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Villa Lante's miraculous and gentle balance between humanity and nature continues to inspire.

The Villa Lante, at Bagnaia some 40 miles north of Rome, was built (probably by Vignola) for Cardinal Gambara in the 1570s. It has often been described as the most beautiful garden of the Italian Renaissance, and it remains, scrupulously maintained by the state, as a moving three-dimensional poem about the relationship of humanity to nature.

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Instead of dominating the landscape with a huge palace (as Vignola did at the nearby Villa Farnese), Gambara was prepared to divide his summer residence into two small casini (one finished for a successor by Maderno). Flowing between these is the abstracted story of a river, which, fed by an invisible aqueduct, starts at a mythical source high on the hill and flows down through cascades, statues, spouts, squirts, balustrades, giochi d'acqua, pools, a long picnic table, fountains and rills to arrive at the sea of the great pond on the parterre terrace below the casini. All is calm and green, smelling of water, box and grass, enlivened by the gentle chatter and splash of the stream as it hurries from terrace to terrace.

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It was remarkably expensive to make, but rarely can such large amounts of money have been spent with so much modesty, imagination and grace. What a wonderful legacy the cardinal left to us. P.D.
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Title Annotation:Delight; Villa Lante, at Bagnaia, 40 miles north of Rome
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:227
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