-iron fence, provided 
with numerous tiny jets. These, when in working order, formed a 
succession, oi jets cTeaux encircling the pool, in the middle of which 
forlorn Andromeda, chained to a rock, looks expectantly for her Perseus, 
while a horrid bronze monster threateningly raises his shiny green head 
at her very feet. 

On every side stone benches are set beneath the overhanging ilex 
hedge, and rustic statues, weather stained, play hide and seek in the 
greenery. Above the wall of close-clipped evergreen rise high in air 
the dark spires of cypress and the lighter foliage of deciduous trees, all 
mirrored in the still pool below. 

8S 



VILLA PALMIERI 



The Italian villa, which attained its full development in the vicinity oi 
Rome during the sixteenth century, did not make the same rapid 
progress further north, and many of the villas in the neighbourhood of 
Florence retain even to the present day their semi-farmhouse character- 
istics. 

Although the country house was often enlarged, or rebuilt in a more 
palatial style, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the gardens 
not infrequently were laid out on the most modest scale. The Villa 
Palmieri is no exception to the rule. The casino, or palazzo as it 
might be called, though retaining the simpler lines of the Tuscan 
house, is a fairly large building, and the house terrace, with its statues 
and grand staircase, is on a proportionate scale with it, and would lead 
you to anticipate a garden as large, say, as the Villa Medici in Rome ; 
but what you find is an oval parterre, some seventy paces long by forty 
broad, overlooking the podere. This appears to have been the whole 
garden, which was doubtless supplemented by pergolas or berceaux 
leading into the cultivated ground, and terminating in groups of cypress 
or stone pine, or an ilex grove with seats set about some sylvan god. 

The villa, then known as Schifanoja, came into the hands of Matteo 
Palmieri, an able scholar and friend of Cosmo de' Medici, about the 
year 1450 ; but it was not until 1670 that Palmiero Palmieri, a descendant 
of his, built the present palace (or the greater part of it) and called it after 
his dwn name. 

The palace with its wide overhanging eaves is a simple, dignified? 
building of good proportions, arranged round a central arcaded cortile^ and 

86 



presenting towards the garden a long low two-storied facade, which is 
decorated, not unpleasantly, in colour, with a geometrical panelling. 
Raised above the flat tiled roof is that most essential feature of the 
Tuscan villa, a belvedere or loggia. Here, unhappily, its five arches have 
been glazed and closed up with shutters, thus depriving the house of 
much of its interest, for the deep shadows of the arcade are an essential 
part of the architectural scheme. But this is the fate of too many of the 
Florentine loggie. Their original intention, as a connecting-link between 
garden and house, is lost sight of, and one after another they are enclosed 
and degenerate merely into one more mundane room. 

A wide terrace stretches the whole length of the house, its central 
bay projecting forward above a roadway and beyond that over a grotto or 
salle fraiche. 

On either side of the projecting bay a grand flight of stairs sweeps 
downwards, bending forwards and following the oval outline of the enclosed 
garden below. A bold picturesque balustrade encloses terrace and stair- 
way, each pier being finished with some garden god or goddess — Ceres, 
Pomona, Flora, Bacchus, and many another. How blest must a garden 
be presided over by these ! 

In the centre, opposite the great portal, the balustrade is broken, in 
order to admit a broad fountain tazza which is flanked by crouching 
lions. Wistaria rambles over the balustrade, veiling but not hkiing it 
beneath its delicate lilac clusters, and later in the season, when the 
blossom has given place to the tender yellow foliage, the gardener puts 
out his pots of azalea and carnation, geranium and Paris daisy, with here 
and there a dark green box-tree as a bit of sobering colour. 

The enclosed garden below is laid out with grass plots, and scattered 
over its surface are magnolias, oleanders, and other flowering shrubs. 
The narrow borders that flank the paths are bright with flowers, and 
roses and purple clematis ramble at will over the handsome old gate piers 
almost hiding their curious vase-like finials. In the central basin a tiny 
fountain makes music, and the scent of lerhon and jessamine fills the air. 

For more than eighty years the villa has been in English hands, and 
the grounds have been pushed far into the podere. Much planting, 
especially on the steep hill-side above the palazzo^ has been carried out 

87 



by Lord Crawford, to whose credit also may be placed the laying out of 
the charming little formal garden, with its beds of old-fashioned flowers 
and its terra-cotta fountain wreathed in roses and other climbing plants. 
This garden appears in one of our pictures and makes a delightful fore- 
ground to the old palace with its balustraded terrace. 

The villa is inseparably connected with the name of Boccacio, for has 
it not been " identified " with the one described by him in the untrans- 
latable " Decamerone " ? 

" The garden was at the side of the palace, and walled round about, 
which at their first entrance seemed so full of delights that they were the 
more attentive in viewing every part. All round and through the midst 
of it were broad straight walks covered with vines, . . . and being all 
in blossom they gave so delicious a scent joined with other flowers then 
growing in the garden, that it reminded them of all the spices of the 
Orient. The sides of these alleys were closed in with white and red 
roses and jasmine so interwoven as to exclude the sun even at midday, 
creating an odoriferous and delightful shade. The variety of plants in 
this place ... it would be needless to mention, since there was nothing 
belonging to our climate which was not found there in abundance. In 
the midst, what seemed more commendable than anything else, was a 
prato of small herbs, spangled with innumerable flowers, and set round 
with orange and lemon trees, whose branches were filled with ripe fruit 
and blossoms, at the same time most pleasing to the eye and grateful 
to the smell. In the middle of this prato was a fountain of whitest 
marble marvellously carved ; and from a figure standing upon a column 
in the centre of the fountain a jet of water spurted up, which in falling 
made a most agreeable sound. The water which flowed thence ran 
through the meadow by hidden ways ; when it appeared again it was 
carried to every part of the garden through artfully contrived channels, 
uniting in one stream at its going out." . . . 

" Its beautiful order, its flowers, and its sparkling fountain gave so 
much pleasure " to the visitors " that all began to affirm, that if Paradise 
were on this earth they could not imagine what other form it could have 
but that of this garden ; nor could they think what other beauty might 
be added to it." 

88 



VILLA REALE DI CASTELLO 



This villa belonged to the de' Medici family some time before they 
became Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and was one of their favourite 
residences. 

So rarely have we the good fortune to possess a coherent and detailed 
account of an Italian villa by a contemporary hand, that I make no 
apology for transcribing freely from Vasari's interesting description ot 
this villa, which was laid out and beautified by men personally known to 
him. 

" The Villa di Castello lies at the roots of the Monte Morello, and 
beneath the Villa della Topaia, which is situate about half-way up the 
acclivity; it has before it a plain which descends very gradually, and 
within the space of about a mile and a half, to the River Arno. It is 
exactly at the point where the ascent of the hill commences from this 
plain that the palace is situate, that edifice having been originally erected, 
after a very good design, by Pier Francesco de' Medici. 

" The principal front is turned to the south and looks over extensive 
lawns or meadows, within which are two large ponds of running water, 
the latter coming from an ancient aqueduct made by the Romans for 
the purpose of bringing water from Valdimarina to Florence, where the 
vaulted reservoir of the same is to be found. Thus situate, the palace has 
an exceedingly agreeable and even beautiful view; the waters before it are 
divided by a bridge twelve bracua wide, which leads to an avenue of the 
same width, formed by mulberry trees, covering it closely on both sides 
and rising to a height of ten braccia, insomuch that they form a vault 
overhead, beneath which you may walk for three hundred braccia in the 

89 M 



most agreeable shade. This avenue of mulberries opens on to the high 
road to Prato by a gate placed between two fountains, which give water to 
the travellers who pass that way, as well as to their animals and the cattle 
of the neighbourhood. 

" The northern front of the palace — that which looks towards the hill 
— has a lawn before it, the length of which is equal to that of the palace, 
the stables, and the private garden united, and from this lawn there is an 
ascent by steps to the principal garden, and the garden itself, rising by a 
gentle acclivity, extends to such a distance from the palace as to be 
entirely open to the influence of the southern sun, precisely as if no 
building stood before it. At its upper end, moreover, the garden attains 
to such a height that not only is the whole ot the palace to be discovered 
therefrom, but the entire plain extending before and around it, together 
with the city itself. 

" In the midst of the last-mentioned garden there is a wood of high 
cypresses, with laurels and shrubs of various kinds, which form a circle, 
wherein is a labyrinth surrounded by hedges of box two braccia 
and a half high, the growth being so equal, and the whole arranged 
in so beautiful a manner that they might be taken for a work of the 
pencil. In the centre of this labyrinth, Tribolo, by command of the 
Duke, was to erect a marble fountain of great beauty. ... It was 
Tribolo's intention to display the highest powers of art by means of the 
various jets and ornamental forms into which the water was to be thrown, 
and by the numerous decorations to be placed about the fountain, around 
which there was to be a commodious and beautiful range of seats 
for repose. The marble basin he proposed to make, as was in effect sub- 
sequently done, was much smaller than that of the large and principal 
fountain, and he intended to place therein a figure of bronze, throwing 
water from its mouth. 

" At the end of this garden there was to be a portal in the centre, with 
marble figures of boys throwing water ; a fountain was to be formed on 
each side, and in the angles were to be double niches, within which 
statues were to be placed, similar to those which are in the niches of the 
side walls, and ranged along the avenues by which the garden is traversed; 
all to be standing in various compartments and surrounded with verdure. 

90 



From the above-mentioned dooj- at the end of this garden a flight of steps 
conducts' to a second garden, of equal width with the first ; but, ascending 
the hill straight upwards, it presented no great depth, being impeded by 
the acclivity of the mountain. 

" On each side of this upper garden was likewise to be built a loggia, 
and opposite the door in the wall erected to support the soil of the hill 
behind, there was to be a grotto with three distinct elevations, each with 
its basin, wherein water was to fall in the manner of rain. On each side 
of the grotto was to be placed a fountain, and opposite to these, near the 
lower wall of the garden, two more fountains were to be constructed, one 
on each side of the door. In this manner the fountains of the upper 
garden would have been equal to those in that beneath it, those of the 
latter receiving their waters from the fountains of the higher garden, 
wherein were also to be large numbers of orange-trees, which would have 
had, nay, rather, will have, the most salubrious position that can be con- 
ceived, because they will be defended by the wall and the heights from 
the north wind and all others that might be injurious to them. 

" From this garden of oranges two flights of stone steps, one on each 
side, conduct to a wood of cypress, pines and ilex, mingled with sweet bay 
and. evergreen shrubs in great variety, and distributed with the most 
admirable judgment. In the midst of these, according to the design of 
Tribolo, was to be formed a very beautiful piece of water, which has in 
effect been done. The space is here gradually restricted till it forms an 
angle, this being truncated to the breadth of a loggia, erected to surround 
the same ; and from this point, after ascending certain flights of steps, 
the whole view beneath lies discovered — the palace, the gardens, the 
fountains, and all the plain below and around them, that is to say, even 
to the ducal villa of Poggio-a-Cajano and the city of Florence itself; 
with distant views of Prato, Siena (Signa ?), and all around to the extent 
of many miles. 

" Pietro da Casciano had now completed his work of the aqueduct, 
even to Castello, and had brought all the waters of the Castellina to that 
place, when it chanced that he was attacked by a most violent fever, 
whereof he died in a very few days. Thereupon Tribolo, having taken 
the entire conduct of the building upon himself, perceived that the 

91 



waters were not by any means sufficient to effect all that he had it in his 
thoughts to do. He therefore gained permission from the Duke to 
conduct the waters of the Petraia to Castello, and caused another 
aqueduct to be made. He then began to build the grotto, adding the 
three niches, as also the two fountains, one on each side of the grotto. . . . 
" Tribolo then began the fountain of the labyrinth, and the lower 
part of this he formed of marine monsters in marble, twined together in 
full relief, and wholly detached from the base, the tails of these animals 
being interlaced after such sort that nothing better in that manner could 
well be effected. Having completed this part he then formed' the vase, 
for which he availed himself of a piece of marble which had been long 
before brought to Castello from the Villa dell' Antella, together with 
a large table, also of marble, purchased by Messer Ottaviano de' Medici 
from Giuliano Salviati, 

" The possession of these resources caused Tribolo to prepare the tazza 
for this fountain earlier perhaps than he might otherwise have done. 
For the decoration of the same he designed a dance of children, which he 
arranged around the mouth of the tazza and close to the edge or lip 
thereof ; the little boys composing this dance hold festoons of marine 
plants, which are detached from the marble with the most admirable art. 
The pedestal also, which Tribolo erected within the tazza, is adorned 
with figures of children and masks throwing water, which are all of 
extraordinary beauty and excellence. On this pedestal it was the 
intention of Tribolo to place a bronze statue, three braccia and a half 
high, representing Florence, and signifying that from the Mounts 
Asinaio and Falterona come the waters of the Arno and the Mugnone to 
Florence ; and for this statue the master had prepared a most exquisite 
model exhibiting the figure in the act of wringing with her hands the 
luxuriant tresses of her hair, whence the water comes streaming on every 
side." 

This most beautiful tazza, with the bronze statue here described, is 
now at the Villa Petraia, to which place it was removed by order of the 
Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. 

" Having brought the collected waters to the first quadrangle of thirty 
braccia, before described as situate beneath the labyrinth, Tribolo then 

92 



commenced the great eight-sided fountain, which was destined to receive 
into its lowermost basin all the before-mentioned waters. To each of 
these eight sides ascends a step one-fifth of a braccia in height, and each 
angle of the eight sides has a ressault, as have likewise the steps, which, 
projecting thus, present at each angle a step of two-fifths of a braccia, in 
such sort that the central front of the steps recedes at the ressaults, the 
direct line being interrupted : a fanciful invention which has a pleasing 
effect to the eye, while the ascent is found to be very easy. The edge 
of the fountain has the form of a vase, and the body, or that part which 
contains the water, is in the figure of a circle. The foot or pedestal in 
the centre of the basin has eight sides at the lowest part, and continues 
in this shape, forming eight stages or seats, even to the foot of the 
tazza. 

" On each of these stages is the seated figure of a boy in full relief and 
of the size of life ; these children are in various attitudes, their arms and 
legs entwined together to form a kind of chain ; all exceedingly beautiful, 
and constituting a very rich ornament. The edge of the tazza, which 
is circular, projects to the extent of six braccia, while all the water falls 
equally over the edges, forming a beautiful rain around it, and falling into 
the basin of eight sides which is below. The boys thus seated on the 
foot therefore are not wetted, and even have the appearance of being 
assembled in sport within and beneath the lip of that tazza for the 
purpose of sheltering themselves from the falling waters, exhibiting 
with supreme grace a sort of childlike delight in the nook within which 
they have crept, the simplicity and loveliness of which cannot be 
equalled. Opposite to the four sides of the crossways that lead from the 
fountain to the garden are four boys in bronze, reclining and lying at 
play in various attitudes ; these, although subsequently executed by 
others, are likewise from the designs of Tribolo. 

