The only way to see what gardening authority Penelope Hobhouse called “one of the great masterpieces of Italian garden art” is by first taking the official tour of the Villa Farnese, a formidable pentagonal fortress that sits above the town looking out toward Rome. Troop through one magnificent empty salon after another (including a map-of-the-world room painted around 1570). Wander uphill through mature woods of ilex, chestnut, and pine to the Casino del Piacere (House of Pleasure), a perfectly proportioned lodge built by Vignola. The final approach to the casino is by way of a dramatic arrangement of steps and fountains leading to a terraced garden of stone pillars, 28 male and female busts on tall pedestals that seem to have sprung from the ground along with the sentinel cypresses. The grandeur may be a little daunting, but Caprarola illustrates the importance the late-Renaissance builders and their masters set on the relationship between villa, garden (with all its sculptural forms), and the surrounding landscape.
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