Villa Aldobrandini
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Architect Giacomo Della Porta
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Location Frascati, Italy   map
Date 1598 to 1603   timeline
Building Type large house, country villa
 Construction System bearing masonry
Climate mediterranean
Context rural hillside
Notes symmetrical, in symmetrical landscaping. Extensive gardens and waterworks.




Site Plan Drawing

Discussion Villa Aldobrandini Commentary

Built on the hillside at the edge of the town of Frascati, the villa forms a massive screen with its front facade facing across a bare slope to the town and its back facing the wild bosco intended for the idylls of the owner and his guests. Built during the Counter-Reformation, the villa contrasts the power and authority of the church and culture as it faces the town and an Arcadian vision of nature as it connects to the slope behind it.

An approach avenue on the axis of symmetry of the villa is flanked by clipped trees, whose overarching branches make a tunnel. The avenue leads from the main gates to a niche in the lowest retaining wall of the two-storeyed front terrace, from which point symmetrical ramps lead up to the terraces and the villa. The highest level of the front terrace does not connect directly to the terrace at the back, which is at the floor level of the piano nobile of the interior. The kitchens are located at the first level of the villa and are roofed by side terraces at the level of the piano nobile, through which fanciful chimney structures rise.

The rooms of the house were decorated exceptionally richly. The drawing room in the center of the main block of the piano nobile has walls hung with tapestries and a ceiling decorated with frescos ascribed to Zuccari.

Two gardens of formally planted plane trees and hydrangeas are situated on the transverse axis of the villa and link to the back bosco.

The wild bosco uphill and to the south of the villa is organized around an axial set of waterworks that begin at the top of the hill with the spring. The water works (designed by Carlo Maderno and engineered by Giovanni Fontana) include a cascade and two water columns which frame the view of the central part of the villa. The narrow axis slices a green canyon out of the bosco, which frames the central slightly projecting part of the villa's south facade, in which loggias for looking out on the garden are stacked. At several terrace levels of the water axis, paths extend laterally into the wild bosco on either side. The flow of water culminates in a water theater and nymphaeum built into the semicircular retaining wall of the south terrace, onto which the piano nobile opens.

— JY

Sources on Villa Aldobrandini

Francis D. K. Ching. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979. ISBN 0-442-21535-5. LC 79-18045. NA2760.C46. plan diagram, p28. — A nice graphic introduction to architectural ideas. Updated 1996 edition available at

Carl L. Franck. The Villas of Frascati. London: Alec Tiranti, 1966. interior perspective of hall. plate 136, p130. exterior perspective of waterfall.

Christian Norberg-Schulz. Baroque Architecture. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1986. ISBN 08478-0693-6. LC 85-30011. NA590.N6. plan drawing of villa and gardens, f66, p55.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about Villa Aldobrandini


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