Who are the Borghese family?

If you’re off to Rome, you can’t miss the Borghese Gallery and Gardens, one of the largest public parks and art collections in the city. Once home to the House of Borghese, how much do you know about this noble family?

Lovers of all things beautiful cannot miss the famous Borghese Gallery and Gardens. Listed as one of the most popular attractions in Rome, the gallery and gardens are home to an array of breathtaking sights. But who are the Borghese family?

History of Borghese Family

Originally from Siena, the Borghese family first gained fame and fortune in the 13th century as magistrates, ambassadors, and other public officials before moving to Rome in the 16th century. From there, their wealth and fame grew considerably when Camillo Borghese was elected Pope Paul V in 1604. Other early members of the Borghese family, included Galgano, the papal ambassador of Naples, Pietro, who was nominated senator, and Giambattista who was a famed apologists for Clement VII. Their early successes are often overlooked in favour of their later prestige which lead to the development of the Borghese Gallery. To find out more and how their success snow-balled, keep reading.

How the Borghese Family Got Their Titles

In the 16th century, the Pope had power similar to a king. He was able to bestow a ‘papal’ title to anyone he chooses, as well as controlling widespread territories. In his rein, Camillo granted his favourite nephew, Scipione , the title of Prince of Vivero, which was a town in the north of Spain. Scipione spent the majority of his life improving the family’s properties, including expanding the art and gardens. As cardinal, he played a leading role in church politics and improving the economic interests of the family. In his later life, Scipione dedicated much of his time and money to collecting art. He recognised and encouraged the skill of young Bernini, who later became the outstanding sculptor and architect of the Italian Baroque. Camillo also bestowed other members of the family with titles, including the Duke of Bomarzo, the Prince of San Paolo, and the Prince of Sant’Angelo.

Palazzo Borghese

Camillo purchased Rome’s largest family palace, now known as the Palazzo Borghese. It was the grandest home in Rome at the time, containing servant quarters, stables, a coach house and one of the greatest collections of art in Europe. Over the four centuries of ownership, only parts of the estate are still possessed by the Borghese family. With around twelve generations of Borghese members owning the area, with current generations still living there. Situated atop a hill, the Borghese gardens and villa offers beautiful views of the city, enhanced by the site’s grandeur and prestige. As an avid art collector, Scipione built and developed the Villa Borghese so that he could house his masterpiece project of art. His collection includes works by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Bernini.

Borghese Gallery

One of the largest and most impressive art collections of the time, the Borghese Gallery was actually originally named the Villa Borghese. It was once used as a country villa by the family, but it is now Rome’s most iconic and well-stocked galleries. Home to masterpieces of paintings and sculptures. The gallery has an array of masters within its walls, including the renowned Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, and Peter Paul Rubens to name a few. Celebrated painting such as the “Entombment of Christ” and the “Boy with a Basket of Fruit” will make your trip here unforgettable.  To plan your visit, make sure to book your tickets in advance. The site will ask for you to choose a date and a time slot for your visit (in either English or Italian), and then you need to arrive at the gallery 30 minutes beforehand to ensure entry.

Borghese Gardens

After marvelling at the art pieces, don’t forget to take a trip around the gardens. Once an old vineyard, Cardinal Sciopione developed the gardens at the beginning of the 17th century. Covering up to 80 hectares of land, the Borghese Gardens is Rome’s second largest public park, with stunning wildlife perfectly manicured. Originally built in Italian Renaissance style which obsessed with order and control, the gardens were completely redesigned in the 19th century, in a more naturalistic English style, opened to the public in 1903. Immerse yourself in its greenery in a full day’s worth of exploration and relaxation. You can find the gardens in the heart of the city, atop Pincian Hill, close to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. Stroll or ride your way through the carefully manicured hedges, past the grand fountains before finding a secret nook or bench to relax and listen to the garden’s peacefulness. This recreational space is said to have 90 attractions listed on the map, ideal for all kinds of travellers. Rent a bike or a hire a boat across the lake! There are multiple ways to enjoy the garden’s artistic qualities and tranquillity.

Fellow members of the Borghese family would continue to add to and expand the gallery over the years, with a large bulk of the collection displayed thanks to the cardinal. To him, we owe these spectacular works of art and examples of Italian baroque style, which have been able to tell us more concerning who the Borghese were and their role in Roman society during the 15th century.

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