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What secrets hide the most famous Mediterranean villas built in the Renaissance

Mediterranean villas were once a way to bring back the ideals of antiquity into everyday life. Noble Italians of the Renaissance erected country houses to hide there from the summer heat, enjoying the shade of exquisite gardens and the coolness of fountains. Neighbors in European countries at that time preferred fortified castles – and only a few centuries later the splendor of the villas was appreciated all over the world.

1. Villa Farnese
Villa Farnese, or Caprarol Castle, is located fifty kilometers north-west of Rome, in the Lazio region. It began to build in the twenties of the XVI century on behalf of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the future of Pope Paul III. However, during his lifetime the construction was not completed, and the grandson of Paul III, also named after Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, later took up residence.
As the architect was invited perhaps the most famous master of the late Renaissance – Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola.

The villa, pentagonal at the base, located on a hill, turned out to be big, solemn and majestic. Huge windows on the front floor, a restrained and even formidable view from the outside and the magnificence of the paintings and decorations inside gave the castle-villa a special attraction. Villa Farnese became the forerunner of Italian Baroque architecture and one of the most significant monuments of the Renaissance. The garden adjoins the building, a small but harmoniously incorporated into the natural landscape.

2. Villa d’Este
One of the most beautiful palace and park ensembles in Europe appeared thanks to the son of Lucrezia Borgia, Cardinal Hippolyte d’Este. The villa is located near the town of Tivoli in Lazio. Work began in 1560. The architect was Pirro Ligorio, who earlier excavated the Roman villa of Adrian, which is located nearby.

Villa d’Este was conceived as a meeting place for musicians and writers, there was a rich collection of ancient statues, later lost, decorated with frescoes and Flemish tapestries. I was struck by the imagination and the garden, where they arranged a complex system of fountains, including the Boiling Ladder, equipped with four dozen water cannons, and the Organ Fountain, where water, displacing air through the organ pipes, created a melody. It was the local fountains that inspired Peter the Great to set up a park in Peterhof.

The owner of the villa until 1914 was the notorious Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the murder of which served as the pretext for the start of the First World War.

3. Villa Lante
Located near the city of Viterbo, Villa Lanta also once belonged to the representatives of the clergy – at first it was owned by Cardinal Gambara, later by Cardinal Montalto. The architectural complex of the villa has since represented two buildings built in the second half of the 17th century with a difference of several decades, but, nevertheless, almost identical – the Gambar Palace and the Montalto Palace.

And Villa Lante, in turn, is famous for a complex of fountains – some of them were created after those already functioning in the gardens of Villa d’Este. Many were the pinnacle of engineering at the time, and the best specialists were invited to create them. In the garden of the Villa Lante work was headed by the famous engineer Tommaso Ginucci. The work was done at such a high level that it allowed the fountain system to exist up to the present, that is, for more than four centuries. The uniqueness of the park Villa Lante and give expressive sculptures.
The park is located on several levels, including the real forest – as conceived by the architects, it symbolizes the transition from the realm of wildlife to the garden, where nature is completely conquered by man.

4. Villa Pratolino
This villa is located in Tuscany, near Florence. Villa Pratolino ordered the Duke of Tuscany Francesco Medici to be built for his mistress Bianca Capello. Construction continued from 1569 to 1581.
The park, in turn, was also famous for fountains, which, alas, damaged the building after the villa was abandoned in the 18th century. The water that was supplied to the garden through a special water supply system blurred the foundation, and the villa had to be demolished. The new building was built by Pavel Pavlovich Demidov, Prince San Donato, who acquired the territory of the villa in 1860. There he died, leaving the villa, which is already called Demidoff, to his descendants.

Now this complex has become a state museum, cascades of fountains, grottoes and statues have been restored in the park according to descriptions and drawings.

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