Villa Farnese Tour - Natural Sound - 4K - Prowalk Tuors
Welcome to Caprarola, Italy, a small town in the province of Viterbo, in the Lazio region of central Italy. Caprarola is located about an hour's drive north of Rome and about 30 minutes south of Viterbo. We are currently walking uphill along Via Filippo Nicolai through the center of town towards the Villa Farnese.
This Farnese Palace should not be confused with the Farnese Palace located in Rome located near the Campo de-Fiori market. Construction of the Villa Farnese began in 1521 but its original purpose was that of a defensive fortress. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese acquired the town of Caprarola in 1504. He soon had his architects, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Baldassare Peruzzi, begin designing his future fortified castle. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese eventually decided to turn his partially constructed fortress into a villa (country house) instead.
There was originally a fish pond here. Via Filippo Nicolai was constructed through the town with the purpose of ending here at the palace. On the sides surrounding the pond are a pair of semicircular horse ramps which provided horse drawn carriages access to the palace. The villa was designed by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and construction began in 1559. The road divides the town in half with one side of town known as Sardinia and the other side known as Corsica.
Vignola worked on the palace until his death in 1573. The palace has 5 floors and this entrance, called "il Facchino" provides access to the basement through an underground corridor. Construction of the villa continued for another 16 years after Vignola's death during which time Farnese commissioned a number of artists to paint the rooms. There is a sundial here on the western bastion and a 6-hour clock on the eastern bastion.
The 6-hour clock, which divides the day into four parts, was introduced in the 13th century by the Catholic Church. The 6-hour clock was once the standard measure of time in Italy and remained in use until the end of the 18th century. This is the entrance to the ground floor of the palace known as the Piano dei Prelati, "floor of the Prelati." The large windows on the first floor are in the Hall of Hercules which we will see later.
This is "La Sala della Guardia" or guard room which was the seat of the Palafrenieri who oversaw the palace. This painting illustrates the liberation of the island of Malta in 1565 from the long siege of Suleiman the Magnificent. This painting shows the departure of the Christian fleet from the port of Messina in Sicily. The vault of the Guard Room was frescoed by Federico Zuccari who also painted the dome of the Florence Cathedral.
The views on the long sides of the vault show the palace on one side and village of Caprarola under renovation on the other. This painting highlights the transformations of the village by the architect Vignola. In the middle of the vault are the coats of arms which glorifies cardinal Alessandro and the entire Farnese family. While the exterior of the building is in the shape of a pentagon, the central courtyard is circular. The mask at the center of the courtyard acts as a drain to prevent the flooding of the courtyard.
The central courtyard is lined with ten arches on both levels. The two upper floors are set back and impossible to see from the ground. The upper floors were reserved for the cardinal's family. Much like the Pantheon in Rome, the height of the courtyard is equal to its diameter. The decoration of the portico was carried out between 1579 and 1581, probably under the direction of Antonio Tempesta.
The vault, covered with fruit and flowers and populated by various birds, allows a glimpse of the sky. The vault of the Villa Giulia in Rome shows exactly the same decoration on its vault in its external corridors. On the wall, a series of forty-six coats of arms celebrate the Italian noble families related to the Farnese family.
This floor is the location of the two grand apartments, the winter apartments and the summer apartments, located on opposites sides of the courtyard. The apartments are symmetrical and each contain five rooms. We will first visit the winter apartments and begin in the Room of the Swans. Room of the Swans The Royal Staircase is right behind this wall.
The five rooms were decorated by Federico Zuccari, and his assistants, between 1567 and 1569, with motifs taken from the Farnese heraldry. The ceiling shows the coat of arms of Odoardo Farnese among the swans in flight. On the long sides of the vault are painted two scenes of sacrifice. The ceiling was inspired by Giulio Romani's ceiling in the Villa Madama located near the Vatican in Rome.
Pay close attention to the medallion-shaped decorations above the scene of sacrifice, as you will see these same paintings throughout the entire villa. The medallions are are symbolic icons which show the talents of the Farnese family. The central panel of the vault shows the Farnese feat of the Virgin with the unicorn, and it is framed by four beautiful landscapes. You may have noticed that these walls are white and not frescoed. This is because the walls were originally covered with colored curtains.
