Italy is famous across the globe for its language, art, culture, architecture, cuisine, and fashion. It’s also renowned as the home of the Roman Empire and its magnificent gardens and villas. From historical masterpieces like the Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo and Campania Villa Rufolo to luxury villas like Villa Cimbrone, Italy has much to offer.
Panoramic views, stunning waterfalls, magnificent gardens, refined architecture, a rococo facade, and a private swimming pool are just a few common features of Italy’s stunning villas. So let’s dive into a world of rich history, fantastic architecture, and breathtaking gardens with our list of the most famous villas in Italy.
Most Famous Villas in Italy to Visit
Whether you are looking for a historic villa, a liberty-style villa, or a simple villa holiday, these famous Italian villas are sure to impress you:
1. Villa Borghese, Rome
Address: 00197 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital
Villa Borghese is one of the most famous villas in Rome and Italy. It’s a historic estate in the bustling center of Rome that you can visit. Cardinal Scipione Borghese built the villa and gardens in the early 17th century. He was well-connected as Pope Paul V’s nephew and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s patron.
According to history, the cardinal wanted to create a place to symbolize the family’s grandeur and provide a home for his remarkable art collection. Architect Flaminio Ponzio, an architect for Pope Paul V, designed the villa.
One of the villa’s main highlights is the Borghese Gallery, which houses a collection of masterpieces by some of the greatest artists ever. You’ll find works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Bernini, among others. Over time, the villa became known as the “museum park” or “parco dei musei.”
In the early 20th century, the Italian state obtained the villa after a long legal controversy over its possession. Since Italy has had control of Villa Borghese, it has been transformed into a public park and museum.
Today, the park covers a vast area with walking paths, hikes, statues, fountains, gardens, a water clock, and even a lake where you can rent a boat and paddle around. Villa Borghese is a beautiful place to visit for an afternoon. We recommend touring the Borghese Gallery with GetYourGuide for the best experience.
See Related: Must See Ancient Roman Ruins in Rome, Italy
2. Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Rome
Address: Piazza Trento, 5 – 00019 Tivoli – RM
Villa d’Este is located near Rome in Tivoli. It’s a stunning 16th-century villa that showcases a magnificent display of Renaissance architectural and landscape brilliance. The villa was built under Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, the son of the famous Lucrezia Borgia, Alfonso d’ Este, and a former governor of Tivoli.
Villa d’Este is known for its manicured gardens. When the villa was built, the Cardinal wanted to create a villa and garden that would surpass anything the Romans had built. D’Este sought the expertise of Pirro Ligorio, a renowned classical scholar who had extensively studied Villa Hadriana and other Roman sites in the area.
Although the D’Este had grand visions for his Lazio Villa d’Este, he faced many setbacks during its construction. He was accused of simony and exiled but later reinstated by the new Pope. Despite the many setbacks, he persevered and completed the magnificent Villa d’Este in almost 20 years.
Today, this opulent villa is an Italian state museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also one of the most famous villas in the world.
Villa d’Este’s gardens are widely considered the finest example of an Italian Renaissance garden in all of Europe. The gardens are home to 51 impressive fountains, including the iconic Fountain of Neptune.
Another highlight of the gardens is the Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, a long stretch of fountains and waterworks that are truly breathtaking. The gardens also feature 64 waterfalls, 220 basins, 364 water jets, and much more. It’s a must-see destination for anyone who is in Rome.
The best way to visit Villa d’Este is by booking a tour from Rome. We recommend this tour with Viator, which takes you to two UNESCO villas near Rome, including Villa d’Este.
3. Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, Lake Como
Address: Via Regina, 2, 22016 Tremezzina CO
Villa Carlotta is a breathtaking estate in Tremezzina on the picturesque Lake Como. The estate covers an area of 70,000 m2 (17 acres) and features a museum and breathtaking gardens. You can visit Villa Carlotta by purchasing tickets online or through a tour.
The architect designed a simple yet elegant building with an Italian garden adorned with sculptures, stairs, and fountains. The villa changed hands several times over the years, and each owner added a unique touch to it.
Many famous people have owned and visited this villa. Gian Battista Sommariva was one of the most significant owners of Villa Carlotta. He transformed the villa into a temple of XIX-century art by adding works of Canova, Thorvaldsen, and Hayez. He also created a romantic garden that further enhanced the estate’s beauty.
Princess Marianne of Nassau bought Villa Carlotta in 1843. She then gave it as a wedding gift to her daughter Carlotta and her husband, Georg II of Saxen-Meiningen. Georg was a botanist and made significant contributions to the park.
The gardens are now of great historical and artistic value in Lake Como. They feature over 150 different types of rhododendrons and azaleas and much more. Apart from the stunning gardens, Villa Carlotta hosts a chamber music festival every Friday night from July to September.
Whether you’re interested in art, history, or nature, Lake Como Villa Carlotta is an attraction you can’t miss. It’s a unique blend of art, architecture, and nature. It tells the story of over three centuries of great collections, making a lasting impression on anyone visiting Lake Como.
