At the Villa Lante, built for Cardinal Gambara in the 1560’s on a hillside above the medieval town of Bagnaia and considered by many to be the finest Renaissance garden in Italy, the twin pavilions, or palazzine, play such a minor part in architect Giacomo Vignola’s overall design they might as well be garden ornaments. Villa Lante is all about order and proportion, if not restraint. Its main terraces are subdivided by paths and box hedges into geometrical patterns; they’re linked by steps and a central stream that falls from a grotto at the top of the garden through a sequence of magnificent fountains and cascades (adorned with shrimp tails, dolphins, and river gods) to the great water parterre that overhangs the ocher-roofed town below. As you look down on the garden from above, the beauty of these symmetrical arrangements becomes apparent—the sparkling play of sunlight on water; the inviting cool of ilex-shaded bowers—adding to the harmonious effect of the whole. Flowers, rarely a key feature of Italian gardens, would be a distraction.