The curtains helped to muffle noise as well as to help keep the rooms warm. We are now going to tour the summer apartment on the other side of the courtyard. This room was originally called the Room of Perspective which was a reference to the Room of Perspective in the Villa Farnese in Rome, which inspired Taddeo Zuccari in his wall decorations here. The false architecture on the walls helps to create the illusion of a larger room while also celebrating the arts and disciplines related to architecture. The current name of the room, "Hall of Jupiter", derives from the subject treated in the vault, painted by Taddeo Zuccari between 1560 and 1562 with seven scenes relating to the childhood of Jupiter. In the center of the ceiling, there are three different frames, showing the myth of the goat Amalthea: in the middle the goat suckling the baby Jupiter, on the left the nymphs with the goat and on the right Amalthea transformed into a constellation.
Here you see the nymphs fill a broken horn of Amalthea with flowers and fruit. This gesture symbolizes the creation of the legendary cornucopia, the horn overflowing with goods, symbol of abundance. In the second side panel, the cornucopia is presented by the Nymphs to Jupiter who has a smile on his face. Here we see Vulcan (the blacksmith of the gods) offering to Jupiter the shield made from the skin of Amalthea.
Finally, in the last panel (which is the first in the story), we see the birth of Jupiter, the leader of the Roman gods. Jupiter alludes to Cardinal Alexander, while Amalthea the goat represents the town that offered him asylum and for this reason is destined to rise to the honors of fame. The summer apartment also consists of four smaller rooms, each dedicated to a season. The only one currently open is the Spring Room. Each season is usually represented by a man or woman, but here, each season is represented by a naked child with unusual attributes. This boy, who represents spring, has a crown of myrtle, a plant sacred to Venus, perhaps as an allusion to spring love and seasonal vitality. In the first of the four side compartments is represented the Metamorphosis of Proteus , a pagan god able to transform himself into any living being: hence the word proteiform.
The second frame shows the Rape of Proserpine, symbolizing the cyclical awakening of nature. Proserpina, Demetra’s daughter, was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld, and was forced to spend six months with his mother (spring and summer) and six months with her husband in the underworld (autumn and winter). The third panel represents Hercules' Struggle with the rover god Acheloo, who like Proteus, had the power to change his appearance; in this fight he appears in the form of a bull while Hercules blows off one of his horns. Finally, the fourth frame depicts the Rape of Europa, which occurred in spring. Real and legendary creatures fill the voids, in an ornamental decoration born from the discovery of the rooms of Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome.
We are now going to head back to the Guard Room where we will take the Royal Staircase up to the next floor, called the Nobile Floor. The Royal Staircase was built at the beginning of the 16th century and the low steps were meant to allow cardinal Alessandro Farnese to ride a mule up to his room. The Royal Staircase was the last part of the palace to have been frescoed, being completed in 1583 by the painter Antonio Tempesta.
The rich decorations were meant to introduce the visitor into the magnificent world of the master of the house, the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The staircase is helical / elliptical in shape and consists of thirty Doric columns of peperino stone flanked two by two. The staircase actually begins on the ground floor where the carriages would have arrived, and extends to the two floors above. The inspiration for the staircase came directly from Bramante's staircase in the Vatican. The frescoes depict the evolution of the weapon that from the unicorn, the first emblem of the Farnese, gradually transforms into a lily and then to the six lilies. At the center of the dome is the cardinal's coat of arms with six blue lilies.
The frescoes represent the virtues of Alessandro Farnese in various pictorial styles including, the lightning bolts of Jupiter, the white Farnese lilies surmounted by a rainbow, the winged horse Pegasus, the ship of the Argonauts and an arrow that hits the target This small corridor joins the staircase with the outer portico of the Noble Floor. In each niche around the portico there were once a series of busts of the twelve Roman Emperors, whose names can still be read in the niches. These busts were moved around 1861 to the Farnese Palace in Rome, where they are still located today. This is the central loggia that we were looking up at from the entrance earlier in the tour. Back in the 16th century, there were no windows here.
This panoramic loggia, called the Room of Hercules, was used as a summer dining hall and includes a grotto-like fountain on one end. The fountain was built by the same engineer who worked on the gardens of the Villa d'Este in nearby Tivoli. The Royal Staircase is directly behind this wall.