" Above the tazza just described he then commenced another 
pedestal, on the lowermost part of which are statues of four boys 
in marble, standing on ressaults and pressing the necks of geese 
from whose bills the water pours. Above these boys rises the remainder 
of the shaft of th^s pedestal, from which project small tubes 
■ whence the water streams in the most fanciful manner;' where the 

93 



pedestal resumes the quadrangular form, the ornament consists of masks, 
which are very well executed. On the summit of this pedestal is a 
smaller tazza, from the edge of which four heads of capricorns are 
suspended by their horns ; these throw water from their mouths into the 
larger tazza to form the rain which falls, as we have said, into the first 
basin or that with the eight sides. Still higher and rising over all is 
another shaft decorated with various ornaments, among which are boys 
in mezzo relievo ; they bend forwards to such an extent as to present a 
space sufficient for the base of a group representing Hercules strangling 
Antaeus, executed after the design of Tribolo by Bartolommeo 
Ammanati. 

" This principal fountain of Castello was constructed entirely of marble, 
and was indeed completed to such perfection that nothing better could 
be wished for in a work of that character ; insomuch that I believe it may 
with truth be declared the most admirably proportioned, most pleasing, 
richest, and most beautiful fountain that has ever been constructed, 
seeing that throughout the whole work, in the vases, basins, figures, and 
other decorations, the most extraordinary ability, care, and patience are 
everywhere apparent. 

" Nor will I omit to mention what had been the purpose of Tribolo 
with respect to the ornament of statues which were to be placed in the 
great garden of the labyrinth, there to occupy the niches which are 
regularly distributed around the same. He proposed then, and in so 
doing had judiciously taken counsel with Messer Benedetto Varchi, a 
most excellent poet, orator, and philosopher of our times, that at the 
upper and lower ends of the garden should be placed representations of 
the four seasons of the year. At the entrance, and on the right hand 
commencing from the statue of Winter, six figures were to be erected 
along the wall which descends to the lower part of the garden, all to 
denote and set forth the greatness and excellence of the house of Medici ; 
signifying, moreover, that all the virtues are to be found assembled in the 
person of the Duke Cosimo. These were Justice, Mercy, Valour, 
Generosity, Wisdom, and Liberality, which have ever dwelt in the house 
of Medici, and are now all to be found in the most excellent Signer 
Duke, seeing that he is of a truth most just and merciful, brave and 

94 



generous, wise and liberal. Opposite to these statues were to be placed 
the figures of Law, Peace, Arms, Science, Tongues and Arts. . . . 

" All these decorations would without doubt have rendered this the 
most beautiful, most magnificent, and most richly adorned garden in 
Europe, but the works were not brought to completion, because Tribolo 
did not take such measures as he might have done for pressing the works 
vigorously forward while the Signor Duke was in the mind to have them 
executed." 



95 



VILLA CORSINI 



At no great distance from the Villa Reale di Castello lies the delightful 
Villa Corsini. At one time it belonged to the Rinieri family who 
bought it from the Strozzi about the year 1460, when it was known as 
" La Lepre dei Rinieri." Later it became the property of Cosimo de' 
Medici, who had a fancy to unite it with the adjoining villas of Castello 
and Petraja. After many vicissitudes it was purchased, towards the 
close of the seventeenth century, by the Corsini family, and considerable 
changes were made both in palace and garden ; probably by the same 
Antonio Ferri who built the fa9ade of the Corsini Palace in Florence. 

The house is of the old Tuscan type, built round an arcaded court, 
and entered direct from the road as is the case in so many of these 
Florentine villas. With the exception of the more modern fa9ade, the 
palace is a plain substantial building, depending for its effect on its 
good proportions, well-spaced windows, and deep, overhanging roof. 

In tracing the history and development of the Roman villa, it is 
impossible to overrate the assistance given by the prints of Falda and 
others ; but with the Florentine villa the case is different, for we have 
nothing to fall back on but the eighteenth-century prints of Giuseppe 
Zocchi, and, though we may be grateful for even these, they are but a 
poor substitute for the invaluable prints by Falda, Venturini and the rest. 

Zocchi devotes one of his engravings to the Villa Corsini, but 
presents us, as he so often does, with its least interesting aspect. This is 
the forecourt and the western fa9ade of the palazzo^ with its somewhat 
wild baroque overlay of pilaster and window frame, finished above with 
clock-turret and fringe of vases. In the distance are seen the Villa 

96 



Petraja and the hilly landscape, the most interesting part of the picture 
being some peasants who play a game of bowls on the green sward with 
much energy and gesticulation. 

Like its neighbour, the Villa Reale, this villa stands at the point 
where the broad plain and the foot-hills join, and, as it was on gently 
sloping ground, only very slight terracing was necessary. To the east 
of the house a garden-court is enclosed by a semicircular wall of a 
singularly fanciful type. Seats are built into the low wall, which, 
curving up on either side, joins a series of tall piers which carry 
alternately fountain basins and statues representing the four seasons. It 
is interesting to note that the architect did not trouble to level this 
piece of ground ; seats and piers, fountains and statues rise by a series of 
slight steps all round the curve. 

To the right of this little garden-court lies the parterre. Box- 
bordered beds are ranged around a simple' fountain-basin with its 
wrought-iron guard-rail. The garden beds are carpeted with flowers ; 
pansies, larkspurs, poppies, snapdragons, and, " in the time of roses," all 
among the lemon trees with their pleasant red-grey pots, roses of every 
kind and of every hue peep out, for here, under kindly treatment. 
Bourbons, Teas, Noisettes bloom freely, as though winter were unknown 
in Tuscany. 

On the opposite side of the palazzo are the bosco and wilderness. 
Through the midst of this a shady path leads direct to a wide opening 
among the trees, where, on either side of a moss-grown fountain-basin, 
curving steps lead upward to the ilex grove and peschiera. It is a curious 
piece of baroque planning, with not a straight line anywhere. 

The low terrace wall finished with a graceful balustrade curves round 
to right and left, enclosing the double stairway, each step curving in its 
turn and all radiating from a roll placed at the outer edge like some 
newel-post. In the centre is an oval basin decorated with grotesque 
masks, from which great garlands swing. At the back of this a 
refreshing stream of limpid water issues from a horse's head, which, 
surmounted by a coronet, forms the centre of a bizarre arrangement of 
rococo scroll-work. 

It is all very fantastic and no doubt wicked in its disobedience of all 
the canons of architecture, yet, thanks in part to the kindly weather 

97 N 



stains and the agreeable half-light in which it has the good fortune to be 
placed, it gives far more pleasure than much of the work one sees which 
is correct in every detail. 

Vasari tells us that " for the villa of Cristofano Rinieri at Castello, 
Tribolo executed the statue of a River God, the size of life, in grey 
stone; this he did while occupied with the fountains of the duke, 
and placed it in a niche at the head of the peschiera^ which extends 
beyond the aviary of the villa. The statue pours water into a very large 
basin of the same stone, and that figure, though made of several pieces, 
has every part conjoined with so much care that it appears to be formed 
entirely of one piece." This fountain no longer exists, but the " large 
basin" is possibly the one used for the fountain in the bosco already 
mentioned. 

In another place Vasari makes reference to this villa. Pierino, a 
nephew of Leonardo da Vinci, was placed as a youngster under Tribolo, 
who was so pleased with his progress <^hat, " remarking the zeal dis- 
played, and having at that time just made a large basin in stone for 
Cristofano Rinieri, Tribolo gave to Piero a small piece of marble, that he 
might make the figure of a boy thereof, which figure the master intended 
to be that which was to throw water into the above-named basin. Piero 
received the marble with great rejoicing, and having first made a little 
model of clay, he afterwards completed his work in a manner so graceful, 
that Tribolo, and all those who saw the same, felt persuaded that he would 
eventually prove to be one of those masters who become distinguished 
in their art." Unfortunately Piero died when only twenty-three years 
of age, and Vasari laments the death of so promising a young sculptor. 

As is usual in these Tuscan villas, there is no dividing line between 
the podere and the garden ; you may wander by grassy walks among 
the ripening grain, or beneath the purple clusters of grape, to some quiet 
corner of the farm, where, within the shade of some wide-spreading pine, 
mossy seats invite you to pause awhile. 

' Laid upon the ground in the bosco, the writer found a row of some 
dozen deities, brought, so the gardener said, from the Palazzo Corsini in 
the Lungarno where they had formed part of the decorations of the 
parapet. Doubtless ere this they have been set up in the garden, thereby 
adding not a little to its gaiety and interest. 

98 




EratSeldiai^.EfS^':!.^ . 



VILLA AMARI 



Montaigne, that most naive and cosmopolitan of travellers, writing of 
the Italian villa and its most delightful surroundings, says : " The 
vigne " (a word often used for villa) " here assume the form of pleasure- 
grounds, and are places of singular beauty ; here I first learnt how much 
art can do in transforming rugged, hilly and uneven spots into delightful 
gardens, which even borrow an infinity of graces, not known among us, 
from the very irregularity of the surface." This is no less true of the 
modest villa than of its pretentious neighbour, which lords it over half a 
hillside. 

The Villa Amari possesses in perfection all those qualities most 
desirable in a villa, having a southern aspect and being sheltered from 
cold northerly winds by the rising ground behind, yet with such elevation 
above the plain that there is a pleasant breeze stirring even on the 
warmest day. Its gardens, though not on the grand scale to which we 
are accustomed in the vicinity of Rome, have that delightful combina- 
tion of sunny terraces and shady alleys so essential in a climate subject to 
alternations of heat and cold. 

It must have been just such a garden that Gio. Battista Ferrari had 
in his mind's eye when he wrote in 1633 in his " de Florum Cultura" : 
" First let the man whose nature exults in the culture of flowers choose 
for his flower-garden a plot exposed to a healthy climate, and remote 
from marshes, lest the gardener himself, among the gaily coloured 
flowers, should by breathing pestilential air be overcome by the pale 
hue of death ; not facing a river, lest he should breathe cold and damp, 
and therefore unhealthy air ; and if possible close to his house, so that 

99 



he may have a golden age of eternal spring at home, and may see a 
paradise of flowers laid out below his windows ; as large as possible, lest 
the various and manifold nation of flowers should be too closely crowded ; 
sheltered from the north, whose deadly cold might be breathed by the 
tender plants in winter ; turning towards the South, whose warm, 
humid, gentle-blowing breath is the life of the flowers. So let not the 
little garden be inferior in the amenity of its site to Italy herself, which, 
sheltered from the cold of the sterile north-wind by her Alpine walls, 
seemed to Varro to be one orchard spread out towards the fertile 
warmth of the Southern sky." 

In character with the garden, the casino is one of those charming old 
Tuscan houses made to be lived in, and not merely a maison de plaisance 
visited for a short villeggiatura when in the late summer the city becomes 
insufferable : a long, low-lying house, its upper windows well within the 
deep shadow cast by the great overhanging eaves, and shuttered with 
cool green persiennes. Above the roof, the customary turret, without 
which no Tuscan house would be complete, breaks the line of warm 
grey tiles and recalls the days when a strong tower meant something 
more than ornament. 

The house stands upon a broad paved terrace, with the garden spread 
out beneath its windows. Below the garden comes the steeply sloping 
ground chequered with corn and vine and olive, with here a line of 
sombre cypress and there a group of dark stone-pines indicating the 
presence of some villa ; then the wide grey plain, and that " city of 
domes and towers " and the greyer hills beyond. Parallel to the terrace 
wall a double stairway of a dozen steps or so, arching over a little grotto, 
leads to the parterre. The whole face of the terrace and the stairway 
itself is embowered in roses of all sorts and other luxuriant climbing plants, 
with espaliers of lemon between. 

The shape of the garden being a somewhat extended oblong, the 
main paths keep to the good safe rule and follow the lines of the 
boundary wall, while others, crossing, meet the main central alley. 
Some of the rectangular plots thus formed are further subdivided into 
smaller beds by narrow paths, eighteen inches only in width, marked out 
with rounded kerbs of local sandstone. 

100 



Placed in the centre of the parterre, in line with the stairway on the 
one hand and the belvedere on the other, is the most important feature of 
the garden — the Fountain of Venus. The figure from which the foun- 
tain derives its name has been attributed to Giambologna ; certainly it is 
a piece of sculpture of which even he had no need to be ashamed, though 
probably, like the charming little fountain figure in the Buontalenti 
grotto of the Boboli gardens, it is an early work. 

Venus or water nymph, it is all one, so only she stand sweetly against 
the deep blue sky, the purity of the marble enhanced by the warm grey 
stone basin and the strong shadow cast on the slim pedestal below. 

The great fluted tazza, above which the goddess stands, receives the 
spent water that rises in one slender jet and breaks into spray above her. 
From this tazza the water, instead of brimming over in the usual way, 
escapes through the lips of four masks, set together Janus-wise close 
beneath the overhanging basin. Set round the fountain's brim is a simple 
wrought-iron guard-railing, with panels of richer work at the angles^ 
Unspoilt by paint, its pleasant purple and orange rust is in perfect harmony 
with its surroundings. How the tidy English fingers, that chance this 
way, must itch to give it a coat of some horrible uninteresting paint, and 
to grub up the handsome acanthus and other weeds that luxuriate in every 
cranny of the beautiful stone kerb ! 

Four stone benches on bracketed feet stand round the fountain, set 
back against the curving hedge of box, and half shaded by ancient lemon 
trees, which with their satisfactory earthenware pots form such a feature 
of the garden. 

Beyond the fountain, a break in the low terrace wall makes a little 
belvedere. Piers some six feet in height, with moulded caps, support 
pleasing elongated tazze, once fountains and now half hidden beneath a 
wealth of pink China rose, which here, free to follow its own sweet will, 
clambers over the stonework and falls in festoons and cascades of blossom. 
In the treatment of these piers occurs one of those quaint touches of 
fancy often shown by the fountain-artist. Pier and low wall are united 
by a shallow curving buttress ornamented with a grotesque mask, from 
whose gaping mouth the water (descending from the little fountain above) 
issues and falls into a shell-shaped basin carved in the coping of the wall. 

lOI 



Unhappily a severe winter plays sad havoc with these minor fountains, 
and it is long since this, and others similar to it at the extremities of 
the garden, have added their quota to the freshness and gaiety of the 
villa. 

The flagged pavement about the belvedere is pierced with numerous 
tiny holes iox jet^ d'eaux^ but, like the majority oi guiochi d'acque, their 
first use was in all likelihood for cooling the pavement during the heat ; 
the pleasing sport of wetting your friends being an afterthought. 
Judging from Montaigne's account of his own experience at Pratolino, 
people seem to have taken a drenching in very good part. " In another 
place, they had an amusing experience of the trick I have mentioned 
before ; for as they were walking about the garden, looking at the 
various objects of interest, the gardener, who had just before left them 
for the purpose, while they were standing to admire some marble 
statues they came to, discharged upon them, from under their feet and 
legs, an infinity of springs of water, so small that, till you looked closely, 
they were invisible, and which had just the appearance of small rain, 
and they got regularly wet through, in the lower part of their persons. 
. . . They have this sort of trick in a good many places in this part of 
the country." 

