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Beyond Rome in the hill town of Tivoli sits the Villa D’Este built by the Cardinal Ilppolito il d’Este in the mid 1500s. Travertine marble comes from Tivoli’s hills, its abundant tumbling water supplies some of Rome’s electricity. Tivoli's slopes are covered with olive orchards,vineyards and gardens.Some fine papers are manufactured there.
Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este (1509-1572), was the son of Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia and grandson (!) of Pope Alexander VI. He was appointed Governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III. The villa's known for its opulently restored splendor and particularly for majestic gardens resplendent with enormous fountains that are entirely powered by natural water flows (no pumps). They are both an artistic and engineering amazement. Cardinals, unlike many hundreds of the priests who they ruled, quite apparently failed to take a vow of poverty, eh?
A central fountain (Of the Great Cup) has water issuing from a seemingly natural rock into a scrolling shell-like cup. Sadly the lighting was so awful in the mid afternoon of a searing day that there was no interesting way to picture the fountains. But the internet’s replete with photographic tours through the villa and its gardens.
Frankly though, it was the details of the place which flaunted the lavish wealth of the Cardinal/Prince of the Roman Church. Look at this one travertine detail on the fountain executed by the incomparable Bernini. See how the face looks more like an illustration from a modern comic book than a medieval hero? Look at the eyes and the very real expression. There’s nothing calm or idyllic – this guy is worried and I think damned chilly standing all those centuries naked in the water-logged air.