Rome can be pretty chaotic, I know – there are tourists everywhere (such as yourself) new buildings that rise among the ancient Roman ones… Too many shades of grey and not enough green, right? Well, there’s no need to worry because if you’re looking for a place where you can sit on the grass and just relax or maybe exercise a little, there are quite a few places where you can go, such as:
#5 Orto Botanico (Botanic Gardens of Rome)
Established in 1883, the Orto Botanico is one of the Museums of the Department Environmental Biology of the Sapienza University of Rome. It’s situated in the heart of the city and it’s about 30 acres large. In ancient times, the Orto Botanico wasn’t just a garden, but it also contained the thermal baths of Septimius Severus (a Roman Emperor). Now it is situated next to Palazzo Riario-Corsini (which has been the residence of Queen Christina of Sweden from 1659 to 1689 and is now the headquarters of the oldest scientific academy of the world aka the Accademia dei Lincei) with whom it shares a historic garden layout. This garden is one of Italy’s most important botanic gardens for scientific reasons and also for the method used in the cultivation of the plants and their settings, that recreate their original environment.
I think this is a great place to go, especially if you are interested in the earth’s flora and want to learn more about it. Numerous species of plants can be found here and they are both native, as well as foreign (you can see native Brazilian or Mexican plants, for example). In order to visit this marvelous place and learn more its “green residents” you have to pay a small fee of 8€. You can get an individual or a group tour, if you’re visiting with friends and family and you can book the tour online. If you have any type of disability, I’m happy to tell you that there are special paths for you and there are also battery powered wheel chairs that will await you so that you can climb up the hill. The garden is closed on Sunday and holidays, unless they have some special event planned.
If you get hungry or dehydrated after all the knowledge you’ve acquired, there’s a bar nearby called “Essenza Wine Bar” that I recommend you try out.
#4 Villa Torlonia
Designed by neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier, this park used to belong to the Torlonia family. Mussolini used to rent the mansion until the end of WWII, when the building was abandoned and fell in decay; today it has been restored and it’s a museum. Speaking of which, there are various other museums in Villa Torlonia and many are currently holding some interesting exhibitions that I recommend:
Open until the 18th of March (form Tuesday to Saturday) at Casino dei Principi, many sketches of the ‘900 artists are exposed here. They are fundamental to the understanding of the artistic process of the artists – Gabrielle D’Annunzio, Achille Funi, Gino Severini, Pablio Morbiducci and Ottone Rosai.
At Casino Nobile, until the 17th of February there is a visual-tactile guided tour with special operators. Besides the illustrations of historical events, there are several sculptures from the late ‘700, made by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi. Also exposed are the sculptures realized by the Expressionism art movement, Scuola Romana. This exhibition is mostly for visitors with disabilities.
50 of the works of art of Pietro Gentili are exposed at the Casina delle Civette until the 27th of May – paintings, sculptures, jewelry, 3D forms made by using tempra, gold and silver paper, sand, wood and plexiglas. The exhibition is open from Monday to Saturday.
The park around these museums is also very pleasant and perfect for a relaxing walk. The landscape is picturesque and a little bit more wild (compared to Villa Borghese); fountains can also be found in Villa Torlonia so it is a perfect combination between nature and art. Inside the Limonaia, a building present on the Villa’s propriety, you can find a restaurant called, guess how? Yes, that’s right – “La Limonaia”.
#3 Villa Borghese
Close to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, it is the third largest public park in Rome, after Villa Doria Pamphilj and Villa Ada. In 1607 Cardinal Scipione Borghese was probably walking around his property, thinking to himself, when suddenly he asked himself– “what if I turn my vineyard into the largest garden ever built in Rome?” And so he did! Well, it’s not (as I already said) the biggest one in Rome, but I think we can all appreciate the effort. The park is a wonderful landscape built in the English taste and there are many things you can do when you’re visiting Villa Borghese.