Another interesting feature of this garden is the aviary, without 
which no villa in the old days was thought complete. It lies on either 
side of the central alley, at the western end of the parterre. Slender 
stone columns with composite capitals of beaten copper sustain a 
wooden entablature, above which was placed the open-work roof ; wire 
netting filled in the spaces between, and the whole stood on a low stone 
plinth. In order to afford a better view of the occupants, the sides 
towards the alley are hollowed out, thus giving a pleasant variety to the 
outline. These aviaries are troublesome places to keep in repair, and 
have in consequence fallen considerably out of use. That at one time 
they were a source of pleasure to their owners is evident from the sums 
of money often spent upon them. In the Boboli gardens the aviary was 
on such a scale that "woods and glades, alleys and fountains" were 
included within it, " so that the creatures preserved there in great numbers 
might enjoy the air and the aspect of the grove." 

1 02 



The charm of this garden is due in no small measure to the flowers, 
which on every side, beneath the peach and almond and nespole trees, fill 
the beds to overflowing ; but they seem to flourish best in the shadow of 
the great lemon-pots, their roots tucked snugly away in the moist earth 
beneath the broad pedestals. Here luxuriate great clumps of orange day- 
lily, larkspurs white and pink, blue and purple, the fragile-looking French 
and Shirley poppies, the sun-loving zinnia, and the marigold and 
gaillardia rejoicing in the warm earth. Madonna lilies, too, and roses 
of every sort, and sturdy hollyhocks add to the wealth of colour, with 
iris purple and white and yellow, one of the most desirable being of a 
lovely pale primrose with many small blossoms on one tall stem ; but 
the exquisite pale blue iris that fringes the terraces out in the farm is 
too common for admittance. Nor are the sweet-scented old-fashioned 
things forgotten, such as carnation and pink, mignonette and cherry-pie, 
rosemary and lavender — what lavender, for in Italy it gives a full 
head of bloom, exceedingly beautiful but unhappily only too quickly 
past ! How well, too, this garden shows the artistic value of the 
ripening seed-vessels, which in tidy English gardens are usually 
considered an eyesore, the soft, grey, feathery heads of valerian and 
the great seed-pods of the common poppy — for hundreds of years drawn 
with such loving care by artists, but, like so much that is picturesque, 
called " unsightly " by the gardeners who promptly consign them to the 
bonfire. 



103 



A FLORENTINE TERRACE 



Of the innumerable gardens of lesser note within the city walls, that at 
one time added to the gaiety and charm of Florence, but few remain of 
any interest. How many of these have been swept away during recent 
so-called improvements, it would not be easy to say. As Ouida writes : 
" Every day some architectural beauty, some noble avenue, some court 
or loggia or gateway, some green lawn or shadowy ilex grove or 
sculptured basin, musical with falling water and veiled with moss and 
maidenhair, is swept away for ever." 

In Italy as in England it is only the minority who care for any of 
these things, but even now in unexpected corners some quiet garden 
betrays its presence by its overhanging boughs of ilex or bay, or by 
some weather-stained statues dimly seen among overgrown bushes of 
myrtle. Here a factory overlooks what was once a noble garden, and 
still some oleanders and flowering shrubs with a wild growth of 
clambering rose surround a dilapidated fountain. In yet another place a 
baroque gateway with boldly modelled terra-cotta vases opens into a 
little formal garden, with a fountain set back against the wall, presided 
over by some forlorn water nymph, and flanked by trees of nespola and 
almond. 

Even in the centre of the city not a few grand cortile still retain their 
fountain, despite the mania for privacy which has enclosed far too many 
of them with that modern abomination a sheet-iron gate-screen. Not 
far distant from San Marco is an oblong cortile which gives an excellent 
idea of the old garden court. Opposite to the entrance gate stands a 
Venus, within a shallow niche that makes part of a bizarre architectural 

104 



screen surmounted by a wide broken pediment. Niches and pilasters, 
entablature and curving pediment are all encrusted with a rude mosaic 
of coloured stones and marble. At the ends of the court are other 
niches provided with fountain basins, and doubtless at one time a 
delightful box-garden, with simple flowers and orange trees, occupied 
the space now given up to a somewhat uninviting jumble of shrubby 
plants and half-starved palms. 

In order to gain some perception of what a city garden could be in 
the halcyon days of Florence, we must turn to the pages of Bocchi. 
Writing about the middle of the sixteenth century, he gives in Le 
Bellezze della Citta dt Fiorenza a delightful picture ot the gardens 
attached to one of the Acciaiuoli palaces in the Borgo S.S. Apostoli. 
" Besides this there is a garden on strong arches about fifteen cubits 
high, in a street close to the Arno and looking due south, where the air 
is soft and pleasant. There in pots and on espaliers are such delightful 
greenery and fruits, such as lemons and pomegranates, that although the 
space is not really large, yet the delight it gives is so great that it 
appears so. Above this and behind, rising yet higher, is another terrace 
filled with similar trees ; it is marvellous to see the quantity of fruit 
produced and what good condition it is in. Above, and still further 
back is yet another terrace, more than thirty cubits from the ground 
and the view thence is so beautiful that the soul is rejoiced ; vvherever a 
man turns he enjoys the sweet air, full of the perfume of fruit and of 
flowers which are ever abundant according to their season. Water is 
lifted by ingenious devices from below up to the third-floor garden, so 
that the moisture when dried up by the heat can be quickly restored. 
In the lower garden is a beautiful fountain of Carrara marble ornamented 
with lovely statues. A room, of large dimensions, opens on to this 
garden, with a fine ceiling and more than thirty portraits of the 
principal ladies of our city, who are famed for their beauty." 

On the other side of the Arno, between the river and the Porta 
S. Giorgio, where there is more breathing space, many a charming 
garden is still to be found, often clinging in precarious fashion to the 
hill-side. One quite ideal little garden overhangs the Via dei Bardi, and 
is entered through a loggia (now enclosed) from the first floor of one of 

105 o 



the lesser palaces. On two sides it is protected by high escalopped walls, 
and over the third you may look down twenty feet to the busy street 
below. Its central feature is a little artless fountain, placed beneath the 
shadow of an octagonal arbour which is wreathed with vines and finished 
with a vane ; making a deliciously cool spot in the midst of the garden. 
Straight paths divide it into four small plots that are always gay with 
simple flowers, such as monthly roses, hollyhocks, lilies, poppies, and 
larkspurs ; and on one side room has been found for a solitary cypress 
and a group of shady trees. Above one corner an armed knight stands 
guard, his shield emblazoned with the Capponi arms. 

Not far distant, overhanging the river, is a little terrace, that, like a 
swallow's nest, seems to cling to the face of an old palace. A few years 
ago this was little more than a bare platform, with nothing to recom- 
mend it but the lovely view. Now, thanks to much loving care and 
thought, it has been converted into one of the brightest spots in all 
Florence. Raised as it is high above the road, for it is attached to the 
second floor of the palace, everything naturally must be grown in pots or 
cases ; but nowhere is pot-culture better understood than in Italy, and, 
though some plants, like the carnation, succeed better than others, there 
are few that will not yield to careful management. 

Woodbine and climbing roses, jessamine and wistaria vie with each 
other in their efforts to cover wall and trellised pergola, forming towards 
one end of the terrace an arbour of denser green, with an ideal lounging- 
place beneath its shade. At other points slighter arches carry strong, 
free-blooming roses, such as " Reine Marie Henriette," or " Marechal 
Niel " with its loose pale flowers, " Gloire de Dijon," and the sweet 
Pink Rambler. Many another rose, including the lovely " Safrano," 
" Celestine Forestier," " Madame Lambard," " Marie van Houtte," and 
" Anna OUivier," which finds no room on the over-crowded trellis, hangs 
over the iron balustrade in untrained profusion, and fills the air with 
its sweet fragrance. 

Beneath the pergola, shelter is found for some choice carnations or 
azaleas, shade-loving lilies, or less robust roses, and other flowers, which 
when exposed to the full rays of the sun would pass away too 
quickly. 

1 06 



But all along the terrace beyond is to be found every sort of old- 
fashioned flower : hollyhocks and canterbury-bells, zinnias and marigolds, 
stocks and sweet-peas, with here a group of tall Madonna lilies and there 
a throng of purple larkspurs, while yellow snapdragons hang over the 
terrace wall and nod familiarly to the passer-by. 

Where all is beautiful it is a little difficult to say under what aspect 
the garden may be seen to best advantage ; perhaps we should choose 
those early days when columbine and peony still linger, and the sweet 
yellow Banksia rose mingles its exquisite clusters with the pale lilac 
wistaria, each enhancing by delicate contrast the beauty of the other. 
At what time, however, you visit the little terrace it matters not, for 
flowers are always waiting there to greet you. If, as may happen in the 
cooler months, these should be few and far between, there is always the 
glorious view of domes and towers, of lovely ancient bridges and winding 
river, of Fiesole and the villa-sprinkled landscape and the far-reaching 
purple mountains, to compensate you for their absence. 



107 



OTHER TUSCAN VILLAS 



VILLA DI CANIPAROLA 



The spurs or the Apennines in the neighbourhood of Florence are strewn 
with villas far and wide. So far as their gardens are concerned, the 
majority of these have unhappily lost what interest they once possessed ; 
in other words they have lost their Italian character, without gaining 
any equivalent in the shape of flowers to compensate for the loss. The 
landscape gardener has done incalculable mischief, and the average 
Florentine garden to-day consists of nearly equal proportions of rough 
weedy grass (it cannot be called turf) and loose small shingle, with some 
rather uninteresting shrubs and " fir-trees," palms and other " exotics," 
and possesses none of the charm which we associate with an English 
garden. 

Fortunately, however, many, exceptions to this rule exist ; notable 
among which may be mentioned the Villa Gamberaja, unhappily no 
longer accessible. It occupies a hill-side near Sett-ignano, with a 
delightful view of Florence and the Val d'Arno. The casino, of the 
old Tuscan type, a square, simple building with deep overhanging eaves 
and an ideal colonnaded loggia, close beneath the roof on the southern 
side, is built round an arcaded court. It stands towards one end of a 
broad terrace, and is detached from the hill-side by a wide grass walk, 
which is extended in both directions and terminates at one end in a semi- 
circular arrangement of fountain and grotto, surrounded by a fine group 
of cypresses, and at the other in a balustrade, with a statue and obelisks, 
that overhangs the podere and the valley looking towards Rovezzano. 

The parterre, which shares with the casino the principal terrace, has 
been laid out of late years with four " quarters " surrounding a circular 

III 



fountain. Each of these quarters consists of a rectangular pool encircled 
by a flower border, and the garden ends with a semicircular pool within 
a curving arcade of roses and greenery. The scheme of this parterre is 
good, but the brand-new stonework gives it an unpleasingly cold look 
that only age can take away. Nevertheless the tall flowers and their 
dark background of trees, and the old cypress hedge with a statue peeping 
out here and there, reflected in the dark still waters, have a charm all 
their own. It would be interesting to know in what way this part ot 
the garden was laid out originally, but on this point Zocchi, who devotes 
three prints to the villa, gives us no assistance. 

The special feature, however, of the villa is a most exquisite little 
oblong garden-court, entered by a gateway in the retaining wall at the 
rear of the casino. This is about seventy feet in length by sixteen in 
width, and terminates in a semicircle, with three niches for statues 
surrounding a fountain basin, above which is suspended a great two- 
handled urn. From the middle of each of the longer sides a double 
staircase leads upwards, to the bosco on the one hand and the giardino 
segreto on the other. These stairways have balustrades, and salient points 
are surmounted by charming statues and busts, obelisks and vases, each 
stairway making several pauses before it finally reaches the top. The 
arrangement of this court and of the stairways is quite unique, and it is 
a thousand pities that the name of the architect cannot be rescued from 
oblivion. The detail throughout points to a date early in the seventeenth 
century. 

Yet one more unspoiled garden must be mentioned before we leave 
the immediate neighbourhood of Florence. This is a httle villa not very 
far distant, which faces towards the north and is perched high above a 
narrow valley, where, thanks to the amphitheatre of hills behind it, the 
sun sets early : a place well suited for the long hot summer days. A 
single terrace carries villa and farmstead, with the podere stretching above 
and below. The casino divides this terrace unequally, and has ori one 
side a loggia looking on to a well-shaded garden-court, and on the other a 
similar loggia which opens on to the little flower-garden. 

The garden is divided into many small plots, easily accessible, and full 
of bright simple flowers which, thanks to the northerly aspect, last well 

112 



into the summer. A retaining wall, adorned with an architectural screen 
of pilasters and entablature, with statues in niches at frequent intervals, 
and other touches of ornament in lighter vein, runs the whole length of 
the garden. The central niche is emphasised by a quaint pedimental 
arrangement carried above the coping, with a small obelisk in the middle, 
and heraldic birds and beasts placed on either side, and a coat of arms 
below. The whole of this is reflected in the most delightful manner in a 
wide stone channel, raised well above the garden level. At one end, this 
channel disappears in the depths of a grotto, beneath a balustraded stair. 
This stairway, which is decorated with charming puttini^ in the style of 
Verrocchio, leads to the farm above, passing a fountain-niche mid-way. 
An extensive view over the parapet, that bounds the garden on the other 
side, gives excuse for a belvedere with seats and displaying some little 
architectural fancy. Crowning the low wall are many pots of carnations, 
grown as only Italians know how to grow them ; not tied up stiffly, but 
allowed to hang their heads freely and naturally. 

The garden ends with a curving wall, half hidden behind festoons of 
climbing roses, above which some vases and curious beasts manage to rear 
their heads. Through a wicket-gate, a few steps lead to the boschetto of ilex 
and cypress, with here and there stone seats and weather-worn statues. " ' 

It must not, however, be imagined that the villa is confined to the 
neighbourhoods of Florence, Pistoja, or Siena. The maison de plaisance 
is naturally found in greater numbers in the vicinity of the larger cities, 
but scattered all over Tuscany are many country houses, which occupy 
a place equivalent to the old English manor house, and were intended to 
be lived in all the year round. 

To the latter class belongs the Villa di Caniparola, which lies at 
the foot of the Apennines, at some considerable distance from Florence. 
Its situation is similar to that of Pliny's Tuscan villa, for it occupies 
ground only slightly raised above the meadow-land, and has the 
mountains set back some little distance at its rear. The casino stands 
about a hundred paces from the high road, the flower garden only 
intervening, and is approached by a shady drive that follows the garden 
wall to a rectangular forecourt, in the centre of which the well-head 
stands between stone columns. 

113 P 



The private garden is enclosed by walls, and may be entered either 
directly from the road or through gateways on either side of the casino. 
It is arranged on the simplest lines, and, as the ground slopes gently 
away from the house, only slight levelling was called for. This takes 
the form of a house terrace, raised about three feet above the general 
level, and protected by a marble balustrade built on a gentle curve and 
interrupted in the centre by wrought-iron gates of singular beauty. 
This delicate piece of work is the more remarkable from its rarity, 
especially in connection with a country house, and it would be interesting 
to know its history. In a country where the minor arts were carried to 
such a pitch of perfection, it is not a little surprising to find the art of 
working in iron so little cultivated. A village smith in England would 
have been ashamed to produce such a clumsy piece of railing as that 
which surrounds the Vasca delP holotto in the Boboli gardens, and it is 
no exaggeration to say that more good wrought iron is to be found in a 
single English county than in the whole of Tuscany. 

