Like every metropolitan city, Rome is a bustling, buzzing hive of outdoor activity. While much of that is naturally a source of excitement for tourists, there comes a time when anyone will want to find some peace and quiet. No spot in Rome could serve that purpose better than Villa Borghese.
Moderate-sized by some standards, the Villa Borghese is 148 acres (80 hectares) of greenery containing aviaries, museums and a stunning artificial lake. A vineyard in the 16th century, Cardinal Borghese had it transformed into a park with geometric landscaping ala Versailles. A villa, whose design was based on a sketch by Cardinal Borghese himself, was later constructed.
By the end of the 18th century an artificial lake had been added in the center, which contains a small Ionic temple dedicated to the God of Healing.
Aviaries held several exotic bird species like peacocks and ostriches for the Borghese’s viewing pleasure and gazelles once graced the gardens.
Donated to the Eternal City at the turn of the 20th century, it had grown to hold several temples, fountains and numerous sculptures. Among the latter are the original Tritons from the Fountain of the Moor from the structure in the Piazza Navona. The ones currently in the fountain are 19th century replicas.
The park, open to the public for 100 years, holds many other delights as well. At certain times of the year visitors may be fortunate enough to catch one of the many horse-jumping events in Siena Square. The Piazza di Siena amphitheater is sometimes used for outdoor concerts and there is a botanical garden. Nearby is a beautiful 18th century arch, the ‘Arco di Settimio Severo’, a stunning example of Baroque architecture.
There’s even a small bar located in the middle of the park where a hungry visitor can have some authentic Italian pasta or sip a Campari. Not far from there are several pavilions built for the 1911 World Exposition representing many countries.
But unquestionably, much of the impetus for tourists are the many museums housed on the grounds.
The Museo e Galleria Borghese, for example, has on display several sculptures by Bernini, the artist responsible for many of Rome’s famous fountains. Among other pieces, Bernini’s Abduction of Proserpina by Pluto is here. The gallery also holds many paintings by masters of the Renaissance including Titian and Raphael.
Also on the grounds is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, housed in the Villa Giulia. The villa derives its name from having been built as a summer residence for Pope Julius II in 1553. As the name suggests, the museum contains a number of Etruscan works excavated from the hills outside Rome.
Located north of the Spanish Steps, the entrances are above the Piazza del Poppolo and the Porta Pinciana at one end of the Via Veneto. The Villa Borghese offers tired tourists the perfect respite in a busy holiday. Spend a half-day or longer, fully recharge and prepare to take on the incomparable Roman nightlife.