This morning we woke up early and took a class trip to the countryside to visit the Villa Farnese and the Villa Lante. The Villa Farnese is sometimes called Villa Caprarola or Palazzo Farnesi. It was designed by the architect Giacomo Vignola in 1560. The Villa Farnesi can easily be identified by its pentagonal plan with curving interior facades that wrap an inner courtyard. Several things stood out to me at the Villa Farnese. For starters, it was strategically designed/sited to overlook the rest of the town from its high perch. Since its construction in 1560 and to this day, it has taken on a prominant position. The second thing which stands out to me is the result of a reflection upon both the Villa Farnese and the Villa Lante. Though both of this villas possess exquisite gardens and landscaping on their properties, the design for the Villa Farnesi is all about the villa.  You remember the gardens yes, but what you really remember after your visit are the breathtaking frescoes on the ceiling of each and every room and hallway and the circulation up that central stair and around the courtyard. 

Villa Farnesi Ceiling Detail

Villa Farnesi Closet Detail

Villa Farnesi Gardens

Villa Farnesi Gardens

The Villa Lante on the other hand is a scheme that, in my opinion, is all about the gardens and landscaping. The villa becomes secondary…in fact we didn’t even go inside. From the minute one sets foot on the property, that explorers urge sets in. The Mannerist gardens were originally designed by Jacapo Barozzi da Vignola in the late 1500’s. Using the slope of the site, he sets up a series of terraces which each provide some different water feature and garden element. The plan relies heavily on a central axis on which lies the primary element of each terrace. At the lowest level, there is a grand circular fountain “Fountain of the Lamps”, then at the middle terrace a large “dining table” on which the plates were sent floating, and finally at the top terrace is the “Fountain of the Deluge” which rests between two smaller structures referred to as the “houses of the muses”. Overall, the element of this garden which appealed to me the most was definitely the dining table. I have never seen anything like it. It was one of those things that made me feel like I wished I could have been alive 500 years ago to have dinner here. Clearly not the most architectural of desires, but something about the concept just fascinates me. 

Villa Lante Water Table

Following our day trip to the countryside, we made our way to the Villa Massimo for the evening session. The atmosphere was very relaxing and we had a great dinner from the BBQ. Dinner was followed by a lecture about origin and what it means to be an “insider” in society/culture/cities as opposed to an “outsider”. This lecture was strategically planned as a way of planting a seed in our heads for the weeks to come. Tonight we also met Lorenzo and Giulia for the first time. They both seemed extremely enthusiastic about having us in Rome and working with us in the weeks to come. 

The Villa Massimo

Villa Massimo Sketches