Some sloping steps of brick and marble lead down to the parterre of 
clipped box which is laid out in a number of not too intricate 
geometrical plots. These plots are filled with roses, good hardy 
flowers, and a sprinkling of annuals ; lemon-trees in vases being placed 
at all salient points. In the centre, raised upon a couple of shallow steps, 
is a simple octagonal fountain-basin of marble, the angles of which are 
emphasised by curving acanthus leaves that connect its moulded rim with 
the edge of the upper step. The space between is filled in with a 
mosaic of white, red, and dark-green pebbles ; the mosaic being 
repeated on the lower step in combination with a red brick edging. In 
the association of brick and marble, in a country where marble is a 
common building material, there is nothing strange or incongruous ; on 
the contrary, the combination has a most delightful effect, especially 
when the hand of- Time has passed gently over it. 

From this fountain wide paths radiate, the canted angles being 
occupied by marble benches with bracketed feet, set within tall screens of 
box that form a rude back and arms, and curve down so as to meet the 
edging of the adjoining beds. Except at midday, one or other of these 
seats is always in shadow, and it would not be easy to conceive a more 

114 



'-'.asm^g^' j-vJ'^Skk; 




delightful nook in which to rest awhile and survey the garden in all its 
glory of May roses. 

The walls of the garden, on the cooler sides, are nearly lost behind 
masses of creepers and free-growing roses ; those facing to the south are 
screened with espaliers of lemon, which in winter are protected by a 
temporary roof of tiles, for it is only on the coast that the lemon can be 
left unsheltered, and even there a rigorous winter tries it severely. 

The roses are an unusually good selection, and include not only the 
better French and Italian sorts, but also\nany of English extraction such 
as Viscountess Folkestone, Killarney, Charles Lawson, Mrs. John Laing, 
Duchess of Albany, John Bright and Beauty of Waltham, to which the 
gardener gives his own pronunciation, as is the way of gardeners all the 
world over. Standard roses are not much grown in Italy, but in this 
garden they play an important part, and must be considered on the whole 
a great success. Pyrus Japonica too is grown as a standard, and has a 
mass of exquisite bloom. It would doubtless succeed equally well in the 
south of England, and would be an acceptable addition to our gardens, 
for though the blossom is soon over, the dark rich foliage would always 
be pleasant to the eye. 

The flowering season even in the best managed of these Italian 
gardens is all too short, and in a late spring (such as that when these 
drawings were made) everything seems to burst into flower at once. 
For a month the little garden is a mass of blossom, in which roses form a 
prominent feature, together with tree-peonies, the delicate " Riviera 
May," pale yellow Spanish iris, the old sweet-scented white pinks, 
freesias, columbines purple and white, and other flowering plants too 
numerous to mention. 

How delightfully the casino^ with its long, low, sweet lines, stands 
in relation to the garden with its beautiful central loggia, the connecting 
link between house and garden. Could anything be better than the 
disposition of its parts ? The flat roof, broken by the simple bell-cote ; 
the deep overhanging cornice, shading the upper range of windows ; 
the double staircase with its balustrade, leading up to the loggia ; the 
deep shadow of the arcade,' giving value to the slim columns. And then 
how exquisite is that combination of warm pink, creamy white marble, 

115 



and greenish grey. Immediately outside the garden is a little knoll, to 
the top of which a narrow stairway leads, and there, beneath the shade 
of tall cypresses, is placed a circle of stone seats which makes a belvedere. 
Here you not only gain the advantage of the fresher breeze, but also of a 
view over the campagna which is denied to the closely sheltered garden 
below. 



ii6 



VILLA GARZONI 

Though apparently laid out with the intention of producing a grand 
coup d'ceil as first seen from the entrance gateway, the Villa Garzoni is so 
well designed that, as you advance further into the recesses of the garden, 
it unfolds one delightful picture after another. 

A wide grille at the lower end lays the garden open to the public 
gaze. In the foreground is the more elaborate parterre, beyond lies a 
succession of terraces, and the steep hill-side above is clothed with ilex 
woods. Following the line of stairways and fountains, the eye is led 
upwards through a broad opening in the bosco till it rests on the colossal 
statue of Fame which crowns the summit. Much of the architectural 
detail of the villa is debased, and scattered about the gardens and filling 
the niches are florid statues larger than life ; but the general scheme of 
the garden is so good that you overlook any minor shortcomings and even 
forget that they exist. 

The site upon which the gardens are laid out is singularly irregular, 
even for an Italian villa. It almost looks as if the architect had taken a 
delight in combating the difficulties presented by such an odd-shaped 
piece of ground. In this case the irregularity is the more curious, as 
unlike Frascati, the whole region around was under the lordship of the 
Garzoni family. Yet the villa is full of anomalies ; not only does a 
public way cut the boseo into two parts (necessitating a bridge), but the 
approach to the little town which is perched on the hill behind is 
remarkable for its peculiarity. In order to reach it, it is necessary to 
climb the fourfold ramp that lead« to the grand portal of the palace, and 
to pass through the palace and the arcaded cortile. That the only 

117 



approach to the village is through the castle itself is due to the fact that 
the village lay within the castle w^alls, an interesting and possibly unique 
survival of feudalism. The palace, lying well back and to one side of 
the gardens which it overlooks, appears to have been remodelled and 
enlarged during the first half of the seventeenth century, but a castle 
stood there long before that time, and underwent a long siege from the 
Florentines in 1430. 

The garden, as it now exists, probably dates from the early years of 
the eighteenth century,. but the general scheme of the villa is possibly 
much older. It would be necessary to go far to find a garden as 
complete and as little modernised as this. Even in the vicinity of 
Rome, rich as it is in villas, there are few superior to it, and in all 
Tuscany there is nothing to compare with it. Gardens like that of the 
Villa Lante rely for their interest largely upon the work of mason or 
sculptor ; here the sculptor's art is a matter of secondary importance, 
and interest centres in the walls of living verdure and the gardener's 
treatment of them. Scattered over the length and breadth of Italy were 
many gardens, which, like this one, were made a delight by their 
restful green hedges clipped as fancy directed ; but a short period of 
neglect, a stupid gardener, or the caprice of fashion, consigned the 
majority to oblivion. Few of these villas, however, can have been so 
elaborately devised or so charmingly carried out as this Villa Garzoni, 
and, taking the place as a whole, you may seek far ere you find a more 
complete example of an Italian villa. 

Immediately within the entrance gate lies the flower garden, 
enclosed by high hedges of cypress whose tops are fancifully clipped in 
curves and bosses. In plan it is symmetrical, alternately curved and 
straight hedges giving opportunities for a most exquisite play of light 
and shade in the rich velvety green ; for cypress, when clipped, has if 
possible a more beautiful texture than yew. Originally laid out as a 
pure parterre de broderie, the flowers in their insinuating way have 
gradually crept in, until, at the present day, the curving and interlacing 
box is quaintly and interestingly mingled with flowers which break up, 
and often disguise, the intricate pattern. 

On either side of the broad central walk is a circular fountain-basin 

118 



some fifty feet in diameter, which, unlike the majority of fountains 
of earlier date, has no centre-piece. In place of the centre-piece 
is a powerful jet, which, rising a hundred feet in the air, breaks into 
finest rain, and, as the great basin is insufficient to catch the falling 
spray, all the flowers in its vicinity are bedewed with moisture. 

Set back in the cypress hedge, and elsewhere about the parterre, are 
box trees cut into whimsical shapes. It is marvellous what great variety 
of form can be obtained by a gardener with some inventive genius and a 
pair of shears ; his stock in trade is merely some bosses and ribs, flutings 
and spheres, with perhaps a spiral or twisted form, which he has to 
arrange as ingeniously as he may about a square or circular core. The 
gardener of the older generation, with instinctive good taste, was able, 
as a rule, to produce from these simple forms the most delightful 
combinations, which give to the box an exquisite play of light and 
shade certainly not possessed by the undipped tree. Any one who looks 
at a well-considered piece of clipped work, such as that to be found in 
this garden or at Levens and Barncluith, will hesitate to join with Pope 
in the cheap witticism which he levels against topiary work in general. 

Playing at hide and seek among the rose-bushes and box-trees, or 
reflected, like Narcissus, in the fountain pool, are many statues of gods 
and goddesses, fauns and nymphs ; here Bacchus, wine cup in hand, and 
Diana with her bow ; there the stately Juno and the simpering Venus ; 
each placed upon a rococo pedestal of scrolls and spirals further adorned 
with rude stone-mosaic. These statues would possibly impress more 
favourably (for some of them are reminiscent of the antique) if they were 
not quite so pronounced ; standing, as they do, against a setting of 
deepest green, the eflfect is, to say the least, startling. It is useless to 
disguise the fact. They are whitewashed ! They are made of hard 
stucco, and in this respect resemble much of the garden decoration at the 
Villa d'Este and other villas of the best period in the vicinity of Rome. 

The parterre is continued on a higher terrace, raised only a couple ot 
feet above the first garden. A deep box hedge and taller flowers conceal 
the union of the two sections. Here also stone seats are set back in 
snug recesses of clipped box, the edging of the border curving upwards 
in order to form the back and arms. In the centre a few broad steps 

119 



ascend ; flanked by two statues, one of Apollo, the other of Daphne 
from whose extremities the laurel leaves sprout in the most realistic 
fashion. 

This terrace is divided into two main plots, which are again 
subdivided, the centre of each plot being occupied by the Garzoni coat 
of arms, with coronet and mantling outlined with box, and filled in with 
marble of approximately correct heraldic colours. Around this are set 
four knots, as the old gardeners called them, laid out in box and framed 
with simple straight line work, the device of the inner filling being 
somewhat more complex than that of the outer. These knots are said 
to date back to the eighteenth century ; certainly some of the box 
edging is almost solid with twiggery and has the appearance of great age. 
All the beds, with the exception of that occupied by the coat of arms, 
are filled with flowers ; the outer border with pansies, gaillardias, bell- 
flowers, carnations, pinks, and other low-growing things ; the more 
central beds with taller plants such as delphiniums, fuchsias, phloxes and 
some tall bushes of tea rose. 

At the time of the writer's first visit to this villa, a great many years 
ago, some of the beds were filled with ranunculus (rosellina the gardener 
called it) of every conceivable colour, from white through yellow and 
orange to richest red, and growing with the utmost luxuriance. Such a 
remarkable show is rare, if not unknown, in England, where, as a rule, 
this lovely flower does not receive the attention it deserves. This 
second parterre is laid out on a decided slope, and its design is seen to 
advantage from the entrance gate. Above this the terracing begins in 
earnest. Three terraces follow in succession, the sustaining walls being 
separated from each other by a space of little more than thirty feet, and 
thus concentrating the stairways within a comparatively small space, 
which gives the effect of one grand stair rather than of three separate 
stairways. 

Much ingenuity is shown in the disposition of these stairways. The 
first leads off on either side of a fountain niche and is carried to right and 
left in a single flight of some eighteen steps which land directly opposite 
the commencement of the next flight. An extensive and somewhat 
elaborate grotto is entered by an archway beneath the second flight, the 

I20 



stairs of which (also about eighteen in number) run the reverse way to 
the first and so land in the centre. The third staircase belongs to the 
horse-shoe type, but its arrangement will be better understood by 
reference to the pictures given here than by a detailed description. The 
ball ornament, which has been used liberally on the lower balustrades, is 
supplemented on this staircase by monkeys cleverly modelled in terra 
cotta. These monkeys, dressed in long jackets and armed with a spiked 
glove, are represented in the act of playing the favourite Tuscan ball 
game, Giuoco del Pallone. Aping the attitudes of men, these small 
baboons are many of them intensely funny, and the artist must have been 
closely famihar with both the ball-player and the monkey tribe to 
succeed in producing such an amusing series. 

At the head of the great stairway, supporting tall piers and 
guarding the opening to the cascade, are snow-white statues of nymph 
and satyr. Above this platform stretches the unusual triple cascade, on 
either side of which gently sloping stairs lead upward, the whole scheme 
being enclosed by tall hedges of ilex. Here, as at Tivoli and Frascati, 
when dealing with moving masses of water, the garden architects of the 
sei-cento are to be found quite in their element and show their genius 
and great versatility. 

The ilex trees of the bosco come down to within a few feet 
of the verge of the terrace, and the broad face is clipped so as to 
form a deep overhanging cliff of greenery. Immediately beneath the 
shadow of this, a cypress hedge forms the parapet of the terrace, and this 
is cut into a succession of arches or great niches containing busts ; the 
top also follows the curve of the arch, and has quaint little finials between 
each arch. Though time has taken away much of the stiffness from these 
hedges, they must always have been pleasant to look upon ; a more 
charming finish than that which they give to the terrace to-day, viewed 
from whatever point you may choose, cannot well be imagined. Where 
the water enters the cascade, graceful figures recline, intended to represent 
the cities of Lucca and Florence, which have for the nonce laid aside 
their ancient animosities, to preside over the water display of which they 
are the centre. Beyond, in the centre of a circle of cypresses that domi- 
nates the summit, stands a huge statue of Fame, balanced upon one foot, 

121 Q 



who blows through her long trumpet a jet of water that rises high in 
air and falls into a pool below. About the arrangement of the cascatelle 
there is much that is quaint and fanciful ; water spurts and splashes in 
every direction, more especially in the vicinity of the peschiera or upper 
pool, though of late years the giuochi d'acque have been somewhat 
curtailed. Perched about the rocks in the lowermost basin are certain 
" obscene birds " that straddle in aggressive fashion and spout jets of 
water from their uncouth bills. These weird birds, and the baboons a 
few yards away, could not of course be permitted in modern gardens. 
So seriously do we treat them to-day that anything a little playful or 
foolish can find no place in them. Advantage was taken of the flow of 
limpid water to build in close proximity to the statue of Fame a delightful 
little suite of bath- and dressing-rooms. These still retain their eigh- 
teenth-century decoration in pale colours and gold, with garlands and 
scrollwork and charming putti. 

The dragon gateway through which you pass from here to the grove 
is very picturesque, the late baroque gate-piers with their fanciful twists 
and scrolls, and winged dragons crouching above, contrasting vividly with 
the sombre greens of the ilex trees beyond. Within the grove itself the 
leaf-strewn alleys and the dark gnarled trunks of the ilex, with their 
patches of deep-green moss, produce an effect of the densest shade 
conceivable and exceedingly grateful on a warm summer's day. Passing 
through this wood a covered bridge is reached that spans a little ravine, 
above which on the steep terraced bank lies the palace. 

Immediately beyond the bridge, the path turns sharply to the left 
overlooking a long terrace of irregular shape, upon which has been 
constructed a labyrinth ; not on an extensive scale, but so ingeniously 
planned, that, were it not for the meagreness of the hedges, you might 
experience a little difficulty in finding your way to the central cabinet 
of verdure and its pleasant group of shady trees. 

The labyrinth or maze, which was such a favourite device with the 
northern nations, does not seem as a rule to have been included in the 
scheme of the earlier Italian gardens, possibly because it has so little 
pictorial value. Those referred to by the older writers as existing in the 
Roman gardens were in all probability merely a section of the garden 

122 



which contained a somewhat complex arrangement of box, or, a bosco 
laid out with intricate alleys and cabinets^ after the fashion so common 
later in France and England. There is no doubt that this was the case 
in some gardens. North of Florence, however, especially in villas of 
later date, labyrinths are not uncommon, and good examples are still to 
be seen both at Stra and Castellazzo. From the maze a long staircase, 
broken only by an occasional landing-place, leads up to the palace, close 
beneath the walls of which is a little giardino segreto enclosed by a 
balustrade and decorated with busts. Across one end of this is a wellr 
preserved aviary, so placed as to be readily accessible from the house. 

