The Lantes were originally a family of merchants from Pisa. Gerardo Lante bought a vineyard on the Janiculum hill. The first Lante to settle permanently in Rome was his son Michele, who sold part of his father’s vineyard to Turini. When Turini died in 1551, Michele Lante’s heirs bought the villa and the surrounding land from his nephew.
On his wedding to Antonina Astalli, Michele Lante married into the noble families of Rome. With the marriage of Michele’s grandson Marc’Antonio, who became Duke of Bomarzo, the Lante family was united with a papal and ducal family, the Della Rovere.
The family held high ecclesiastical office from the seventeenth century onwards. Perhaps its most prominent figure was Marcello Lante, Bishop of Todi, whose coat of arms can still be seen on the ceilings of the director’s study and Institute office in Villa Lante. He was among the cardinals nominated for the papacy in 1623. Marcello’s sister was married to the brother of Pope Paul V, a member of the Borghese family, so the Lantes had quickly risen to the ranks of Rome’s highest nobility.
Little is known about the 250 years during which the villa belonged to the Lantes. The family had a palace in the centre of Rome on Piazza Sant’Eustachio, so did not need to live in the villa all year round. The villa was surrounded by a large garden of about nine hectares, stretching from the garden of the monastery of Sant’Onofrio to Porta San Pancrazio. Part of the old garden was destroyed in the 1640s, when Pope Urban VIII built defensive walls around the Janiculum hill. To compensate for their loss, the Lantes were given the beautiful villa of Bagnaia, famous for its park and fountains, near the town of Viterbo.