The gentlemen coming out of the door with the book under his arm is thought to have been the librarian and antiquarian of the Farnese family. The vault displays paintings of Hercules who played a significant role in the region's mythology as the nearby Lake of Vico was believed to have been formed by the gods, a scene also depicted in one of the frescoes. In the first panel we see Hercules sticking a spear into the ground, challenging the shepherds to extract it.
The story continues in the next panel where the shepherds use all their strength to extract the spear, without succeeding. Hercules, on the other hand, as can be seen in the third panel, easily manages to extract the spear, to the amazement of the shepherds. The story continues in the central panel where the speer of Hercules has created a hole from which water pours out, creating the Lake of Vico. In the fifth and final panel, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages build a temple to Hercules. The man holding a piece of paper and compasses is Vignola, the villa's architect. The decoration of the room was started by Federico Zuccari, author of the central panel; because of disagreements with the cardinal, he was then fired and replaced with Jacopo Bertoja, who completed the work adapting his style to that of his predecessor.
Now we will take one final look out over Caprarola before continuing through the rooms of the villa. Our tour of the villa will continue around the perimeter, going from room to room and end at the Hall of the Globe. The chappel (Cappella) was the first work completed by Federico Zuccari after the death of his brother Taddeo, in 1566. On the walls, he painted the twelve apostles, among which it is possible to recognize the portraits of Taddeo Zuccari (in Judas Thaddeus) and of Vignola (in Saint James). The Pietà frescoed on the altar is a replica of the splendid canvas that Taddeo Zuccari had already painted for this chapel, but that Federico wanted to keep for himself, judging it too beautiful. In the lunettes above the doors are painted Gregory the Great, with the attribute of the dove.
Saint Lawrence and Saint Stephen, with their respective instruments of martyrdom, the gridiron and the stones. Zuccari also painted the Three Marys, the three women named Mary who were present at the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On the dome are paintings from the Old Testament. At the center we see the Creation of the stars surrounded by the Creation of Eve, the Flood, the Sacrifice of Isaac,.... ...the Crossing of the Red Sea, Samuel who consecrates King David, and finally, King David receiving tributes from his people. This hall, called the Hall of Farnese Glories, is one of three large halls on the Nobile floor, with the other two being the Hall of the Globe and the Hall of Hercules. The frescoes celebrate the achievements of the Farnese family, including the election on October 13th, 1534, of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese as Pope Paul III One important fact that I have failed to mention so far, is that there were TWO Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The first, started military fortress in 1521. He went on to become Pope Paul III and construction of the fortress stopped.
His grandson was also named Alessandro Farnese and he too was a cardinal. It was the grandson who went on to turn this fortress into a villa starting in 1556. Here we see Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) in the act of returning Parma to the Farnese family. This painting details the departure for the Lutheran War, which took place in 1546. Alessandro Farnese, the Pope, was born in 1468 and died in 1549. Alessandro Farnese, the Cardinal, was born in 1520 and died in 1589. Note the details of the cannons and firearms, which had completely changed the outcome of battles and wars over the previous century.
On the opposite short wall, to the left of the portrait of Philip II, King of Spain, you can see the marriage of Ottavio Farnese to Margaret of Austria in 1539. Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma, was one of the leaders of Lutheran War. He was 14 when he married Margaret. She was 15. On the right, we see the marriage of Orazio Farnese to Diana of Valois in 1552, which related the Farnese to the imperial family and the king of France. At the center of the vault, we see the original the Farnese coat of arms with sixteen lilies which later was reduced to nine and then to six. All around are four allegorical figures, representing fame, valor, spirituality and power.
The first medallion on the short side shows Pietro Farnese founding Orbetello after defeating the enemies of the Church at the beginning of the 12th century. On this side we see Guido Farnese bringing peace back to the city of Orvieto by driving out the invaders. The four panels on the long sides celebrate Cardinal Alessandro's ancestors as leaders in the service of the Church.
This room takes its name from the fresco of the Council of Trent, which was held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent. In this fresco we see Pope Paul III appointing some cardinals, of which four of the cardinals went on to become popes. Next we see a demonstration of the great diplomatic skill of the Pontiff in this Peace of Nice between Charles V and Francis I. Here we see the Council of Trent, convened by Pope Paul III in response to the Protestant reformation of Martin Luther, depicted together with Calvin and Zwigli in the foreground on the left.
