The Renaissance in Tuscia, Viterbo, was a period of great splendor. Thanks to the noble families, the popes and the high priests, the entire territory was enriched with sumptuous palaces and gardens designed by famous architects of the time. We can still see the incredible testimonies from the 1400s and 1500s, and the most evident examples are the historical villas and gardens that are a must-see for tourists looking for history, art and nature. These include Villa Lante in Bagnaia of Viterbo, the Sacred Forest of Bomarzo, the Farnese Palace in Caprarola, Ruspoli Castle in Vignanello and the Chigi-Albani Palace in Cimino.
Villa Lante in Bagnaia is a great achievement of the 1500s, enhanced by the beautiful Italian gardens, sculptures and the spectacular water features that come down from the hill in graceful fountains. It was commissioned by Cardinal De Gambara and is probably based on a project by Vignola. Graceful fountains, decorated pools, waterfalls and water features are placed along the route that goes from the highest terrace of the park filled with lush vegetation and that leads to the garden below the villa. The attractive Fountain of the Flood is also placed on this high terrace. There are two twin buildings. The first, Gambara, contains wonderful coffered ceilings, stucco and precious frescoes, some depicting the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, the Farnese Palace in Caprarola, the Palace of Capodimonte and Villa Lante in its original state. The other house, known as Montalto house and named after the cardinal who commissioned it, was completed in 1590 with frescoes by various artists and a beautiful decorated coffered ceiling.
Sacro Bosco/The Sacred Forest
The Sacred Forest of Bomarzo, also known as the Park of Monsters, is a spectacular interpretation of the famous mannerist gardens around the world, studied by architects, filmmakers, writers and painters who still study the enigmatic meaning of its creation. Its patron, Vicino Orsini, a brave commander in the service of the Papal States, had a series of giant, fantastic and grotesque sculptures installed in the beautiful park located in the valley below the castle. Upon Vicino Orsini’s death, his wife, Giulia Farnese, had a small temple created in the park as a memorial to her husband. Here, local priests were to perpetually commemorate him during masses. The idea of the park came during a time when the construction of gardens and parks was based on artistic and cultural currents of the time and had the function of beautifying the gardens of the Lord but also to send meaningful messages for the educated of the time. However, there true meaning is also a “puzzle” that is still discussed today by scholars and researchers.
Visiting the Farnese Palace in Caprarola is like totally immersing yourself in the Renaissance or Mannerism, including the architecture of Sangallo and Vignola, frescoes by the Zuccari, the Annibal Caro shots and the perspectives of Giacomo del Duca. A sixteenth-century artistic jewel, this is one of the finest Renaissance works of Europe. It was Cardinal Alessandro Farnese the Elder Vecchio who commissioned its building to emphasize the political and military power achieved by his family. This family started as small estate holders in the Province of Viterbo, between Ischia di Castro, Farnese and Canino. However, the ambitions of Alessandro were not only limited to social and economic growth since he aimed much higher to papacy. According to him, this was the only way to consecrate the Farnese family name and to obtain a level of wealth that was otherwise unattainable. Every strategy, every family relationship, every marriage union was designed for this purpose.
Castello Ruspoli/ Ruspoli Castle
Ruspoli Castle is an example of Renaissance architecture, a remarkable result of continuous expansion works and the adaptation of an ancient medieval castle enriched with precious Italian gardens. The current shape of the castle is due to the reconstruction, perhaps designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger between 1531 and 1538 and commissioned by Beatrice Farnese and her son-in-law, Sforza Marescotti. The medieval fortress was transformed in the majestic gray stone castle that is visible today. Its imposing size, surrounded by a deep moat, enclosed by four corner bastions and crowned by Ghibelline crenellation, dominates the panorama of the town opposing to the solemn size of the church of Santa Maria della Presentazione.