When you’re traveling to Rome, you might only be thinking about the beautiful cathedrals, ancient ruins, and the never-ending selection of great wine. Yeah, that’s normally what I think about too 😉 However, in addition to these, there is a lush 148 acre (80 hectares) garden known as Villa Borghese.
Aside from the must-see Galleria Borghese (Borghese Gallery) housed within these grounds, I encourage you to stick around after your tour. I say this because during my first trip to Rome, I went straight to the Galleria Borghese, and then just left right after due to not knowing how remarkable Villa Borghese was. For this reason, I have written an article to help you discover a few of the treasures hidden throughout. Even I have not gotten to see everything here, so feel free to add any tips, tricks, or anything awesome you have spotted here in the comments.
Originally, Villa Borghese was Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s (nephew to Pope Paul V) former vineyard, and it was not until 1605 that he decided to turn it into the most substantial gardens ever built in Rome. Although the gardens you see now were remade in the early 19th century, Villa Borghese is not a place to you’ll want to pass through quickly.
In fact, getting there is quite simple as you can access this area from the Spanish Steps. When you walk up the steps, pass the church on your left-hand side and you’ll start to see signs that will lead you to Villa Borghese. You can also take the A line metro, get off at Spagna, and there’s a tunnel that you can walk through that lets out at the back entrance right by the horse stables and Piazza di Siena.
While strolling through the pathways, keep an eye out for some interesting structures. One of these is the Tempio di Annia Faustina e Cerere (Temple of Annia Faustina and Ceres), a neoclassical temple that was dedicated to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius along with his wife Annia Raustina. This incredible four column feature was built by Antonio Asprucci, who was the first Italian architect to bring back the Greek Doric style of architecture, along with his son Mario, during the 18th century.
There’s also an artificial lake garden where you’ll see the 19th century Tempio di Esculapio (Temple of Aesculapius) built on a small island in the center. You will be fond of watching the geese and swans as they swim around the lake while sitting under the weeping willows with your loved one, or family members, as you settle down for an afternoon picnic. Rental boats are also available for rent for just 3 EUR (3.42 USD) per person.
Another note-worthy site to see is the Piazza di Siena (Siena Square). You may have noticed a couple horses as you’ve been walking along the paths, and there is definitely a reason for this. The most important horse show in Rome, the 86th Grand Prix, will be taking place in the Piazza di Siena from May 24th until May 28th of 2018. It is an incredible show to watch, as many professional horseback riders will perform jumps and stunts with their horses.
Keep in mind, this is not just a show for locals. Many countries come out to compete with one another, and last year was awesome, as the first Dutch rider, Jur Vrieling, won the 85th year event!
A wonderful way to explore Villa Borghese is to rent a bike to see the many attractions throughout the park. A popular company that has two bike rental set-ups in Villa Borghese is called Bici Pincio. Many other rental shops throughout Rome have day rates ranging between 8 EUR to 13 EUR (9.11 USD to 14.81 USD). You may also opt to rent a risciò, which is an adorable peddling cart meant for two or three people. These also have a tarp-like roof, just in case it starts to rain, which is pretty typical in Rome.
You’ll also come across a fine replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, called the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre. There are many performances during the summer months, and tickets range from a nominal cost of 7 EUR to 18 EUR (7.98 USD to 20.51). Visit the official website to see dates and timings for the shows available. Keep in mind shows don’t normally start until June. Productions for 2018 may not be available for purchase until the spring and early summer months.
While roaming around, you’ll also see many sculptures, but give some extra attention to the Triton statues. You might notice how similar these statues look compared to those on the Fontana del Moro (the Moor Fountain) in Piazza Navona. Surprise! These are indeed the original statues that were moved in 1874 from the Moor Fountain to the Villa Borghese. The Tritons that you see on the Fontana del Moro were actually replicated in the nineteenth-century by Luigi Amici.
Aside from these sites to see, there is still so much for you to explore on your own, with family, or your loved one. There is not an entrance fee to enter the gardens, but do expect to pay for some of the attractions that are available here. If you’re hungry you will find many small café setups, fruit stands, and even a small shop to have a glass of wine. Just keep walking down the path with Galleria Borghese to your right.
Oftentimes you’ll notice many locals at Villa Borghese walking their dogs, but you don’t have to worry as all are friendly and playful. Regardless, if it’s for people watching, sitting down under a shady tree for a picnic, or coming to see the expansive art exhibit at the Galleria Borghese, you will certainly have a wonderful time.