Returning once more to the second terrace, you find a charming 
little open-air theatre, which is set back in a recess in the bosco and is 
entirely overshadowed by trees. The stage, which is turfed over, is 
raised about two feet above the terrace, and is encircled by box-trees 
clipped in quaint shapes which form the wings. Statues are set on 
either side, and a wall fountain formS a pleasant background. The front 
of the stage is masked by a box-hedge, and a rounded boss in the centre 
covers the prompter's seat. A similar theatre exists at a villa a few 
miles from Genoa, and another on a somewhat larger scale near to 
Siena. 



123 



VILLAS OF NORTHERN ITALY 



VILLA CAVAGNARO 



On a steep hill-side, high above the little town of Rapallo, stands the 
Villa Cavagnaro, betraying itself at a distance by a line of dark 
cypress trees and some suggestions of architectural interest. It is on 
a modest scale, and, as is so often the case with the lesser villas, is 
quite surrounded by its own podere, or farm, in which it is almost 
lost ; the olives, vines, and orchard trees closing it in on every side, 
seem almost to dispute its right to exist. 

The casino, of quite moderate dimensions, is a dwelling-place much 
to be desired, away from the rush and dust and hurry of life. No 
carriage road comes near it, and the infrequent visitor must needs 
mount its terraces on foot. A more delightful place in which to 
spend the villegiafura it would be difficult to imagine, for here, even 
on the warmest day, a delicious breeze comes up from the sea, or down 
from the mountains. 

To reach the entrance gate of the villa, it is necessary to climb 
by one of those most uncomfortable of pathways, steep, and paved 
with the roughest of cobble-stones. These same pathways are a 
characteristic feature of the Riviera: di Levante. At length an iron 
gate, with high stone piers surmounted by urns, comes into view, 
perched at the top of wide steep steps, and standing in the cool 
green shadow of some tall trees. From the gateway a broad steep 
path leads upwards, between the terraces of the podere, until it reaches 
a horse-shoe stairway, with wall fountain below and seats, placed in 
the shade, above. 

From here the path continues to ascend, bordered on either hand 

127 



by a low wall. At intervals are stone piers surmounted by marble 
urns for aloes and other sun-loving plants. Above the wall is an 
overhanging hedge of sturdy box, cut into rounded tufts or bosses 
along its top, and at its foot are planted deep crimson and the 
common pink China rose. Towards the close of the writer's visit, 
these were in their first full blossoming, and, arranged as they were 
against a harmonious background of grey stone, they made a picture 
not easily to be forgotten. 

Separated from the ascent by the box hedge is a long green 
slope, dotted with beds of flowering shrubs. This is entered from the 
lower end by steps quaintly arranged on a hexagonal plan. The care 
taken in planning this entrance, with its ante-room or arbour of box, 
suggests that once these long strips of garden ground were more 
elaboratel} laid out, possibly with small beds, bordered with box, and 
in geometrical pattern not necessarily too intricate. Something of 
this kind would have had a good effect and would have added to 
the interest of the garden when seen from the belvedere above. 

Beyond these garden plots the ground rises so abruptly that a 
stairway on a more ambitious scale became almost a necessity. 
Accordingly, we find some six or eight flights of stairs, one above 
the other, zig-zagging up the steep ascent, the stairs passing right 
and left alternately, and so making a symmetrical elevation. 

At the principal landing there is a great niche, with pilasters 
and cornice, in which stands a heroic statue of Diana. Seen from a 
little distance, this statue has the unfortunate defect of all these 
overgrown statues, which dwarf everything else in their immediate 
neighbourhood. 

This stairway bears some slight resemblance to the one, on a 
more grandiose scale, at the old Sommariva Villa near Cadenabbia, 
but this is built entirely of brick, even to the steps themselves. A 
surface of stucco has been added, and the whole is tinted a pale 
yellow, though not much of this surface is now visible. Festoons of 
Banksia roses, yellow and white, hang from cornice and balustrade, 
even invading the sanctuary of Diana herself To right and left, 
bushes of oleander hang over from the flanking terraces ; not miserable 

128 



bushes these, but great trees twenty feet high or more, which have 
stems some eight inches in diameter. In April they are still in their 
sober spring livery, a delicate grey-green. By-and-by a stray pink 
flower will appear, and then, by insensible degrees, the whole tree 
will be flooded with the sweet pink bloom, until at length all green 
will be hidden from view. 

At the head of the great stair we find ourselves in a small square 
garden, a kind of forecourt. Immediately opposite, a last broad flight 
of curving steps leads to the topmost level and to the casino. To right 
and left are gateways, giving access to the gardens. A long stone seat 
forms part of the terrace wall, and on every side, wall and balustrade, 
gate-pier and iron fence, are swathed with greenery and rambling roses. 
The architectural features are almost hidden from view, though, here 
and there, a marble urn, or picturesque but nondescript finial, manages 
to assert itself. 

It is on the outer wall of this court that the wistaria in the picture 
disports itself. It throws out long branches and rambling tendrils in all 
directions ; some away on to the side fences and over the gateways ; 
others away among the branches of the neighbouring trees. Everywhere 
one meets its all-embracing arms, twisting and clinging in an insinuating 
fashion to all that comes within their reach. In the full tide of its 
blossoming can anything be more exquisite ! How beautiful is the 
delicate pale lilac of its long pendent flowers ! Well may the Japanese 
place it among the elect in their paradise of flowers. 

Entering by the iron gate to the left of the house, we reach the 
hanging garden. High walls shelter this from the mountain wind, the 
tramontana. On the walls are trained tall lemon-trees. Happily these 
trees are recognised throughout Italy as being ornamental as well as 
useful, and are not banished to the kitchen garden. A low, long hedge 
of Arbor Vitae towards the south allows a view of coast and sea. 
Towards the east the high wall is broken through, a double curve 
letting it down pleasantly to a little wrought-iron gate, from which steps 
lead to the terrace below. It is an ideal " lay out " for a small garden. 
Almost square in plan, it has straight walks around and across it, 
meeting in the middle at a simple fountain, with low moulded marble 

129 R 



kerb all weather-stained. Unfortunately it has lost its central figure, but 
it must once have had just such an one as the playful boy in the picture. 
He would possibly be in the act of blowing water through a shell, or 
producing it in some other fashion known only to amorini and water- 
nymphs. Set about the fountain, against the curve of the box hedge, 
are marble benches on bracketed feet, which possibly belonged to some 
earlier garden. 

In the middle of each of the four beds stands a magnolia. This 
appears to be some variety of the more common kind, for it has smaller 
leaves and a pleasanter colour and outline. Around and under them, 
and flowering all the better for the partial shade, grew big bushes of tea 
roses in their lovely pale tints of cream, apricot, and pink ; Viscountess 
Folkestone, Marie van Houtte, Souvenir d'un Ami, Madame Cochet, 
and sturdy bushes of the hardy Bourbon, Souvenir de Malmaison. 

There is nothing formally correct about this little garden; the 
straight paths and box-edges give just the right degree of firm outline 
that is wanted in a place cultivated by man. The strong wild growth 
of flowering plants and big bush roses, left to follow their own sweet 
will, breaks the harder lines without hiding them. 

Beyond the house, and beyond the forecourt, is a similar but rather 
longer garden. Here are both beds and borders of roses and " Riviera 
M-^iy" ^ori di neve as the Italians call it, and all among them violets and 
lily of the valley, and later on snapdragons and sweet-william, valerian 
and toad-flax, with many another old-fashioned flower. Here and there 
grow orange- and lemon-trees, sweet-bay, and oleander. At a corner of 
the higher terrace a Marechal Niel and Gloire de Dijon mingle their 
blooms around a marble urn. 

At the further end, half hidden among the trees, a garden-house 
overhangs the terrace-wall, and high above it rise three tall cypress 
trees. Nearer the house, beneath the wide-spreading branches of a 
great magnolia, a little square fountain, with its sleepy gold-fish, is made 
the excuse for more stone seats. 

In the absence of the kindly proprietor, I shared the garden with Brin, 
a great Russian hound, with a coat not unlike the woolly lamb of our 
childhood. At first he was a little doubtful as to the stranger within his 

130 



gates, who sat all the day long monopolising his garden. But when he 
had been properly introduced, he accepted me as a matter of course, 
ceased to growl when I appeared, and even received me with a certain 
degree of cordiality, I think he came to look upon me as a slight break 
in the monotony of his day. We usually arranged to lunch together, and 
I found him a most useful receptacle for any superfluous provision. We 
had many tastes and distastes in common ; we both disliked flies of the 
persistent and buzzing order, and lean lizard-eating cats — especially if they 
put in an appearance at meal times. On these occasions their presence 
did not seem to him either necessary or desirable, and no time was wasted 
in making his wishes known. 

His favourite occupation was to lie out on the warm pavement at 
the top of the great stair, whence he had an uninterrupted view of 
the little bay with its fishing-boats. There, too, he could keep an eye on 
the entrance-gate far below, to which young imps of boys would come, 
and from which safe vantage-ground they could jeer at him. 

During my visit the gardener was away " doing his soldiering." 
Luigi, a handsome lad who worked on the podere, could only spare an 
hour early and late to do the absolutely necessary watering, and had no 
time to devote to overmuch weeding or " tidying-up." For this mercy 
I was duly grateful, as the garden was left pretty much to take care of 
itself For a garden which has been well planted in the first instance a 
little wholesome neglect is good. A few things may get out of hand and 
weeds become a trifle rampant ; but how many things are better for 
being just left alone ! 



131 



VILLA IMPERIALI 



Built on the slopes of a semicircular range of lofty hills, Genoa owes 
much to the beauty of her position and to the rich vegetation in the 
midst of which she is placed. 

Although, at the commencement of the Renaissance, the city pro- 
duced no artist of the first rank, it was not long ere she employed several 
of the best artists of the day, among whom may be mentioned Fra 
Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, Giacomo della Porta, Giambologna, 
Galeazzo Alessi, Giovanni Battista Castello, and Perino del Vaga. 

After the siege of Rome in the year 1527, Perino del Vaga, a 
favourite pupil of Raphael, in order to escape the miseries which followed 
the sack of the city, fled to Genoa, where he was well received by Prince 
Andrea Doria, who was at that time engaged in enlarging and beauti- 
fying the palace which had been presented to him in recognition of his 
great services to the State. Here Perino not only decorated the principal 
rooms of the palace and the garden pavilion, but superintended the 
painting of the garden fa9ade with frescoes " qui represente des jeux 
d'enfants." Unhappily the paintings on this fa9ade have entirely dis- 
appeared, but the remains of similar decoration on other Genoese palaces 
carried out by his pupils give some conception of their beauty. 

As del Vaga appears to have been consulted on all matters of taste by 
his patron, it is more than probable that the garden plan, which dates 
from about the year 1530, is also his. He would naturally be familiar 
with the gardens recently laid out in the neighbourhood of Rome ; 
notably those of the Vatican and the Villa Madama, both of which are 
said to have been designed, in part at least, by Raphael himself, 

132 



1 



The Palazzo Doria was enlarged and remodelled by Fra Giovanni 
Angelo Montorsoli. It is set back but a short distance from the sea 
shore, and is raised upon a narrow terrace, with the parterre lying on the 
level space beneath. A simple but graceful loggia, or open gallery, stretches 
the whole length of the garden facade, and was evidently designed to 
receive decoration in colour. The flat roof of this loggia forms a balcony 
or terrace, beyond which project two colonnades dividing the terrace 
into three courts or gardens. Very charming fountains of marble occupy 
the two outer divisions. In the court, which was formerly the orange 
garden, is a singularly graceful fountain of marble which shows 
unmistakably the hand of Montorsoli himself It stands upon a square 
platform raised above the garden, and is approached from each side by 
steps ; at the four corners circular balconies project, and balustrades 
surround these as well as the fountain basin. Above the balustrade 
appears the central group, a triton riding upon a dolphin from whose 
jaws a stream of water issues. 

In reference to this group Keysler, writing about the year 1730, 
says : " On the left of the entrance into the gardens, in a fountain, is to 
be seen the image of a monster, in its fore part resembling a satyr, with 
two little horns, but in its hind part it has a double fish's tail erect, and 
is said to have been taken alive." 

The marble balustrade that guards the verge of this terrace is 
interrupted opposite the principal portal, where a gentle slope, paved 
with pebble-mosaic, leads right and left to the parterre. Of the original 
arrangement little now remains, and the parterre of clipped box has been 
replaced by an aimless medley of trees and shrubs, quite out of character 
with the delightful architectural setting. The principal feature is still 
Taddeo Carlone's Fountain of Neptune, erected about the year 1600 ; it 
is on a grand scale, the outer basin measuring about fifty feet by thirty- 
five, but does not compare favourably with the earlier and less ornate 
fountain in the old orange garden. Raised above it is a second basin, 
within which is the car of Neptune, drawn by sea-horses and 
accompanied by numerous baby tritons : a cold and hard piece of work, 
the white marble of which it is composed emphasising the feebleness of 
the design. Above the parterre along the sea-front is a marble-paved 

133 



terrace, surrounded by balustrades, beneath which was an extensive 
colonnaded hall open on three sides, and approached either from the 
garden or the shore by stairways. This, which must have been a most 
delightful adjunct to the garden, has unfortunately been enclosed and 
converted into merchants' offices. 

A feature of this garden in Evelyn's time was an aviary on an 
unusually grand scale, which appears to have still existed in the year 
1780, as it figures in a print of that date. Evelyn writes : " One of the 
greatest (gardens) here ... is that of the Prince d'Orias, which reaches 
from the sea to the sum'it of the mountaines. The house is most 
magnificently built without, nor less gloriously furnish'd within, having 
whole tables and bedsteads of massy silver, many of them sett with 
achates, onyxes, cornelians, lazulis, pearls, turquizes, and other precious 
stones. The pictures and statues are innumerable. To this Palace 
belong three gardens, the first whereof is beautified with a terrace, 
supported by pillars of marble : there is a fountaine of eagles, and one of 
Neptune with other Sea-gods, all of the purest white marble ; they 
stand in a most ample basine of the same stone. At the side of this 
garden is such an aviary as S' Fra. Bacon describes in his Sermones 
Jidelium, or Essays, wherein grow trees of more than two foote diameter, 
besides cypresse, myrtils, lentiscs, and other rare shrubs, which serve to 
nestle and pearch all sorts of birds, who have ayre and place enough 
under their ayrie canopy, supported with huge iron worke, stupendious 
for its fabrick and the charge. The other two gardens are full of 
orange-trees, citrons, and pomegranads, fountaines, grotts, and statues ; 
one of the latter is a Colossal Jupiter. . . . The reservoir of water here 
is a most admirable piece of art ; and so is the grotto over 
against it." 

