A system of terraces and stairs climbs from the slopes of the Palatine to the top of the hill, in a complex mixture of ancient features and 16th and 17th century architecture. Starting from the bottom, a staircase leads to the Rain Nymphaeum, once characterized by statues, frescoes and a fountain. From the sides one climbs up to a terrace that gives access to the Teatro del Fontanone, a set of water mouths, pools, monumental staircases and niches, leaning against the rear structures of the Domus Tiberiana and originally decorated with statues from the Farnese collection. From the side stairs one finally climbs up to two ancient aviaries. Behind the pavilions, divided by a small terrace, there is a garden area, a partial restoration of the ancient Farnese gardens following the archaeological excavations of modern times aimed at studying the underlying Roman structures.
The entire complex was designed for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, nephew of Pope Paul III, from 1537, and later enriched by family members until the marriage between Odoardo Farnese and Margherita de’ Medici in 1628, when Cardinal Alessandro’s dream came to full fruition: to create a place suspended in time between imperial memories and dynastic-family celebrations, a space of leisure and beauty, nature and art, inspired by the memory of the ancient Roman horti.