The Council of Trent was the formal Roman Catholic reply to the doctrinal challenges of the Protestant Reformation. The Council issued condemnations of what it defined to be heresies committed by proponents of Protestantism, and also issued key statements and clarifications of the Church's doctrine and teaching. At the center of the ceiling we see Pope Paul III and all around the salient episodes of his long pontificate. It was during his pontificate that Michelangelo painted The Last Judgment as well as the frescoes in the Pauline Chapel. The female figures in the corners signify the papal virtues. The false columns in the corners were designed by Vignola and were much celebrated by his contemporaries.
This final fresco depicts the homage of Charles V to Pope Paul III after the naval victory of Tunis in 1535. The Room of the Aurora is the first of the private bedrooms in the summer apartments. The bare walls indicate that it was once adorned with heavy curtains. On the ceiling are illustrated personifications, myths or allegorical divinities linked to the themes of night and sleep. In the central oval, painted by Taddeo Zuccari in one of his most poetic works, the dawn seems to enter the room through the window, heralded by the Twilight. The Night, seeing it coming, runs away on her chariot. On either side fly the Moon and Mercury, who descends to earth to instill sleep. The medallions in each corner show mythological characters relating to the sleep, beginning here with Harpocrates, the Egyptian god of Silence.
Next we see Angerona, the god of secrecy. Here we see the legendary House of Sleep. Finally, we see a medallion depicting Brito, the interpreter of dreams. This room served as a dressing room for Alessandro Farnese who had to be well stocked with clothes for every occasion. The scenes in the vault refer to activities such as spinning, weaving, coloring of clothes and more generally to the crafting of dresses. The central panel depicts Minerva, the goddess of war and wisdom, but who was also the inventor of wool processing techniques.
This closed door leads out to the upper portico which surrounds the courtyard. This room, called the Room of Solitude, also known as the Room of the Philosophers, was a place of retreat for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Here above the fireplace we see Jesus Christ, John the Baptist and Paul, all coming out of isolation to preach.
On the opposite side, the philosophers disdainfully avoid any contact with the world: a Platonic man removes his eyes and a cynic throws stones against the curious. In the smaller panels you can see the portraits of those who have celebrated or practiced solitude: poets, philosophers and hermits, This is another small private room for the cardinal's meditation and study. This painting by Federico Zuccari, depicts an androgynous being made up of the fusion of Hermes and Athena, identified by a cartouche in Greek as Hermathena.
The figure symbolizes the union of eloquence and wisdom. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese probably inserted this subject to underline his role as patron and protector of the Bocchian Academy, a prestigious institution of humanistic studies. The corner paintings depict items of science and the arts which allude to the inventions of Hermes and Athena. We are now half-way around the perimeter of the pentagonal mansion, in the first floor a tower on the corner opposite the entrance. The coffered ceiling, which shows the coat of arms of Alexander surrounded by the Farnesian Feats, was made in 1579 by the master carpenter Marco da Caprarola.
The frieze painted on the wall, designed by Antonio Tempesta, shows green landscapes framed at the corners by heraldic rampant unicorns. It was in this room that Cardinal Farnese kept some of his most guarded objects in extraordinary collections with the exception of books which he kept on the upper floor. We are now passing through a small corridor that joins the summer apartments on the east side with the winter apartments on the west side. While the rooms of the summer apartments focused on historical and mythological themes, the rooms of the winter apartments focus mainly on religious themes. On the vault you can see monks and hermits, proposed as models of virtue, intent on meditation or penance.
Fasting, prayer and mortification of the flesh are indicated as means to carry the cross of Christ, sharing his suffering. For this reason, the cross is the focus of the central panel. This room is dedicated to the Judgment of King Solomon, frescoed in the center of the vault. In the corners of the vault, four episodes show the consequences of obedience or disobedience to God's laws: on one side two examples of punishment, on the other the construction of buildings dedicated to the Lord. This was Alessandro Farnese's winter bedroom, similar to the Room of the Aurora in the summer apartment.
At the center of the vault we see a painting of Jacob's Ladder, which Jacob saw in a dream while on the run from his brother Esau. The ladder represented the connection between God and Man and affirmed Jacob as the father of God's chosen people, the Israelites. This room is on the opposite side of the villa from the Room of Council and is dedicated to the angels, celebrated as instruments of divine power and justice. In the first panel, the Archangel Michael appears to the shepherd Gargano. In the second panel, an angel announces God's will to Gideon. In the third and most important panel, the Archangel Michael appears on top of Hadrian's Mausoleum in Rome, to announce the end of the plague that was exterminating the population.
