Villa Borghese, or Villa Borghese Gardens, is the main green space in Rome. It is one of the largest parks in the city and it includes forests, lakes, fountains, Galleria Borghese and other interesting buildings.
Villa Borghese and the northern part of Rome’s city centre have some of the most beautiful spots in the city. It is also an exceptionally good way of getting away from the crowds and taking some time out from the main tourist attractions.
If you are in Piazza di Spagna and have already enjoyed the wonderful, upbeat atmosphere on the Spanish steps, perhaps you will feel like heading towards Piazza del Popolo. It is both nearby and one of the most famous squares in the Eternal City. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. The Baroque design was the work of Bernini and inside there are works of art by Raphael, Caravaggio and Pinturicchio.
The square is at the bottom of the Pincian Hill and the hill is one of the best ways of getting to Villa Borghese. Some of the most powerful families in Ancient Rome built gardens and palaces there. If you climb up the hill, you will reach Villa Borghese and Piazza Napoleone where you will have a wonderful view of Piazza del Popolo. It will take your breath away. Don’t miss the spectacular water clock. It is in full working order and a fine example of 19th-century engineering.
There are an additional eight entrance gates into Villa Borghese and it is one of the locals’ favourite places to spend time. It began as part of Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s plans to turn the entire area into a huge garden.
The cardinal was a huge art-lover and an early believer in Bernini’s talent. The main building in the palace was designed specifically to house his exquisite collection of sculptures and this is where you will find Galleria Borghese. It is a real gem of a museum that you can get around in just a couple of hours. You can enjoy works of art by Bernini such as ‘The Rape of Prosperina’ or ‘Apollo and Daphne’, in addition to pieces by Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio.
It is really worth taking some time out to visit the building and temples in Villa Borghese. It’s like a mini city right inside the gardens. If you’d like a bit of a change of pace, you can rent a rowing boat and get a close-up view of the Temple of Asclepius.
Children simply adore a visit to Bioparco, a zoo with over two hundred species of animals. It is on the north side and it has been running since the early 20th century. Another rather curious building is one that is an exact replica of the Globe Theatre in London.
And there is more than just Galleria Borghese for art-lovers. Museo Pietro Canonica is a museum that houses some of this Italian sculptor’s most famous works of art. There are also other art galleries around Villa Borghese including GNAM, the national modern art gallery, where you can enjoy paintings by Monet, Klimt, Kandinsky and Pollock. Villa Giulia, a former summer residence of Pope Julius III, is right next to it and it is where you will find a museum dedicated to the Etruscan civilisation (Museo Nazionale Etrusco).
There is plenty in Villa Borghese to keep you entertained for at least one full day. And you can also make the most of the opportunity to get to know other local places of interest. Just to the north of the park, you can find one of the most elegant neighbourhoods in Rome: Parioli. Stroll past modern buildings and eat in top-class restaurants because some of the best ones in Rome are here. For example, Metamorfosi where you can enjoy a private dinner created by Roy Solomón Cáceres.
The second largest park in the city is also in the vicinity. It’s called Villa Ada and contains a number of Neo-classical buildings, but there is also an ancient urban settlement that dates back to the 8th century BC. However, the jewels in the crown of this area are undoubtedly the Catacombs of Priscilla. They may be some of the least well-known in the city, but they are definitely amongst the most spectacular. It is one of the oldest existing Early Christian cemeteries and it contains important frescos and mosaics.
If you’d like your journey around Rome to stay as far away from the usual tourist spots as possible, continue towards Coppedè. Piazza Mincio is at the very centre and it has a very peculiar mix of architecture including Art Nouveau, Baroque and Classic Greek styles.
If you continue north then you will reach Flaminio, a neighbourhood on the banks of the Tiber River. It is a young and fashionable place to be and a must-see if you are interested in contemporary architecture. In the ’90s, it was turned into a hub for cultural events. Parco della Musica, a large public music complex, was designed by Renzo Piano and well-known Zaha Hadid created MAXXI, the 21st-century arts museum. As you can see, the most well-known parts of Rome are not all that the city has in store for you.