The Getty Villa has four gardens that blend Roman architecture with open air spaces and Mediterranean plants.
In ancient times, gardens served both practical and aesthetic purposes at Roman country homes. They let fresh air and light enter the home, and also acted as gathering places to have conversations or to escape the heat.
You’ll find about 300 varieties of plants are used in the landscaping of the Getty Villa, many of which can also be found in the Mediterranean region. Stroll the gardens at your leisure or take a guided tour.
Explore the Roman gardens at the Getty Villa through a 40-minute tour.
The Gardens of the Getty Villa
In ancient Roman times, the outer peristyle garden would have been used to converse with guests and for solo contemplation. It would also have been used to grow plants, ventilate the home, and provide an escape from the heat.
Outer Peristyle Features:
You’ll see replica statues of bronzes that were excavated from the Villa dei Papiri, the Roman villa that the Getty Villa is modeled after. Depicting famous philosophers, political figures, deities, athletes, and animals, they stand in the locations approximate to where they stood at the Villa dei Papiri.
- Wall paintings:
The north wall features frescoes of landscapes and architecture copied from the Villa dei Papiri and another villa in Oplontis. Frescoes featuring theatrical masks on garlands strung between painting columns are copies of those from the Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor.
- Reflecting pool:
The central pool is approximately three feet deep. At the Villa dei Papiri, it was used for either swimming or fish farming.
- Mediterranean plants:
Plants favored by the ancient Romans, such as bay laurel, boxwood, myrtle, ivy, and oleander, line the pool. Pomegranate trees stand in the corners of the garden.
The most functional garden of an ancient Roman house was the herb garden. In antiquity, these kitchen gardens provided vegetables and seasonings for cooking.
Plants were also grown for their color, fragrance, and medicinal properties.
It was common for the herb garden to have a well or pool for irrigation, drinking, cooking, and bathing.
In the Getty Villa’s Herb Garden, plants and fruit trees native to the Mediterranean region have been arranged in ornamental patterns and labeled with their botanical and common names.
Herb Garden Features:
The herb garden has a variety of fruit trees, including apple, pomegranate, apricot, fig, quince, and pear. You'll also find familiar herbs used in cooking, such as mint, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and sage.
- Water plants:
Papyrus and water lilies are planted in the central pool.
A waterspout of Silenos, a companion of Dionysos, ornaments the central pool. The spout is a reproduction of one found in the atrium of the Villa dei Papiri
This garden is designed as a square-shaped walkway lined with columns, and featuring decorative marble floors, walls, and ceilings. At the Villa dei Papiri, the Inner Peristyle garden would have been the first open-air space encountered by visitors—just as it is for visitors to the Getty Villa.
The space would have been used for strolling and conversation. Today, you can access the first-floor galleries or sit on a bench and enjoy the atmosphere.
Inner Peristyle Features:
Statues of young women surround a small pool in the center of the courtyard. These statues are reproductions of ancient bronze sculptures found at the Villa dei Papiri, as are the four busts.
The Ionic columns that form the colonnade are modeled after those in the House of the Colored Capitals in Pompeii.
The square marble fountains in the corners are re-created from a drawing in an eighteenth-century excavation report of the Villa dei Papiri.
The design of the coffered ceiling imitates decorative stonework on funerary monuments from the Street of the Tombs in Pompeii.
The walls feature panels that represent stonework and pilasters. The design is based on the large peristyle of the House of the Faun in Pompeii.
This small but intimate garden is a tranquil sanctuary and features two fountains shaded by sycamore and laurel trees.