In the vault we see a representation of the "fall of the rebel angels" with animal characters, defeated by the angels of God. The painting shows the fundamental of idea of the triumph of good over evil and claims the doctrinal and spiritual success of the Church of Rome. Finally, a brief look at the last wall, showing Daniel being saved from the lions' den, before entering the last room, the Hall of the Globe.
This room is a mirror image of the Hall of the Farnese Feats on the opposite side of the Villa. This is the most famous room of the whole Farnese Palace. The maps were created using the maps of the great navigators of that time, Amerigo Vespucci, Ferdinand Magellan, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Cortez. The decorations of geographical and astronomical subjects, which were very fashionable in the 16th century, are linked to the need to adapt the representations of the world after the recent discoveries. On the long walls are the maps of the four continents known at the time. Here is Europe, between Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus.
And here we see Africa between Columbus and Ferdinand Cortez. Here we see maps dedicated to the lands of the origin of Christianity and Church, Judea and Italy, with a portrait of Amerigo Vespucci in the middle. Finally, on the last long wall, the maps of Asia and America, interspersed with the portrait of Ferdinand Magellan.
All the maps are accompanied by a scale in miles, painted in gold as the traces of the coasts. On the vault, a spectacular celestial map depicts over fifty constellations through the mythological characters associated to them. The sky is represented at the time of the winter solstice. At the base of the central meridian of the fresco is placed the lily, typical of the heraldic coat of arms of the Farnese family.
We are now walking back to the Room of Judgement where we can exit the villa and enjoy a tour of the palace gardens. There is another exit to the gardens on the opposite side of the villa in the Room of the Wool Mills. This bridge provides access to one of the two lower walled gardens which can be accessed from the palace. On the left side you can see the tower where you saw the coffered wood ceiling. This path divides the garden like the x-y axes divide up a coordinate plane into four quadrants.
Each quadrant is also divided into fourths giving them the same pattern as the main garden. This small garden to the right separates the two lower gardens, the summer garden and the winter garden. We are now going to walk along a path to the Great Upper Gardens, an area originally used as the hunting grounds for the cardinal.
Let's have a quick recap of the history of the palace while we walk. Then Cardinal Alessandro Farnese acquired the estate of Carprarola in 1504 at the age of 36. He had designs made for a fortified castle or rocca by the architects Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Baldassare Peruzzi. Construction began around 1521 and it was the foundation of the original fortress which had a pentagonal shape. Alessandro Farnese became Pope in 1534 and his work on the fortress was put on hold. His grandson was also name Alessandro Farnese, and he was a man known for promoting his family's interests.
In 1538, at the age of 17, he was appointed Pope Paul III's principal Secretary where he managed most of the papal business until 1549. Alessandro Farnese's father died in 1547 and his grandfather, Pope Paul III just two years later, so it was the grandson's duty to protect the family heritage built over five centuries of service to the church. The Farnese family as a whole became unpopular with the following pope, Julius III, so Alessandra decided it best to retire from the Vatican and live elsewhere. It was in 1556 that Cardinal Farnese commissioned Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola to take in hand the half-completed fortress at Caprarola and turn it into a country villa. The building at the top of the hill is the Casino, a "small" summerhouse.
The word casino is an Italian word that stems from the word casa, meaning house. A casino on the other hand, was a house of pleasure, used for gambling, dancing...and brothel-ing. Alessandro Farnese died in 1589 bequeathing his estates to the Farnese dukes of Parma.
The Cardinal's fabulous collection was transferred eventually to Charles III of Spain in Naples. Today the casino and its gardens are one of the homes of the President of the Italian Republic while the empty Farnese Palace is owned by the State, and open to the public. The trees ahead mark the northern edge of the gardens. The Villa Farnese and its gardens have been in several movies and TV shows over the years.
The Villa was recently depicted both as the interior of Papal Palace in Vatican and as Castel Gandolfo in the original Netflix movie The Two Popes. The villa was also used in The Godfather part III (1990), Hudson Hawk (1991), and a Midsummer Night's Dream (1999). Please LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to the channel to help support my mission of bringing you high quality tours. Grazie.