First of all, I definitely recommend you stop and take you time. Enjoy your hike and wander around aimlessly for a while. Admire the sculptures (that are pretty much all over the place) and the fountains (there are about 12 of them). And you know what’s even better than that? There are certain spots where you can stop and you can see all of Rome from there. What? That didn’t convince you to visit this park? Okay, then… what if I tell you that you can rent a bike? And that’s not the only thing you can rent – you can rent rollerblades, rickshaws, golf carts and other similar means of transport so that you can enjoy the ride in company of your friends and family. If you have little ones with you then you should check out the Puppet Theater or the Zoological Museums. There even is a so-called Cinema dei Piccoli (Little one’s Cinema), which is a rather small cinema (they only have 63 seats) and they screen kids movies most afternoons. In the Villa Borghese you can also find the Globe Theater. No, not the real one, but its exact replica – they even perform Shakespeare’s plays (in Italian). Oh, and I almost forgot – there is also a beautiful lake in the park, where the Temple of Asclepius (the Greek god of health and healing) resides. The view is absolutely breathtaking and you can even rent a boat and “cruise” on the lake, maybe feed some of the local ducks while you’re at it. Yes, you’ve read correctly – there are various ducks on the lake so you can watch them float lazily on the water surface. Another thing you can do while in Villa Borghese is to visit the Galleria Borghese museum. It has two floors and about twenty rooms, where some of the most magnificent sculptures of the 17th century, specifically created for this place, are exposed. The Galleria Borghese usually organizes events, but unfortunately there are none at the moment. Nonetheless, you can still visit it and I guarantee you it will be worth it! Just make sure to book in advance (tickets cost about 22€) and don’t worry about an overcrowding – the museum paces the visitors so that you can enjoy your tour without bumping into other people.
#2 Villa Ada
The second largest park in Rome (approximately 160 acres), Villa Ada was home to the Savoia family from 1872 to 1878 and then again from 1904 to 1946. The family used to hunt on these grounds, but now that no longer happens (obviously) and the only animals that you can encounter are squirrels, turtles, maybe some adorable hedgehogs and also in the waters of the lake you may see fishes swimming around. The villa is currently divided between the Council of Rome and the Egyptian Embassy (which is a private area and is patrolled by the police).Speaking of the Embassy, you should know that many of the old buildings are today the headquarters of new organizations. The Villa Savoia, for example, is now the building of the Egyptian Consular Office in Rome and the La Finanziaria, on the hill that bears the same name, is the WWF’s current home.
The public area is larger than the private one, which means you have more landscape to wander around freely and explore. The entrance is, of course, free and you can rent bikes and other means of transportation, if you wish, or you can simply walk around or maybe have a picnic. But if you’re into museums or if you want to learn more about the Savoia, then you should check out the “Bunker Villa Ada Savoia” built to protect the Queen and the King from Allied bombs during the WWII. The bunker had been vandalized and had fallen into ruin, but a non-profit organization (called Roma Sotteranea) restored it and is now open for visits. In case you’re hungry or need a refreshment, you should know that there is a bar inside the Villa, called “Ada Lo Scoiattolo”.
If you find yourself in Rome during summer or you’re planning to come here during this period, you should know that Villa Ada is home to the summer festival Roma incontra il Mondo (Rome meets the World). During the summer festival many concerts, debates, workshops and other forms of entertainment take place. Temporal bars and street-food vendors also find their home here, during this special event.
#1 Villa Doria Pamphilj
This here, this is the biggest park of Rome. The Villa Doria Pamphilj has an area of about 184 acres, but only 94 acres are open to the public. There are various entrances in the park and each one of them allows you to discover a new side of the garden.
The scenery will not bore you at all – statues, fountains, stairs, slopes and small hills alternate and create a spectacular landscape. Buildings skirt the Villa. For example you could see Casino del Bel Respiro, one of the park’s architectural masterpiece. Inside the building, many works of art reside and sometimes they organize manifestations or special events. Right outside you can find a secret garden and at its center a fountain dedicated to Venus. Close to Casino del Bel Respiro (also called Palazzo dell’Algardi) is Giardino del Teatro, where there used to stage theater plays. Another beautiful place to see is the Doria Pamphilj Chapel that is still propriety of the Pamphilj family. The chapel is situated on top of a staircase and it is surrounded by nature, making it a very pleasant structure to look at. Sometimes the chapel is open and on Saturday afternoon, the mass is celebrated. The oldest building of this park is Villa Vecchia, which was build using the remains of the Traiano-Paolo Aqueduct and which is now a museum dedicated to Villa Pamphilj. In this park you can also see a Roman necropolis and many other archeological remains.
So what can you do other then admire all these interesting places? Well, it’s quite obvious – you could go for a run or exercise (many people do so) or maybe have a picnic on the grass or simply just lay down and relax a little – just have yourself a quick escape from the city. And if you get hungry, I’m glad to inform you that there is a restaurant inside the Villa. It’s called “Vivi Bistrot” and it has a great view on the gardens. The restaurant even sells picnic kits, which consist of the basket, a blanket that you can lay on the grass and, of course, the food! You can have your picnic wherever you want inside Villa Pamphilj, but once you finish, you have to return the basket and blanket to the “Vivi Bistrot”.
So here you have it! These are some of the most important and beautiful parks that you can visit in Rome so don’t miss out – you can enjoy art, architecture, increase you’re cultural baggage while relaxing and breathing in some fresh air.
Hey Guys, Hope you appreciated this article! Your feedback is important, leave a comment below.