The balustraded reservoir and its accompanying grotto still existed 
as recently as 1905, though the former was dry and in use as a bowling 
alley, but of the fountains and statues on these higher terraces there has 
been no sign for many a long year. This part of the gardens was 
formerly connected with the piano nobile of the palace by a bridge over 
the road which passes between them. High up on the verge of the 
second terrace are two delightful garden-houses commanding a view of 



the bay, and beyond these is the colossal statue of Jupiter, which is 
backed by the bosco and forms such a conspicuous feature in the 
landscape. A new road, in course of construction across these 
terraces (1905), threatens shortly to sweep away the last vestiges of 
interest. 

The Renaissance villas in the neighbourhood of Genoa frequently 
occupy long, and comparatively narrow, strips of steeply sloping ground. 
The palace or casino is often placed at or near the foot of the hill with a 
smaller garden or forecourt in front, and the principal garden on the 
hill-side at the rear, the wilder portion or bosco being reserved for the 
summit. 

' For many miles east and west ot Genoa the coast is sprinkled with 
villas of the merchant Princes, but many of the more sumptuous were to 
be found in the suburbs of Albaro and Sampierdarena. The latter was 
the favourite resort of the wealthy down to the end of the eighteenth 
century, and the broad level shore hereabouts was the fashionable 
evening promenade. Its popularity seems even then to have been on the 
wane, for we are told that many of the villas were neglected or only 
occupied occasionally. This neglect, followed by the extension west- 
ward of the busy manufacturing element, has quite changed the character 
of the place. Stately palaces have been degraded into warehouses or 
factories, and their delightful gardens have fallen into decay, or been 
built over, or reabsorbed into the surrounding vineyards. Albaro, on 
the other hand, has been more fortunate, and, thanks in large measure to 
its elevated situation, still retains much of its suburban character. 

About the year 1550 Galeazzo Alessi "to his great honour was 
invited to enter the service of the Genoese republic." His first work 
was to extend and fortify the port, but shortly afterwards we find him 
engaged on work possibly more to his taste, for he began to lay out the 
Strada Nuova, that celebrated street of palaces. From this time onwards 
he was busily employed in the erection of palaces and country houses 
for the nobility, and he is credited with the Villas Pallavicini delle 
Peschiere, Sauli, Serra, Spinola, Giustiniani, and Grimaldi, besides minor 
adornments for existing gardens. Soprani writes : " We have also two 
works by this architect, mentioned by Vasari ; namely the fountain of 



Capitano Lercari and the peschiere of Signer Adamo Centurione ; both 
distinguished, the one by its excellent decorations in mosaic ; the other 
for the isoletta covered with capricious grottesche, upon which the 
imprudent, after a short turn in a boat, allow themselves to be landed ; 
and there they are abandoned to the power of the waters by those who 
wish to make a pretty jest ; while the water, when the taps are opened, 
coming through subterranean channels, springs up by many jets, and 
sprinkles those who are left in the isoletta, who endeavour in vain to find 
shelter." Soprani further states that Alessi built the " Palace of the 
Signori Imperiali " with " the adjacent peschiere and the surrounding 
gardens which form a combination of rare delizie." 

The Villa Imperiali is one of that large class of Genoese Villas in 
which the casino lies near the foot of a steep hill, witli the gardens 
stretching upwards in a succession of terraces and terminating in a wild 
wood. The palace is only separated from the public road by a forecourt, 
with stables on the one hand and a private garden on the other. The 
dividing walls were ornamented with niches for statues, enclosed in a 
rococo framework of pilasters and' pediments, pierced gables and finials, 
indescribably quaint and picturesque. Unhappily the Municipality, to 
whom this property now belongs, and who make use of the palace for 
schools, recently made a clean sweep of this really charming and unique 
piece of work ; their only excuse being that it was not in character 
with a smug new school which they were building in the stucco 
Lombard style. 

At the rear of the palace, the first section of the garden, doubtless 
the old parterre, follows the natural lie of the ground and slopes gently 
up to the lofty retaining wall of the first terrace. This parterre, laid 
out with rough grass and palm trees, is not of special interest ; tall 
hedges of oleander and good masses of white or purple iris form its most 
attractive features. 

In the middle of the terrace-wall is the fine fountain shown in the 
accompanying picture. This consists of three niches placed between 
telamones. The central niche has the greatest depth, and its type is 
that of the grotto fountain ; the other two carry statues. Among the 
lemon-trees that line the wall hang festoons of roses, pale yellows and 

136 



pinks predominating, which seem to overflow into the narrow box- 
bordered bed beneath. On the other side, the path is flanked by orange- 
trees, each in its own small bed and surrounded by pansies and wall- 
flower, ixia and snapdragon, or Bocchi di Leone as the gardener calls it. 

The fountain is a favourite play-place for the youngsters, who come 
at all hours to sail their paper boats and dabble in the clear water, or 
make feeble attempts to catch the basking gold-fish, who are more wide 
awake than they seem. The bright-eyed darting lizards, on the other 
hand, fall an easy prey to the idle lads, who angle for them with loops of 
grass. 

The terrace above is largely given up to shrubby trees and some beds 
of poppies, larkspurs, and other annuals, its most interesting feature 
being certain delicately proportioned fountain ta%%e raised upon tall, 
fluted pedestals. M. P. Gautier, who published a book early in the 
nineteenth century on Genoese villas, placed these at the corners of a 
great fountain pool, which he represents as occupying about one-third 
of the terrace, A delightful feature this, if it ever existed ; for reflected 
in its surface would be the higher terrace with its balustraded stair- 
ways and statues, the dark masses of trees above, and the yet darker 
arches of the grotto beneath. If Gautier were always correct in his 
details, we might accept his pool without demur ; unfortunately, like 
Percier and Fontaine, he occasionally allows his imagination to run 
away with him. In the case of this pool, the lie of the ground renders 
his representation highly improbable, though not absolutely impossible. 

Above the grotto, stairs ascend to the higher terrace, where once 
more we find ourselves at the foot of a gentle slope. From the pleasant 
resting-place provided at this point, the central path, which leads 
upwards, is lined with statues and most fantastic fountains, backed by an 
unkempt hedge of pittosporum, with here and there a bush of monthly 
rose. 

These fountains are of such an unusual type that they deserve more 
than a passing word. At the rear of a circular basin stands a pedestal, 
the stiffness of which is taken away by certain roll ornaments. Above 
this is an amorino riding a strange water-beast — " loves of monsters," as 
the old ladies used to term their fashionable china grotesques. From the 

137 s 



mouths of these beasts water used to spurt into the basin below ; but the 
waterworks have been allowed to go very much to ruin, and only a tithe 
of the fountains now play ; many of them have been filled up with earth 
and planted with trailing geraniums and other bright flowers. 

Beyond the incline, the one level space in the villa is occupied by a 
rectangular reservoir, about sixty paces by forty, which is enclosed by a 
low wall overhung with virginian creeper, brambles, and Banksia rose, 
and further encircled by tall poplars. Arranged at each corner are 
cabinets de verdure, entered by bizarre archways and provided with benches 
and pedestals for statues ; left open towards the south, they commanded 
a view of the open sea and the coast-line stretching away into the grey 
distance beyond Savona. 

A grotto, about which stairways wind to a belvedere above, marks the 
division between the more formal garden and the bosco. Within this 
wilder wood you meet at every turn beasts of ferocious aspect, but fortu- 
nately for your peace of mind they are firmly rooted to the rocks from 
which they have been carved. 

Within an open glade beyond the wood, a pavilion, shadowed by 
ancient cypresses, stands at the margin of the great tank that feeds the 
fountains on the lower levels. All around are orchards and vineyards, 
backed by the lower spurs of the Alpes Maritimes ; so far into the 
country has the garden penetrated that all sign of the busy city and its 
noisy streets is left far behind. 

The grotto near the edge of the bosco is entered by an archway 
between statues of two garden deities. Within is a vaulted chamber 
with a spacious oval basin encircled by a narrow pathway. Walls and 
vaulting are decorated in rude mosaic, with scroll-work, sea-monsters, 
and attenuated terminal figures. In many of its details this grotto 
answers to Vasari's description of a bath built by Alessi for the Villa 
Grimaldi : " He has, indeed, constructed numerous fine fountains for 
many persons, but more beautiful than all else is the bath which has been 
formed after his design in the villa of the Signer Battista Grimaldi at 
Bisagno. This, which is of a round form, has a basin in the centre 
within which eight or ten persons can bathe commodiously. Warm 
water is poured into the basin from four heads of marine monsters, while 

138 



the cold water is supplied by as many frogs which are placed above the 
heads of these monsters. Around the basin, into which there is a 
commodious descent by circular steps, there is a space in which two 
persons can walk together conveniently. The wall is divided into eight 
compartments, in four of which are large niches, each of them having a 
circular basin, but slightly raised from the ground and half within the 
niche, while the other half projects beyond it ; the basin, which is large 
enough for a man to bathe therein, receives cold and hot water from the 
horns of a great mask, which takes the same in again at its mouth. In 
one of the other four compartments is the door, the remaining three 
divisions having windows and seats in them. These eight compartments 
are separated by terminal figures which support the cornice whereon the 
circular vaulting of the whole fabric reposes." 

Keysler writes of the Villa Imperiali about the year 1730 : "The eye 
is charmed with a successive variety of the most elegant decorations, such 
as beautiful hedges, espaliers, walks, and covered alleys of cypresses, box, 
rosemary, vines, lemon, orange, and citron trees ; as also fine statues, 
canals, fountains, grottoes, an aviary, a menagerie, &c." 

Perhaps the day may come when the municipality will awake to the 
possibilities of this still beautiful garden, and put back some at least of 
its older features. A few hedges of rosemary, myrtle, or box, would cost 
little enough, and they are badly wanted, if only as a shelter from the sea 
breezes. Furthermore, a lack of continuity in the architectural scheme 
is caused by their absence. At the present day there is a tendency to 
allow the villa to degenerate into a third-rate landscape garden, and the 
firm outline of the older garden is gradually being replaced by the feeble 
prettiness of acacia, " fir-tree," and palm. 

It is not possible to enlarge here on the beauty of the courtyards and 
small gardens within the city ; what was written respecting them by 
James Edward Smith about the year 1786 is to a great extent true at the 
present time : " Many of the noble Genoese have a sort of hanging 
gardens upon the bastions of the town, which, although often confined 
in space, have a peculiarly romantic and singular effect. Bowers of 
passion-flower, treillages of vines, terraces, and grass-plats, decorated with 
all sorts of sweet-smelling flowers, offer themselves unexpectedly one after 

139 



another without end ; and every step, in general, presents a prospect of 
the bay and surrounding country, equally rich, varied and extensive. The 
great advantage of these gardens is their situation within the walls, which 
makes them accessible at all times ; whereas the town-gates being shut 
about eight or nine o'clock, to return from a country villa, after those 
hours, is impracticable. . . . To these villettas, as they are called, their 
owners retire in the cool of the evening." 



140 










^^« 



i1^ 



ii^ i <n J ■! . _ -:^ , ;,^__ V ij, k> .» .X 



VILLA ARSON 

Ceded to France by the treaty of i860, Nice still retains much of its 
Italian character, and hidden away in odd nooks and corners an 
occasional villa may yet be discovered built on the good old lines. 
Among these the Villa Arson stands pre-eminent, not merely for its 
most enviable situation, but also as practically the one villa on this side 
of the frontier that still retains much of its well-designed gardens. 

It lies some little distance back from Nice, on a steep knoll which it 
shares with the village and Monastery of S. Barthelemy. Far away 
from the dust, and heat, and glare of the great coast road, it is protected 
from the keen north winds by an amphitheatre of hills, the first lofty 
spurs of those grand Alpes Maritimes that lie hidden from view beyond. 
Olive groves clothe the steep slopes around about it, and in the green 
valley, which runs far into the surrounding hills, are little farms, each 
with its group of peach and pear, almond and plum, damson and cherry, 
their fragile blossom lighting up the silvery grey olives ; and here and 
there in sheltered nooks is a little grove of lemons. 

As compared with the average Italian Villas the grounds are not 
extensive, though l^rge enough for all reasonable requirements. The 
casino occupies the crest of the hill, the gardens inclining towards the 
south in a succession of half a score terraces, some broad, others a few 
yards wide only. The principal entrance is towards the north, and on 
that side there would possibly have been something of the nature of a 
bosco, shielding it from the cold northerly winds ; of this wood only a 
fringe remains, surrounding a tennis court and a lawn of rough grass. 
The approach was formerly by an avenue of ancient cypresses,, that 

141 



skirts one side of the garden and adds so much to its picturesqueness ; but 
a more convenieat road has of late years been brought along the flank of 
the hill, and so up through the olive-yards. 

The older casino, built possibly some two hundred years ago, belongs 
to that charming and simple type which is to be met with anywhere 
between Cannes and Spezia ; it is a class of house which continued to be 
built on this coast until about fifty years ago, when its place was usurped 
by the pretentious suburban villa of the Parisian architect. With little 
architectural pretension, it depends for its effect solely upon its good 
proportions and broad masses. A deep cornice, below the parapet, 
shades the upper windows ; some scrolls and curves break the sky-line 
above, with urns or finials at the corners ; but beyond that there is 
nothing to break the flat surface. 

These comparatively plain buildings were probably intended to be 
frescoed in patterns more or less elaborate, as is still frequently done 
beyond the Italian frontier. In fact, till quite recently, this casino was 
decorated with plain panels, painted in two shades of that beautiful warm 
red which was once so common around Genoa and Savona, and with 
other simple embellishments about the doors and windows. 

Into the architectural features scattered about the garden, a pleasant 
scheme of colour, cream white with red and ochre, was also carried, and 
this had been toned into exquisite harmony with its surroundings by 
exposure to sun and rain. 

The outlook from the upper windows of the house is most delightful. 
The garden, with its quaint mingling of flowers and statues, lies before 
you, flanked on either hand by fine groups of stone pine and cypress. 
Beyond, often enveloped in a kindly mist, is the town of Nice with its 
Chateau (the ancient Arx) standing out against the sea as a prominent 
feature in the landscape ; while, to right and left, running down to the 
sea, in which they lose themselves, are those spurs of the Alps which 
give such character and variety to this lovely coast. 

The terrace adjoining the house is some seventy paces by twenty-five, 
and is laid out with four plots placed end to end. These are bright 
with flowers ; pansies of all shades, great scarlet and white poppies with 
their lovely grey foliage, iris purple and pale blue, pelargoniums, 

142 



ageratums, white and yellow daisies, and sweet-smelling gilly-flowers, 
pinks and roses. About the beds, planted on no set principle, are 
orange-trees, lilac and oleander bushes. The principal paths are edged 
with low walls interrupted at frequent intervals by pedestals with vases. 

At one end of the terrace, overhanging the valley, is a pergola 
covered with vines and white and pink cluster roses ; at the other is a simple 
orangery, and, uniting the two along the terrace front, runs a balustrade 
with ball finials, which is almost lost amidst a confused tangle of wistaria 
and roses, virginian creeper and ivy, the architectural features peeping 
through only here and there. 

