1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Villa

VILLA, the Latin word (diminutive of vicus, a village) for a country-house. This term, which in England is usually given to a small country-house detached or semi-detached in the vicinity of a large town, is being gradually superseded by such expressions as “country” or “suburban house,” “bungalow,” &c., but in Italy it is still retained as in Roman times and means a summer residence, sometimes being of great extent. References to the villa are constantly made by Roman writers. Cicero is said to have possessed no less than seven villas, the oldest of which was near Arpinum, which he inherited. Pliny the younger had three or four, of which the example near Laurentium is the best known from his descriptions. There is too wide a divergence in the various conjectural restorations to make them of much value, but the remains of the villa of Hadrian at Tivoli, which covered an area over seven miles long and in which reproductions were made of all the most celebrated buildings he had seen during his travels, those in Greece seeming to have had the most attraction for him, and the villas of the 16th century on similar sites, such as the Villa d'Este near Tivoli, enable one to form some idea of the exceptional beauty of the positions selected and of the splendour of the structures which enriched them. According to Pliny, there were two kinds of villas, the villa urbana, which was a country seat, and the villa rustica, the farm-house, occupied by the servants who had charge generally of the estate. The Villa Boscoreale near Pompeii, which was excavated in 1893-94, was an example of the villa rustica, in which the principal room was the kitchen, with the bakery and stables beyond and room for the wine presses, oil presses, hand mill, &c. The villas near Rome were all built on hilly sites, so that the laying out of the ground in terraces formed a very important element in their design, and this forms the chief attraction of the Italian villas of the 16th century, among which the following are the best known: the Villa Madama, the design of which, attributed to Raphael, was carried out by Giulio Romano in 1520; the Villa Medici (1540); the Villa Albani, near the Porta Salaria; the Borghese; the Doria Pamphili (1650); the Villa di Papa Giulio (1550), designed by Vignola; the Aldobrandini (1592); the Falconieri and the Montdragon Villas at Frascati, and the Villa d'Este near Tivoli, in which the terraces and staircases are of great importance. In the proximity of other towns in Italy there are numerous villas, of which the example best known is that of the Villa Rotunda or Capra near Vicenza, which was copied by Lord Burlington in his house at Chiswick.

The Italian villas of the 16th and 17th century, like those of Roman times, included not only the country residence, but the whole of the other buildings on the estate, such as bridges, casinos, pavilions, small temples, rectangular or circular, which were utilized as summer-houses, and these seem to have had a certain influence in England, which may account for the numerous examples in the large parks in England of similar erections, as also the laying out of terraces, grottos and formal gardens. In France the same influence was felt, and at Fontainebleau, Versailles, Meudon and other royal palaces, the celebrated Le Nôtre transformed the parks surrounding them and introduced the cascades, which in Italy are so important a feature, as at St Cloud near Paris.  (R. P. S.)