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Villa d'Este

Self-Care: Through Travel

It’s time for me to share my secret to self-care.

It’s too good to keep to myself. 

I’ve modified the recipe due to . . . . the Covid. But even with some adjustments, it’s got strength and longevity baked in to it. 

Recipe includes:

  • 1-part travel (substitute this email)
  • 2-parts being in an outdoor garden (using my own garden)
  • a strong dash of learning something new 

Here we go . . . 

Join me on this visit to Villa d’Este (The House of Este) in Tivoli – just outside Rome.

It’s about 55 degrees, not too cold nor warm. The sun is high and slightly hidden by clouds. It’s January, so there are no lines and only a handful of other tourists.

Having shown our ticket to enter, we walk through the stark villa, see a few pieces of Renaissance art, and then step out onto the terrace that overlooks a garden like no other.

Villa d'Este

You see, way back in 1555 Cardinal Ippolito d ’Este, grandson of Pope Alexander VI, commissioned Pirro Ligorio to transform the grounds of a Franciscan monastery into a garden of magnificent proportions. (The pope was played by Jeremy Irons in The Borgia series.)

The cardinal received the governorship and this land as a consolation prize for not becoming pope. In my opinion, I  mean . . . it’s not a bad trade-off.

Construction began in 1560 and was finished in 1575.

That’s 5 years of planning the design and 15 years of construction.

(Isn’t it funny how upset we get when our construction projects take a few months?! Granted they’re not this gorgeous, but you get my point.)

Villa d'Este Map

This garden is quintessential high Renaissance design. And if we remember our history well enough, (let me reduce this down) it’s a bit of science and a bit of art all representing a new modern age. 

Renaissance gardens were designed most commonly around a central axis (a throughway) and would have one or multiple perpendicular axes along it. Villa d’Este has one central axis and two cross-axes.

It was also built on a hillside.

Question: How does water get naturally from the top of a hill to the bottom?

Answer: Gravity.

All, yes all, of these amazing water fountains and features are powered by gravity. I mean . . . Romans! Moving water geniuses.

Villa d'Este
Villa d'Este

And here’s what’s really fascinating to me. Like many historic gardens, symbolism and storytelling were essential particularly if you were someone that was wealthy, well-known, and a connoisseur of the arts.
 
(While I’d love to take credit for my discerning analysis of this garden, I’m going lean on David R. Coffin author of The Villa d’Este at Tivoli beginning here.)
 
As a guest  to this garden in the 1600’s your carriage would have brought you to the entrance at the lowest point. (Visitors now enter at the top.) The first axis you’d cross is the lower one. The breath-taking fountain of Neptune fed the consecutive fish ponds and irrigated all the vegetation. Mother nature was providing life-giving sustenance. 

Villa d'Este

As you ascended through the garden, you walked the second axis (the upper one) and saw Pegasus striking his foot sending out a water spring. This sacred water is sent to the Muses flowing to Rometta (a.k.a. little Rome where Remus and Romulus were) representing human’s greatest achievements in art.

Noticing the three channels of water along the upper axis, you’d discern that they represented the 3 local rivers that eventually joined the Tiber in Rome. This connection to Rome linked the cardinal to his greatest achievements
 
Finally, you would have noticed the statue of Hercules situated between Venus and Diana (below pic) – vice and virtue. He’d be here for no other reason than the fact that the garden descended from him. (Duh!) 

Villa d'Este

By the time you’d entered the villa, it would have been clear that the whole garden was designed to glorify the cardinal’s virtue and his ability to transform nature into art. POWER!

I mean . . .  don’t you just love the grandiosity, ideology, and ethos of Romans! 

Villa d'Este

Okay, I’ll admit visiting Villa d ‘Este in person is way more exhilarating.

But . . . working on self-care is still important in 2021.

While you may not be traveling the way you’re used to for a few more months, you can still utilize my recipe right in your own back yard. 

Having your very own space designed to your own intentions, like Cardinal Ippolito did, is possible! 

Now is the time to get your project started. (Pinky swear it won’t take 5 years to design and 15 years to complete! Although if you’ve gotta have gravity-powered water features it may take some time.)

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary meeting.

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