A peculiarity of this garden is, that it does not centre with the casino 
but with a fountain, set against the low wing that connects the older casino 
with the more modern part of the house. Perhaps the most delightful 
feature of the villa is this Fountain of Venus. Within a charming frame- 
work of rococo ornament is a niche in which stands a reproduction in 
terra-cotta of the Venus di Medici. The framework is wrought partly 
in stucco painted a pale blue, and partly in a mosaic of various stones 
and sea-shells. The materials are simple enough, yet in clever hands 
what a work of art is the result, and what an exquisite harmony of 
colour is produced by the delicate turquoise blue, the pearly grey of the 
shell-work, and the warm, faded pink of the adjacent wall. 

To a narrow slip of terrace below graceful trefoil stairways lead, 
guarded by tall gate piers above and by rude garden deities below, 
which superior people consider in shocking taste. A grotto occupies 
the centre of the terrace, with a fountain and seats within, and niches 
and fountains without, decorated with mosaic and shell-work grotteschi 
similar to that used in the Fountain of Venus and elsewhere in the 
gardens. Its open roof was doubtless once covered with a trellis for 
roses or vines. To-day the architecture bids fair to disappear entirely 
beneath the heavy mantle of coarse ivy, which might with advantage be 
replaced by some climbing rose or lighter creeper that would veil 
without hiding the architectural detail. 

Shady walks are formed at each end of the terrace by berceaux ot 
Banksian rose, in April covered with masses of exquisite bloom, pale 
saffron or pearly white, which rambles away over the statues and 

H3 



balustrades and up into the cypress- and olive-trees, dropping garlands 

as it climbs. 

For a description of the gardens as they were a quarter of a century 

since, I cannot do better than quote the words of the late Dean Hole,* 

who about the year 1880 spent some months at the Villa Arson, and 

who, knowing my predilection for the older type of garden, strongly 

recommended it to my notice. " Passing under the archway, which is 

covered with the Banksian rose, and leaving on the left the curious 

' Fountain Kiosk ' composed of stone, shells, glass, statues, and tanks 

(note especially the swans done in cockle shells, within, and the beautiful 

muhlenbeckia on the southern front, without), and erected by the 

Societedes Ouvners de Nice in honour of Commander Arson de St. Joseph, 

one of the former owners of the villa, and descending the first of 

the terraces, of which there are seven, you walk through a little 

avenue of magnolias, the tallest about thirty feet in height, covered with 

their large lustrous leaves and cone-like seed vessels, showing here and 

there the bright vermilion seeds. Then going on from platform to 

platform — 

D'^tage en 6tage, on allait de surprise en surprise — 

you have around you a most charming collection of trees and shrubs 
and flowers : eucalyptus and carouba, cedar, cypress and pine ; the pepper 
tree, Crataegus, acacia, camellia, escallonia, veronica, kennedya, plumbago, 
teucrium fruticosum (the pale blue salvia, with its white woolly leaf) ; 
... an abundance of roses, principally Chinas, Teas, and Bourbons, 
such as Cramoisie superieure, fabvier, gloire de rosomene, safrano, 
gloire de Dijon, acidalie, and Bourbon queen ; phloxes, petunias, 
carnations, violets, mignonette, pansies ; the aloe, still wearing its 
scarlet glory ; hedges of the spirasa or Italian May, at rest, and of 
coronilla and red geranium intermixed, and here and there gay with 
flowers. 

" The glorious view opens out before you as you go down the garden, 
until, reaching the central terrace, you look over the orange-trees, with 
red roses almost touching their golden fruit, upon the monastery and 

* " Nice and her Neighbours." (S. Low & Co., 1881.) 

144 



church of St. Barth616my below, upon the city of Nice, and, beyond the 
city, the blue waters of the Mediterranean sea." 

Since this was written, many changes have taken place in the old 
garden, and not for the better, especially during the last few years. The 
Fountain of Venus has been daubed over with common blue, and white- 
wash has been applied with lavish hands to all the garden ornaments ; 
while good trees and plants have been grubbed up to make way for 
more palms and " fir-trees." A few more years and it will have sunk to 
a level with all the other hotel gardens on the Riviera, and, as the 
landlord says, " the visitors will like it much better." 

The granddaughter of the Commendatore, whom the writer met on 
his last visit to the Villa Arson, writes : " The Villa was bought by my 
grandfather, Commendatore Pierre Joseph Arson de St. Joseph, and is 
one of the oldest in Nice. The east building was added by my father 
in 1863 with the intention of letting it to the King of Bavaria. He 
used to come in the evenings of April and May to visit my mother with 
friends, she receiving on the garden terraces by moonlight. I remember 
it all so well as a child. I used to sit in a tree with my brother Rene and 
♦watch the gay company. But just as the house was finished Maximilian 
died, and the year after my father died also. The King and Queen of 
Savoy, Carlo Felice and Maria Cristina visited my grandparents. Great 
night fetes were given, and we have the jewels they left to my grand 
father, consisting of a gold snufF-box with the Queen's initials in 
diamonds and a necklace of amethysts and sapphires. Garibaldi came there 
in 1855, assisting at my sister's baptism in the chapel, to whom he left 
the flag he had carried in the American War. He came as President of 
the ' Societe de Secours mutuel,' and the Society swore loyalty to my 
tiny sister. Many of great name, princes, poets, painters, sculptors, 
musicians, statesmen, have visited the dear old house. I remember well 
Alphonse Karr, the French writer and critic, a great friend of my father. 
He was the first in Nice to cultivate his flowers for sale, the pioneer of 
the present floral trade of the Riviera. Lord Bulwer Lytton wrote one 
, of his best novels in the garden under the big cypress tree. My grand- 
father was a Freemason and wished to be buried in the garden, but his 
remains are now in sacred ground." 

145 T 



VILLA CICOGNA 



Throughout Northern Italy, from Piedmont to Venetia, notwith- 
standing the comparative flatness of so much of the country, villas are 
to be found wherever a suitable site presents itself. On the low grounds 
the country-house is more frequently met with than the maison de 
plaisance, and it is not until we get among the foot-hills or the lakes that 
the latter preponderates. 

In the immediate neighbourhood of the larger cities, especially of 
Milan, Turin, Venice, the pure pleasure-house naturally is found in 
greater numbers, but in recent years there has been a tendency to 
abandon these in favour of the villas that line the shores of the great 
lakes. This is the more to be regretted, for many of them were of 
exceptional interest, as may be seen by reference to Marc-Antonio Dal 
Re's engravings of Castellazzo, with their accompanying description in 
verse, or his better-known " Ville di Delizia." The same may be said of 
the villas so graphically shown in the " Novum Theatrum Pedemontii et 
Sabaudias." Among these, could anything excel in ostentatious 
magnificence the Villas II Valentino, della Regina, or Millefleurs, now, 
alas, shorn of all their wondrous embellishments ? At Castellazzo 
something still remains of the extensive gardens, showing, like many 
another villa hereabouts, unmistakable signs of French influence. 

Another villa near Treviglio, also belonging to the great Visconti 
family, was until quite recently yet more interesting. This was a 
moated house, dating from the end of the seventeenth century, the 
gardens of which were not on a large scale, owing to the somewhat 
restricted site, but they made up for this by the richness of their 

146 



decorations. The rectangular box parterre was enclosed by a raised 
bank or terrace a few yards wide, which overhung the moat. At each 
corner was an octagonal pavilion, encrusted with mosaic, its high- 
pitched roof hung with liny bells which jangled with every puff of 
wind. Opposite the main paths, curving stairways led upwards to this 
terrace, and each of these and the adjacent walls were fringed with 
rococo vases and statues, both singly and in groups. Within and around 
the parterre were fountains, in which tritons and amorint, dolphins and 
sea-monsters, spouted the livelong day. Unhappily some four or five 
years since the gardens were ruthlessly dismantled, and fountains and 
statues were sold and carried away piecemeal. Many of these were sent 
to America, to be set up in so-called Italian gardens. One can only 
regret that beautiful villas (for this is by no rtieans a solitary example) 
^should be thus despoiled in order to provide " ornaments " for prosaic 
modern gardens ; among their raw new surroundings they can at best 
but look hopelessly out of place. 

Far up one of the many lovely valleys that stretch away northwards 
from the great Lombard plain into the grey hills lies the Villa Cicogna. 
To reach it you traverse many miles of rich undulating country, studded 
with farmsteads, and villas which are often more farm than villa, but still 
betray their more refined origin by their handsome gateways ornamented 
with shields and rampant lions, broken pediments, or flower-laden vases. 
Corn and vine, fruit orchard and meadowland, fill the valley with their 
luxuriant growth, while terraced poderi invade the lower slopes of the 
surrounding hills. 

The villa stands back only a short distance from the highway that 
passes through the little feudal village, with its pink and white campanile, 
and runs onwards up the fertile valley. A short incline, overshadowed 
by trees, leads to the forecourt ; the grand portal lying directly in front, 
with the steward's house and the farm buildings ranged around it. The 
casinoy from this aspect, is very like a hundred other plain and unsophis- 
ticated buildings of its class, and holds out no promise of special interest 
either for itself or its garden. 

Up the little flight of steps at the side of the house, and through 
an iron wicket, or dog-gate, you reach an arcaded loggia^ open to 



the north and to the fresh mountain breezes that blow down the 
valley. 

A long and somewhat narrow terrace stretches away from this loggia, 
while close at hand is a fountain-basin, its slender jet giving life and 
music to the garden. Around this, grateful for the moisture and half- 
shade, are grouped pots of many-coloured flowers ; Paris daisies and 
fuchsias, carnations, lilies, and azaleas being as usual the favourites. At 
the farther end of the garden, among beds of roses, is another fountain, 
or more strictly speaking peschiera, in which are innumerable gold-fish. 
To the left, the terrace-wall is supported, for more than half its length, 
upon a series of arches, making a cool grotto in which, among fountains 
and runlets of water, maidenhair fern and other moisture-loving things 
flourish, 

A flight of steps, built within the thickness of the wall, leads to the 
higher terrace, formerly the parterre but now laid out with grass, over 
which are scattered a few beds of flowers too suggestive of carpet-bedding 
to be specially interesting. The box-bordering, taken away some years 
since, of which traces still remain round the walls, might with great 
benefit to the garden be restored. It is curious what a prejudice gar- 
deners have against box, yet no other edging is one-half so beautiful in 
itself, or shows up the flowers to greater advantage. 

All round this garden, upon the low wall, at frequent intervals, are 
turned bases for flower-pots. They are of unusual design and peculiar to 
this villa, taking the form of squat balusters, about sixteen inches high 
and twelve in width. 

A broad walk, from which the piano nobile of the casino can be entered 
on the level, runs the whole length of the garden terraces, some hundred 
and seventy paces long. At one end of this you look down over a balus- 
trade into a sunk garden, with its display of flowers and fountains. The 
other end terminates beneath an archway in the great ilex hedge, where, 
from stone benches set within a balustraded balcony, you have a delightful 
view over a wooded slope to the distant mountains, which, even in June, 
still retain their snowy caps. 

Beside the long walk, the retaining wall of the terrace above is 
screened by a magnificent laurel hedge. At intervals in this are deep 

148 



green caves, with charming little taz%e supported on tall fluted stems ; 
the water, falling from the mouths of grotesque masks set in the fronts 
of the taxze, is caught in trefoil basins beneath. 

From the rear of the casino the hill rises somewhat abruptly, though 
to a great extent it is left at its natural slope, only one other narrow 
terrace being excavated from the lower edge, just above the house. To 
this a wide easy flight of grass-grown steps ascends, opposite the middle 
of the casmo, and here, at the top of the first flight, is one of the most 
notable features of the villa — the fountain at the foot of the cascade. 
This cascade does not take the usual form of " water steps," or a series of 
basins with water falling from one to another, like those in Rome and 
its vicinity. It is rather in the nature of a water slide, the stream 
descending a steep channel between long flights of stairs, closely hemmed 
in by magnificent old cypresses. Reaching the foot, the water overflows 
into a handsome basin raised on great claw-feet, and having a grotesque 
head in the centre of its deeply moulded front. Curving stairways are 
brought down either side of this basin, and raised above them, upon the 
flanking walls, are recumbent water nymphs, half lost amidst a tangle of 
wild creeper. The constant splashing of the cascatella has covered all 
around with a mantle of fern and moss and rich purple and orange stain, 
by which wall and fountain, with the pavement and stairway below, are 
brought into delightful harmony. Ranged along this same terrace are 
to be seen the best of the flowers, the extra shade and moisture being 
specially favourable to them ; even the phlox, a plant not often seen to 
advantage in Italy, flowers well here. But the terrace is never more 
beautiful than in springtime, when wistaria is in blossom, for then the 
retaining walls are hung with garlands of its most lovely bloom, and the 
water nymphs lie nearly buried beneath billows of that exquisite blue 
that so well harmonises with warm grey stone and the delicate spring 
tints. 

At the summit of the cascade, the centre of a group of dark cypresses, 
stands a gazebo ; a small square building with arches opening on every 
side, from which green shady paths radiate. Not far away, on the skirts 
of the bosco, the aqueduct, which supplies the fountains, enters the 
garden. Advantage was taken of a sudden drop in the ground to 

149 



construct a delightful fountain on somewhat similar lines to the one 
below the cascade. The conduit ends with a shallow tazza overhanging 
an oval basin ; this in turn is raised above a circular pool, thereby giving 
a succession of falls, very refreshing to the eye. Enclosing this is a 
wide semicircular hedge with grey stone benches, and the overhanging 
trees of the bosco create a delicious twilight even at midday ; an 
ideal retreat for a summer's afternoon. From this higher ground, a 
broad flight of stairs descends to the belvedere^ pausing on the way 
at many resting-places. One of these is enclosed by balustrades, and 
provided with seats and charming fountains, while through a gap 
cut in the chestnut woods glimpses are caught of lake and distant 
mountain. 

As was the case with so many other villas, the hill-side had to be 
excavated to provide standing room for the casino. Here the excavation 
was extended sideways, so as to create a little level space for the beautiful 
sunk garden with its fountains and grotto. The casino, built about three 
sides of a c6rtile, the fourth side being open to the garden, is of two 
stories, and the ground floor has an open-vaulted arcade of singularly 
graceful proportions. Above the arches, the walls still retain much of 
their original fresco decorations, thanks largely to the protection 
afforded by the deep overhanging eaves. These are unusually pleasing 
both in conception and colour, perhaps the most delightful portion 
being the broad frieze, above the arcade, which is painted with various 
coats of arms and charming amorini who play among them. 

Nearly one-third of the adjacent garden is taken up with two 
balustraded peschiere, each about thirty feet in length by twenty in 
breadth. The centrepiece of one of these is a group oi amorini wrestling 
with some strange lizard or water-beast, who spouts water high in air ; 
in the other a curly tailed dragon disports himself. The remainder of 
the space is divided into two box-bordered plots gay with flowers, and 
placed in the midst of each are pedestal fountains, of singular beauty, 
decorated with masks and garlands. The surrounding walls, where not 
screened by tall evergreen hedges, are adorned with statues of gods and 
goddesses or busts of Roman Emperors in niches. 

In line with the peschiere is a grotto or salle fraiche, at present used 



for garden lumber only, or as winter storage for lemon-trees. Though 
now damp and uninviting enough, at one time it doubtless formed a 
most delightful adjunct to the garden ; its walls and roof fantastically 
decorated with painting and mosaic, while refreshing jets of water played 
on every side ; the coolness within contrasting most pleasantly with the 
hot August sun without. 



