What is Villa Borghese?

Villa Borghese is the third largest public park in Rome, with several structures, museums, and attractions. In the heart of Rome, only a quick walk from the Spanish Steps, it offers a natural oasis away from the hustle and bustle without having to leave the city at all.

Villa Borghese

The History of the Villa Borghese

The gardens of Villa Borghese were commissioned in 1605 for the Villa Borghese Pinciana, a gallery within the gardens which formally housed Villa Borghese Pinciana. The aim of the construction was to build the largest garden ever built in Rome since ancient times. Although it did become the first type of garden of this magnitude in Rome, it did not remain the biggest.

The Borghese family moved to Rome from Siena in the 16th century and were a very wealthy and influential family with one of the family members becoming Pope Paul V. The park was purchased by the state from the Borghese family in 1901 and was opened to the public in 1903.

Villa Borghese, Italy

Galleria Borghese

See where it all started and visit Galleria Borghese, the Villa Borghese Pinciana’s former home, now bursting with one of the best art collections in the world. As you enter the gallery you will be blown away by not only the artistic masterpieces but also the gallery itself. Adorned with marble and elaborate frescoes, the walls of the gallery are as much of an attraction as the paintings and sculptures.

Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Pope Paul V’s nephew who used to throw lavish garden parties to showcase the works, began the gallery’s collection. He was a huge fan of Caravaggio and Bernini and many of the pieces he collected can still be found in the gallery today. Some of the most famous works to be found here include Caravaggio’s ‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’ and Bernini’s ‘David’.

As it is a smaller gallery compared to others within Rome, they only allow up to 360 people into the museum at once. This gives you a spacious viewing for the artwork, as there are no crowds you won’t need to shoulder your way through to see the works up close. If you would like to explore the collection even further then you can take a tour of the Storage Rooms where more than 250 additional pieces of work are kept.

Other places to visit in Villa Borghese

Villa Medici

Another beautiful building situated within the gardens of Villa Borghese is the Villa Medici. This stately 16th-century mansion was intended to be a gallery but now houses the French Academy and is an opulent palace that can be explored.

Within the Orangery of Villa Borghese is the Museo Carloi Bilotti. This small gallery houses 18 works collected by the billionaire Carlo Bilotti. Included in the collection is a portrait of the Bilotti family painted by none other than Andy Warhol. If, after visiting the Borghese Gallery and Museo Carlio Bilotti, you’re still craving more artistic stimulation then you can visit Canonica, which is dedicated to the eponymous artist. Here you will find various works of art by the sculptor as well as his beautifully furnished private home.

  • The Lake

    The lake inside Villa Borghese is one of the most visited attractions within the park. It is a tranquil lake with large flowing trees such as weeping willows sprinkled along the sides of the water. A small island lies in the middle of the lake, with a 19th-century style temple with the words Temple of Aesculapius. This represents the Greek god of Asclepius, who was associated with health and curing disease. You may like to either bike or walk around the lake, to soak in the beautiful scenery from afar. Otherwise, you can rent a boat, and cruise closer to the temple, escaping the clatter of the city in this peaceful space.

  • Silvano Toti Globe Theatre

    Based on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, this Elizabethan theatre puts on Shakespearean plays throughout the summer. The round open-air theatre has upper and lower balcony sections as well as a standing area in the centre. This beautiful space allows audiences to enjoy the work of the bard (mainly in Italian) whilst standing beneath the night skies of Rome.

  • Puppet Shows

    If travelling with kids, the Teatro Stabile dei Burattini’s San Carlino Puppet Theatre is a must. Delight both you and your children with the clowns, actors, musicians and of course puppets that take part in the show.

  • Victorian Water Clock

    Built-in 1867 by the inventor Giovan Battista Embriaco, the Victorian Water Clock is located on a small island in a pond within the gardens. It was first displayed at the Universal Exposition of 1867 in Paris before being placed in Villa Borghese gardens in 1973. It is a fascinating piece of mechanical architecture, using the force of the water to move the clock hands. The magical forest area the clock is placed within creates a dreamlike atmosphere, almost like stepping into wonderland.

  • Roma Zoo

    For the animal lovers, the Bioparco di Roma Zoo is located within the heart of the gardens and is one of the oldest and largest zoological gardens in Italy. With over 200 different types of animals, this charming zoo is fun for the whole family. In 2011 the zoo celebrated its 100th anniversary and it is still going strong today. See Sumatran tigers, orangutans, bears, and reptiles right in the centre of Rome as well as enjoying some of the beautiful architecture found at the site.

Visit our Rome tours to learn more and discover the incredible sights this area has to offer.

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