Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Filled with elegant villa parks, gardens and panoramic terraces, it’s a city that beckons you to live life al fresco and embrace the great outdoors. The kind of outdoors that are dotted with statues, feature manicured lawns and are home to evocative pine tree forests, of course.
Villa Borghese is the most famous park in Rome thanks to its central position and beautiful museum: the Galleria Borghese is one of the most stunning collections of art in the city and shouldn’t be missed during a visit to the Eternal City. Designed as a suburban villa to house Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s priceless art collection, the 17th century gallery houses marble statues by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and chiaro-scuro paintings by Caravaggio, among hundreds of notable works.
What few people realize is that the Galleria Borghese is just one of the many draws of the Villa Borghese park which boasts a theater, horse racing track, swan-filled lake, cinema and more.
10 experiences you shouldn’t miss
1. Rent a boat in Villa Borghese’s laghetto for a paddle around the lake (and a good photo op!). Boats are €3 for 20 minutes and provide a great vantage point to admire the picturesque Temple of Asclepius, a replica of an ancient temple dedicated to the Greek god of medicine.
2. Catch a performance at the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre: a wooden replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. This open-air theater hosts performances from June-October – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and other iconic productions. Most performances are held in Italian but the last show of the season is usually held in English.
3. See the sunset at the Terrazza del Pincio, one of the most beautiful panoramic terraces in Rome, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo. There are often musicians and bubble artists here which makes it a fun place for kids and you can easily head down to the piazza to stroll around the center afterwards.
4. It goes without saying that you should book tickets in advance to visit Galleria Borghese, an incredible collection of Renaissance and Baroque art by sculptors such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Antonio Canova and painters including Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Botticelli.
5. Rent a bike to tour the park, or opt for a four-seater electric bike from Bici Pincio – it’s a great way to ride around with a family or group of friends.
6. The orologio dell’acqua, or water clock (hydrochronometer) was designed by Giovanni Battista Embriaco, a Dominican friar with a passion for clocks. The clock works by filling two basins with water, alternating between each one to maintain a uniform rhythm for the pendulum – and it’s a beautiful object to see in the garden.
7. See free art within the Museo Carlo Bilotti, a contemporary art museum housed in Villa Borghese’s historic “orangery”, and Museo Pietro Canonica, a gallery set within a small fortress inside the park.
8. Enjoy vino with a view at Casina Valadier, a gourmet restaurant set within a neoclassical villa on the edge of the park. Decorated with Pompeiian frescoes and an impressive colonnade, it’s a romantic place to try refined dishes, such as Ravioli with braised meat, Amarone wine and pistachios and Parmesan cheese cream with hazelnuts, cardoncelli mushrooms and truffles. In the evening, tasting menus are available as well.
9. Catch movies at the 19th-century art house movie theater Casa del Cinema and Cinema dei Piccoli, a theater for children.
10. There are a number of outstanding (and underrated) museums near Villa Borghese. Don’t miss paying a visit to La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, the largest contemporary and modern art collection in Italy. The Museo Etrusco Villa Giulia is also worth a visit to learn about the impressive Etruscan civilization (which predated the Romans) and for a visit at one of the loveliest villas in Rome.