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Viterbo, Italy

Dining Table at Villa Lante

This immaculate and historic water garden culminates in a massive stone dining table with an inset fountain for chilling the wine of the Cardinal's guests 

The magnificent gardens of Villa Lante are perhaps one of the most pristinely preserved examples of Renaissance landscapes in existence today.

The lush and vibrant locale is best described as a water garden, not just by definition but by sheer elemental subtext. Gurgling fountains, novel irrigations, and impressive pieces of water-based design populate the gardens, with the crown jewel being the massive stone table in the center of the garden, steeped in history.

That history stretches back to 1564, when Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola designed and began construction on the site, but died before the gardens were complete. Not until 1587 were they completed by Cardinal Alessandro Montalto.

The design of the gardens is as unique as their history – they step down in terraces, all connected by fountains that flow into one another. But these fountains are not the gaudy displays of rushing water spraying through the air associated with modern fountains. Instead, the sights and sounds of peaceful trickling inhabit the entire area, from top to bottom. 

The gardens are defined by a combination of breathtaking architecture and pleasant open spaces. But the massive stone dining table has remained the most impressive and attractive part of the garden for centuries.

A trough of water runs through the center of the table, meant to chill wine for the Cardinal and his guests, and it’s a feature that seems inspiring and novel even to this day. Century after century, events were set against these lavish gardens and dinner parties enjoyed conversation surrounded by torchlight and water, right there at the stone table. 

Know Before You Go

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Cotral blue bus from Rome Saxa Rubra to Viterbo and then a local bus to Bagnaia • Slow train from Piazzale Flaminio and get off in Bagnaia • Train from St. Peters or Valle Aurelia station with BIRG ticket (9 euros for the whole day travel through the province plus metro, bus in Rome) • Train to Viterbo spend the day in Europe's best preserved medieval section then bus to Bagnaia to see the Villa Lante.

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