The Villa Borghese is probably the most famous park in Rome and one of its biggest ones, together with the Villa Doria Pamphili and the Villa Ada. With the Galleria Borghese, the Modern Art Gallery, the Etruscan Museum (the last two are really located just outside the borders) and a number of smaller museums within its borders, it may well be called the city’s museum park.
Villa Borghese Rome
Opening hours and admission
Admission is free. The Villa Borghese is officially open from sunrise till sunset. In reality you can more or less enter the park whenever you want. However, it is definitely not recommended to enter the park at night, especially for women.
History and description
Until 1605 what is now the Villa Borghese area had been used as a vineyard and in antiquity was known as the Gardens of Lucullus.
The Villa Borghese was constructed in the early 17th century. It was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was a nephew of the then Pope Paul V. His former residence is now the seat of the Galleria Borghese, one of the city’s most popular museums. The architect of this palace was Flaminio Ponzio, who had based his design on sketches by the cardinal himself.
Architects who participated in the project were Jerome Rainaldi and Vasanzio, who was Dutch and was really called Jan van Staten.
The gardens were divided into a wooded section, a wilder, more natural-looking section and a more landscaped part with lots of statues, sculptures and fountains.
In the 18th century, the Villa Borghese was completely renovated. The new design was the work of two local architects, called Antonio and Mario Asprucci. The sculptor Christopher Unterperger gave the park a neoclassical facelift by placing statues, fountains and fake temples all over the gardens.
In 1903, the Italian king bought the Villa Borghese. he donated it to the city and it was made it into a public park (which unofficially it had already been for a long time).
Highlights Villa Borghese
The southern part of the park, between the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps is taken up by the Pincio Hill. Especially from the part nearest the Spanish Steps you can enjoy a gorgeous view over the rooftops and church domes of the historical center. The Casina Valadier and the Villa Medici are two beautiful palaces along the way. The latter is the seat of the French Academy in Rome and sometimes hosts exhibitions.
The Piazza di Siena is not really a square, but a sandy area used for equestrian dressage and jumping. Concerts are held here as well. It was created towards the end of the 18th century, by Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese. The square was supposed to be similar to the Piazza del Campo in Siena, city of origin of the Borghese family. Construction was not completed until after the prince’s death. From that moment it became a spot for popular festivals and other events. Nowadays it hosts the famous Concorso Ippico Internazionale “Piazza di Siena”.
It is almost next to a small and rather badly maintained play area for children, which includes a library/bookstore.
The above-mentioned Galleria Borghese is the most famous one of the museums in this park. It is found in the north-eastern section of the park and houses an important sculpture and painting collection.
The entrance to the Zoo (Bioparco) is not far from the Galleria Borghese.
The Villa Giulia is the seat of the Etruscan Museum. Even if you are not interested in the museum itself, the courtyard of this palace is extremely picturesque and can be entered for free. The villa is named after Pope Julius II, who had his residency here.
The white marble building next to the Etruscan Museum is the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. This palace was, quite unusual for Rome, specifically built to house the city’s modern art collection. The best chance you will ever have to get an overview of the major Italian art movements of the 20th century.
The Fortezzuola is a Gothic garden, with a number of sculptures by Pietro Canonica.
The so-called English Pavilion houses the British School in Rome and is designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
There is an artificial lake in the middle of the park. You can rent canoes and rowboats or you can walk around this lake and look at all the statues surrounding it. The small temple on an island near the western bank of the lake is dedicated to Aesculapius. The Temple of Aesculapius was built in the 18th century and consists of a portico with a triangular pediment supported by four Ionic capitals. There are several Greek statues on its roof. Behind the portico there is a statue of Aesculapius himself. The small bridge leading to the island cannot be used by the public.
There are fountains all over the park. One of the most interesting ones is the Fountain of the Winged Victories in the Viale Goethe.
Villa Borghese for children
The Villla Borghese is a great environment to take your children to, as there are many things to see and do in the park. Apart from the above-mentioned zoo, there are several playgrounds, a special library for children and a huge inflatable slide. Skaters show off their skills, bicycles are for hire and there is a little train going through the park as well.
Address and public transport
The Villa Borghese has several entrances. The easiest ones to reach from the center are found at the Piazzale Flaminio (metro Flaminio), the Spanish Steps (metro Spagna) and the Via Veneto (metro Barberini). The Villa Borghese is located in the quartiere Pinciano.