151 



LA BADIA 



At an early date we find the shores of the Lacus Larius, or Lake of 
Como, occupied by the villas of the wealthy Romans, who were not 
slow to recognise the advantages it offered for their pleasure houses. In 
the Georgics, Virgil refers lightly to both this lake and the Lago di 
Garda (Benacus), as though they were too well known to need a longer 
dissertation. 

Pliny makes frequent reference in his letters to his own villas, and 
those of his friends, situate upon the Lacus Larius. At, or near, the 
town of Como Pliny was born, and though he would naturally feel some 
partiality for the place of his birth, he yet shows how strongly the beauty 
of the lake and its surroundings appeal to him, for he constantly refers to 
it in the warmest terms. Writing to his friend Caninus Rufus, he 
expresses regret that he is debarred from the pleasures of " our favourite 
Larius . . . which I as eagerly long for, as a man in a fever pants for 
drink to allay his thirst or baths and fountains to assuage his heat." And 
again he says : " Tell me what are you doing at Comum ? Comum, 
equally the object of our delight ! Tell me some news of that enchanting 
villa ; of the green gallery, where it is always spring ; of the plane-trees, 
which spread themselves most diffusively ; of the green enamelled banks 
of your canal ; of your lake, situated for pleasure and for use ; of your 
place for exercise, the ground of which is soft and yet solid ; of your 
bath, open to the sun on every side ; " . . . In a letter to Voconius 
Romanus he gives some account of his own villas on this lake. 

" I am pleased," he writes, " to find by your letter that you have 
begun to build. I have from thence an excuse for my works of that 

152 



kind. For now it may be said, I build with good reason, since I follow 
your example. Nor are our situations unlike ; you build near the sea, 
I am at the same distance from the Larian lake. Upon the borders of 
it I have several seats ; two of which, as they give me the greatest 
delight, so they employ my greatest attention. One of them is placed 
upon a rock, and commands the lake ; the other is close to the water ; 
both in the manner of those at Baije. . . . Each of them has particular 
beauties, a diversity which renders them to t^eir master still more 
agreeable. One has a nearer, the other a more distant view of the 
lake. One, by a gentle curve in the building, forms a single bay ; the 
other, being built upon a greater height, forms two. Here, you may 
ride in a long avenue by the side of the lake ; there, you may walk down 
an extensive and easy terrace. 

" One of these houses is not within reach of the waves ; and they are 
broken and repulsed by the other. From the former you can discern 
the people fishing; from the latter you may angle yourself, and, as if you 
lay in a fishing-boat, may throw your line out of your bedchamber, and 
almost from your bed. My reason for making the additions that are 
wanting in these places is because they are already so beautiful. But 
why should I give you a reason when, by following your example, my 
inducement must appear to you ? Adieu." 

It was probably at one of these villas that the ebbing and flowing " 
spring was to be found of which he gives an interesting account in 
another place. " A spring rises in a mountain, it runs down through 
rocks, and is afterwards received into a banqueting-house artificially 
formed for that purpose. The force of its current is there a little 
retarded, and falls from thence into the Larian lake. The nature of 
this spring is surprising. Three times in a day it regularly rises and 
subsides, in equal degrees of proportion. This is plainly perceivable, 
and you are at once convinced and delighted. You may lie down by 
it, and regale yourself with a collation, while the fountain, which is 
exquisitely cold, supplies you with drink ; in the meantime the spring, 
in equal and reciprocal periods of time, either ebbs or flows." 

A more detailed description of one of these villas would have been 
interesting, as they were in all likelihood laid out in quite a diff^erent 

153 ^ 



manner from those he describes elsewhere. It is from this intermittent 
spring, or one having the same properties, that the Villa Pliniana has 
received its name. This villa, which lies at no great distance from Como, 
was built towards the close of the sixteenth century by a certain Conte 
Anguissola. It is situated in a little bay facing towards the north, and 
is in consequence one of the coolest on the lake. So steep is the shore 
at this point that the casino literally has its foundations in the lake. 
It is built about a small cortile, the two wings of the house being joined 
by a most charming open loggia. In the centre is a circular fountain 
basin, with a figure of Neptune supported upon a tall carved and fluted 
pedestal. At the rear the court backs on to the cliff, where within a 
grotto is found the intermittent spring, overhung with ferns and mosses. 

An ideal open-air room this ; for, looking through the arches of the 
loggia^ there is a most delightful view up the long reach of the lake, with 
the enclosing hills clothed with chestnut and olives, and its shores 
enlivened by villas and slender campanili. 

On the opposite shore of the lake is the Villa d'Este, which occupies 
a more open position. So many vicissitudes has this villa passed through 
that little is left of the original gardens. It was built by Cardinal Gallio 
towards the close of the sixteenth century, but probably was enlarged, 
and the gardens were remodelled, at a much later date, by Conte 
Odescalchi. 

The most interesting portion of the garden, at the present day, is the 
great screen-wall that terminates the garden, with the cascade seen 
through a break in it. The former is a very picturesque piece of 
eighteenth-century work, and would be still more delightful if only it 
had the advantage of a good foreground of flowers and box-work in place of 
the present neglected grass and shrubs. A curving stairway leads to the 
opening in the middle of this screen, and on either side are wide semi- 
circular recesses. The wall is decorated with pilasters and entablature, 
enclosing niches, statues, busts, and panels of stucco-work, and terminates 
above the cornice in segmental pediments and slim obelisks. The whole 
surface is encrusted with a rude stone mosaic, which, especially at a little 
distance, gives a very pleasing texture. Within the screen is an oval 
court, which encloses a large peschiera or fountain, with deep niches at 

154 



either end, and a double stair ascends from this to the foot of the 
cascade. 

From this point a grand avenue of cypresses leads upwards to a statue 
of Hercules placed within a grotto. Whether at any time there was a 
cascade here, in the ordinary sense of the word, is open to question, the 
water-supply being but limited. At present it is represented by a grassy 
slope, flanked by stone channels. These are raised upon low walls, 
built in a long series of steps, to suit the slope of the ground, and down 
these, in a succession of cascatelle, the water flows. Near the summit, 
beneath the shadow of the tall trees, are placed certain stone couches, 
reclining upon which an enchanting prospect is enjoyed of sparkling 
cascade and cypress avenue, with a vista of shimmering lake and distant 
mountains. 

Some few of the villas, scattered along the shores of the lake, display 
good bits of architectural detail in their entrance-gates and water-stair- 
ways. Perhaps the most notable among these is the well-known Villa 
Carlotta, or, as it was formerly named, Sommariva. The narrow lane that 
leads from Cadenabbia to Tremezzo passes in front of it, cutting it off 
from the lake, and gives excuse for a well-designed balustrade with piers 
and statues. These last are backed by a tall ilex hedge, and wreathed 
with garlands of roses. Within the grille is a little circular garden, 
flanked by groves of ilex, and in its centre is a charming fountain with 
amorino and dolphin, and a jet of water that plays among the white 
water-lilies. 

From this an elaborate staircase rises, in half a dozen flights, direct 
to the casino, passing on the way three balustraded terraces, the broadest 
of which is barely twenty-five feet wide, each being marked by some 
fountain or grotto. Above and around the stairway, roses and other 
flowering plants clamber, almost hiding the architectural features from 

view. 

The garden on either side of the casino is laid out with lawns and 
shrubberies, palms, bamboos, and "fir-trees." They are not specially 
interesting, though in spring, when the azaleas are in bloom, the garden 
is, for a time, a blaze of colour. 

Among the innumerable villas that line the shores of the Lago 



Maggiore, few have gardens that are in any degree satisfactory ; they 
are almost without exception what are called landscape gardens. This is 
equivalent to saying that a piece of ground, naturally interesting 
and picturesque, has had all the better trees carefully eliminated, 
their place being taken by others which are both inappropriate and 
unpicturesque. 

One of the rare exceptions is the garden on the Isola Bella — a 
garden which has had a quite unreasonable amount of abuse lavished 
upon it, especially of recent years. No one would dream of comparing 
it with the best gardens of the cinque-cento ; but it possesses features 
which are so good that one can well afford to overlook the less admirable 
parts. 

The Isola Bella, formerly a bare, rocky island, was converted into a 
garden, during the first half of the seventeenth century, by Conte Carlo 
Borromeo and his successor. Terrace rises above terrace to a height of 
some hundred feet above the surface of the lake ; several of these 
terraces are carried upon arches, and all are fringed with balustrades, 
vases, statues, and tall obelisks. The uppermost terrace, about forty- 
five paces long, covers the great cistern which supplies the various 
fountains and giuochi d'acque. At one extremity of the island, two 
octagonal garden pavilions rise from the water's edge, flanked by stair- 
ways, and, with the picturesque mingling of statues and flowering plants, 
make a delightful picture as seen from the lake. Certain features of 
these gardens are in decidedly poor taste, such as the rocaille theatre d'eaUy 
with its three tiers of grotto niches filled with statues and great shells ; 
yet this has all the appearance of a much later addition, and bears no 
relation to the better work found elsewhere in the gardens. 

In quite a different style from the Isola Bella is the little monastery 
garden of La Badia. It lies in an out-of-the-way corner of the lake, 
high up among the chestnuts and beeches, surrounded by its own 
orchards and vineyards. The little old monastery, now deserted b"y the 
monks, is built round a cloister court, its centre marked by an artless 
fountain, which throws a sparkling jet of water high in air. 

On this steep slope there is little space for gardens ; a narrow terrace 
or two shaded by vine pergole, and a small rectangular plot at one end of 

156 



the house, laid out with box borders, constitute the garden. Planted 
and tended with loving care, the sunny terraces are full of the gayest 
and sweetest of old-fashioned flowers. Pinks and carnations fringe the 
terrace walls, snapdragons and foxgloves, sWeet-williams and pansies of 
richest hue, white Madonna lilies and blushing peonies, stocks and 
gillyflowers, orange day lilies and pale blue hydrangea fill the beds to 
overflowing. And adding to these their spicy odours come rosemary, 
thyme and lavender, myrtle and sweet bay. 

The most charming feature of the little garden, however, is the 
arcade of clipped box, with its quaint finials, that closes in the forecourt 
and gives such a delightful old-world air to the place. What enchanting 
peeps of distant lake and misty mountain are to be had through the 
arched openings, and between the wild sprays of pink and white rose, 
that, not content with concealing from view one of the great bosses, 
wander away far over arch and pergola^ only to reappear in the most 
unexpected manner ! 

This is, so far as I am aware, the only example of topiary work, on 
an extensive scale, upon the Italian lakes ; yet, shortly before my visit, " 
some strange being, deficient in both humour and artistic sense, suggested 
to the proprietor that he should remove this " eyesore " and replace it 
with a decent iron railing and some shrubs ! 

From this forecourt descend long and gently sloping steps, that 
wander hither and thither upon the steep hill-side, always taking the 
easiest way ; past terrace walls hung with ferns and wild flowers, and 
pausing awhile beneath vine pergole and chestnut copses, before finally 
reaching the margin of the lake. These pleasant ways were made by 
people who took life in leisurely fashion, people who had both time and 
patience to bestow upon the training of the old box-trees that fringe 
their garden terrace. 



LIST OF PRINCIPAL WORKS 
REFERRED TO 

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Barriere, Dominicus, ' Villa Aldobrandina Tusculana,' 1647. 

Blaeu, Jean, ' Nouveau Theatre d'ltalie,' 1724. 

BoECLERi, Georg' Andrea, ' Architectura Curiosa Nova,' 1 664. 

Brigentio, Andrea, 'Villa Burghesia vulgo Pinciana,' 1716. 

Costa, Gianfrancesco, ' Le Delizie del Fiume Brenta,' c. 1750. 

Evelyn, John, Bray's ' Memoirs,' &c. (Italy, 1645), 1819, 

Falda, Gio. Battista, ' Li Giardini di Roma,' &c., n.d. 

Falda and others, ' Villa Paraphilia,' n.d. 

Falta, Joh. Baptista, 'Romanorum Fontinalia,' 1685. 

Ferrari, Gio. Battista, ' Cultura di Fiori,' 1638. 

Frigie, Engravings of Villas near Rome (no title), n.d. 

Gautier, P., * Les plus beaux Edifices de la Ville de G^nes et de ses 

Environs,' 1832. 
GuRLiTT, Cornelius, ' Geschichte des Barock-Stiles in Italien,' 1887. 
Hole, S. Reynolds, 'Nice and her Neighbours,' Sampson Low, i88i. 
Keysler, John George, ' Travels through . . . Italy,' 1756. 
Lassels, Richard, 'The Voyage of Italy,' 1670. 
Leonardi, Dom. Felice, *Le Delizie della Villa di Castellazzo,' 1742. 
Maclaughlin, Fanny, ' Rome, its Princes, Priests, and People.' 

Being a translation of David Silvagni's work 'La Corte e la 

Societd Romana nei xviii and xix secoli.' Elliot Stock, 1885. 
Montaigne, Michel de, ' Voyage en Italic, &c.' (1580-1.) Translated 

by Wm. Hazlitt, 1842. 
Nolli, Giambattista, ' Nuova Pianta di Roma,' 1748. 
Orrery, John Earl of Corke and, ' Letters from Italy in the years 

1754-5,' 1773- 
Piranesi, Prints of several Villas near Rome. 
Pliny, ' Letters of Pliny the Younger.' Translated by John Earl of 

Orrery, 1751. 



Percier et Fontaine, ' Choix des plus C^lebres Maisons de Plaisance 

de Rome,' 1819. 
Dal Re, Marc-Antonio, ' Ville di Delizia a siano Palaggi Camparecci 

nello Stato di Milano,' l^2j.' 
Ross, Janet, ' Florentine^ Palaces and their Stories,' Dent and Co. 

1905. 
Ross, Janet, • Florentine Villas,' 1901. 
Rubens, P. P., 'Palazzi di Genova,' 1622. 
Seyffert, Dr. O., ' Dictionary of Classical Antiquities.' From the 

German by H. Nettleship, M.A., and J. E. Sandys, Litt.D. 
SiEVEKiNG, A. Forbes, ' The Praise of Gardens.' 
Soprani, RafFaello, ' Vite de'Pittori, Scultori, e Architetti Genovesi,' 

1768. 
SiLVESTRO, Israeli, ' Alcune Vedute di Giardini e Fontane di Roma e 

di Tivoli,' 1646. 
TucKERMANN, W. P., ' Die Gartenkunst der Italienischen Renaissance- 

zeit,' 1884. 
Vasari, Giorgio, * Lives of Painters, Sculptors and Architects.' > 
Vascellini; Gaet., ' Descrizione del Giardino Reale detto di Boboli,' 

n.d. 
Vasi, Giuseppe, 'Delle Magnificenze di Roma,' 1759. 
Venturini, Gio. Francesco, and Falda, ' Le Fontane ne'.Palazzi e ne' 

Giardini di Roma,' c. 1650. 
Venuti, Ridolfino, 'Roma Moderna,' 1766. 
Volckamer, J. C, ' Nurnbergische Hesperides,' 1708. 
ZoccHi, Giuseppe, 'Vedute delle Ville e d' altri Luoghi della 

Toscana,' 1744. 



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