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4. Villa Rufolo, Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Address: Piazza Duomo, 1, 84010 Ravello SA
Ravello is a beautiful town on the Amalfi Coast, and Villa Rufolo is one of its most famous sights. It’s a restored villa once home to the wealthy and powerful Rufolo family.
The Rufolos excelled in commerce but passed their home on to other families by inheritance. It eventually ended up in the hands of Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid, who restored the villa to its former glory.
Villa Rufulo has become an important Italian historical landmark because of its architectural significance and breathtaking gardens. This is a fantastic villa to relax while walking around Ravello. The villa’s gardens contain many beautiful flowers and plants, and the stunning sea views of the Amalfi Coast are just spectacular.
Villa Rufolo has been visited by many famous people, including a 19th-century German composer, Richard Wagner. He was so taken with this stunning villa when he visited it in 1880 that it inspired him to write the second act of his opera “Parsifal” after visiting it.
Every year Villa Rufolo hosts a concert known as the “Wagnerian concert” to honor this stunning act. Most of the rooms at Villa Rufolo are empty, but the real treasure here is visiting the gardens, Belvedere, and amazing panoramic view. The best way to visit Villa Rufolo is on foot. You can book a wonderful private tour that will take you to the gardens without all the tourists.
5. Villa Cimbrone, Ravello – Amalfi Coast
Address: Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello SA
Villa Cimbrone is one of the oldest and most prestigious villas in Ravello and the world. The best part? This villa is open to guests, and you can enjoy a luxurious stay overlooking the sea.
The villa’s history dates back to the 11th century and is named after the rocky outcrop it stands on, known as “Cimbronium.” Originally, Villa Cimbrone was owned by the noble Accongiogioco family. Later, it was acquired by the influential Fusco family before becoming part of the nearby Santa Chiara monastery. During this period, the entrance gate was decorated with the papal arms of Cardinal Della Rovere, which can still be seen today.
In the early 1900s, Villa Cimbrone was extensively renovated by a British nobleman named Lord Grimthorpe. The villa features many salvaged architectural elements from different regions of Italy and beyond, with modern amenities. All these features give Villa Cimbrone a unique and eclectic style.
One of the main highlights of Villa Cimbrone is the Terrazza dell’Infinito or Terrace of Infinity. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Many famous people have also visited the villa, and you can too.
Today, the villa is a luxurious 5-star hotel called Hotel Villa Cimbrone. You can experience the beauty of this villa by booking a suite in one of the picturesque rooms with panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast.
The gardens are also open to the public for a fee. They’re famous as one of the most beautiful attractions in Ravello and worth a visit for the afternoon and sunset.
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6. Villa Farnese, Caprarola
Address: Piazza Farnese, 1, 01032 Caprarola VT
Villa Farnese is a magnificent Renaissance villa and previous papal residence located in Caprarola, in the picturesque Lazio region.
It was built in the mid-sixteenth century for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. Villa Farnese was intended to be a luxurious retreat for the Farnese family. It was designed by architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and his successors from 1557 to 1583.
Villa Farnese is known for its impressive Renaissance-style architecture. The villa’s interior is also very magnificent. The ground floor is decorated with exquisite frescoes drawn by famous artists, such as Raffaellino da Reggio, Antonio Tempesta, Taddeo Zuccari, and Federico Zuccari, among others.
The villa combines elements from both Renaissance and Mannerist styles. Its most notable feature is the pentagonal courtyard, surrounded by arcades. Interestingly, this pentagonal courtyard is considered one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance architecture. The gardens contribute to naming Villa Farnese as one of the top luxury villas in Italy.
Today, the villa is open to the public and is a popular tourist destination for those interested in Renaissance art and architecture. The best way to visit is through a tour.
7. Villa del Balbianello, Tremezzina, Lake Como
Address: Via Guido Monzino, 1, 22016 Tremezzina CO
Villa del Balbianello is a stunning Italian villa on the tip of a small wooded peninsula in Lake Como. Villa del Balbianello is open to the public, but buying your ticket online in advance is best to avoid waiting in lines.
The villa’s construction dates back to the late 18th century for Milanese Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini. Over the years, Villa del Balbianello has been owned by several wealthy and prominent families. Luigi Porro Lambertenghi, Giuseppe Arconati Visconti, and Butler Ames are a few. Today, Villa del Balbianello is owned by the “Fondo Ambiente Italiano” (FAI), the National Trust of Italy.
Villa del Balbianello is a true gem of Italian architecture. Its beauty and tranquility have made it a popular tourist destination for locals and vacationers. The villa has hosted multiple scholars, writers, and travelers.
Moreover, it has also been used as a location for a few films. The James Bond movie “Casino Royale” and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones are a few of the most popular movies filmed here.
