The villas of Rome and those located in the nearby Tuscia, Tivoli and Tuscolo – which all share some level of connection to the Pope, to high-ranking clergy members, and to the aristocratic families gravitating around the head of the Church – form a unique architectural assortment displaying a variety of models and typologies reflecting the tastes of their time and their patrons. Despite not having, like the Medicean villas, a direct connection with one same family, this system of Roman residencies finds its raison d’etre in its connection to the Roman Curia. As numerous in the city as in the countryside, where the climate was more salubrious and fresher during the summer, garden villas served as backdrop for leisurely “otium” activities as well as for more official and formal occasions.
By ascending the papal throne, each pontiff determined the rise of his own family that would then display its power usually through the erection of a palazzo in the city and of a countryside villa. Be it a Medici or a Farnese Pope, each pontifex left the signs of his passage in the gardens of Rome. These outdoor green spaces also became a way for the cardinal-nephews to display their power: from Pietro Aldobrandini who gave himself a residence in Rome and Frascati, Scipione Borghese who commissioned the famous villa outside the Aurelian Walls as well as buying three villas in the Tuscolo area, to Camillo Pamphilj who not far from the Vatican commissioned a villa with an extensive park annexed to it.
Those patrons with a direct connection to the Pope – such as Alessandro Farnese, who commissioned the Giardini di Caprarola – were then emulated by nobles and cardinals such as Gambara, who created Villa Lante in Bagnaia and Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, owner of Villa d’Este in Tivoli.