The villa is open to the public for visits and private events like weddings. You can walk along the winding paths of the gardens or relax on one of the villa’s many terraces while taking in the fantastic panoramas of Lake Como. Get your tickets online to avoid any delay.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Rome, Italy
8. Villa San Michele, Capri
Address: Viale Axel Munthe, 34, 80071 Anacapri NA
Villa San Michele is a gorgeous villa located on the island of Capri. The villa is open to the public. This stunning villa was built in the late 19th century by Swedish author and physician Axel Munthe.
As per the story, Munthe fell in love with the island of Capri during his travels and chose it to build his dream villa. Munthe recounts the story of the villa’s building process in his best-selling literary work titled “The Story of San Michele.”
Axel Munthe dedicated much of his life to constructing Villa San Michele and its surrounding gardens. The area near Capri was littered with many remnants of Roman villas. For instance, marble columns and statues were buried just underneath the top layer of soil.
The locals called these remnants “Tiberius’ things” and gifted them to Munthe. Later, Axel Munthe added them to his extensive collection of artifacts from Egypt, Etruria, and Rome gathered during his many travels.
Today, the Villa San Michele is open to the public and serves as a museum that honors Munthe’s life and legacy. It showcases Munthe’s art and antiques collection and his beloved villa’s beauty. The best way to visit Villa San Michele from the Amalfi Coast is by a guided tour such as this one.
9. Villa Necchi Campiglio, Milan
Address: Via Mozart, 14, 20122 Milano MI
Villa Necchi Campiglio is an elegant and historic mansion in the center of Milan. It’s a striking example of Italian rationalism and a masterpiece of Art Deco design. The villa was constructed between 1932 and 1935 for the Necchi-Campiglio, a family of Lombard industrialists.
According to local legend, the inspiration for the villa’s location came when the family’s chauffeur got lost in the surrounding fields on their way to La Scala opera house one night. The beauty of the surrounding landscape so took the Campiglio that he decided to buy land there the next morning. Campiglio then entrusted the villa’s construction to Piero Portaluppi, a prominent Italian architect.
The villa is located in a large field with a heated swimming pool and tennis courts. It was originally intended as a grand, single-family home. The villa’s facade exhibits severe lines and surfaces that mirror the ascent of Italian rationalism. In contrast, the interior showcases art deco motifs. In 1938, the Campiglios family hired another designer to renew the villa in a more contemporary style.
After the death of Gigina Necchi, the villa was donated to the National Trust of Italy (FAI) in 2001. Today, the villa is open to the public as a museum and has also been used as a location for Guadagnino’s I am Love (2009) film.
See Related: The Best Scenic Neighborhoods in Rome
10. Villa Lante, Bagnaia, Viterbo
Address: Via Jacopo Barozzi, 71, 01100 Bagnaia VT
If you’re interested in exploring beautiful gardens in Viterbo, Villa Lante at Bagnaia unquestionably merits a stopover. Villa Lante was designed by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, one of the most prominent Italian architects of 16th-century Mannerism.
Surprisingly, Villa Lante wasn’t known as such until the 17th century. It received its name when passed on to Ippolito Lante Montefeltro della Rovere, Duke of Bomarzo. Since then, the Villa Lante has become one of Italy’s finest examples of a Renaissance garden.
The gardens at Villa Lante are truly awe-inspiring. They feature cascading fountains and dripping grottoes that create a fantastic water display. Tommaso Ghinucci was brought in to oversee the hydraulics and building work to achieve the mechanical perfection of water flow. Ghinucci was an architect and hydraulics expert from Siena.
One of the highlights of Villa Lante is the top terrace. It’s adorned with grottos, statues, fountains, and two small casini (houses). If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to explore the casini that leads to a secret garden!
What’s interesting about Villa Lante is that, unlike other villas in the region, it was not created by lay princes such as Orsini or Gonzagues. Instead, it was the work of two bishops of Viterbo (Gian Francesco Gambarra and Alessandro Montalto) who succeeded each other on the city’s episcopal throne.
Today, Villa Lante is owned by the Republic of Italy, and the Museum Center of Lazio manages the property.
11. Villa Mondragone
Villa Mondragone is a stunning 16th-century villa located centrally in Italy, just a short drive from Rome. This historic villa has a rich and intriguing past of over 400 years, making it one of Italy’s most iconic and sought-after destinations.
Initially built by the powerful and influential Borghese family, Villa Mondragone was designed by the architect Giovanni Vasanzio and boasted an exquisite interior richly decorated with ornate frescoes, stunning artwork, and intricately carved woodwork. The villa’s grand ballroom pulls visitors from around the world as it is particularly impressive, with its soaring ceilings, elegant chandeliers, and beautifully crafted stucco work.
Villa Mondragone has been home to multiple famous and illustrious residents, including cardinals, princes, and wealthy merchants. It has also hosted many significant events, including lavish parties, diplomatic conferences, and scientific symposia.
Today, Villa Mondragone is open to the public, and visitors can explore its stunning interior and beautiful gardens. The villa is a popular destination for tourists interested in the history of Italy and its most famous villas, as well as for connoisseurs of the arts and architecture enthusiasts.