Take a break from the busy city center and explore this vast network of pretty gardens and enthralling museums.
Rome’s premier green space, Villa Borghese is not only home to glistening lakes and peaceful gardens, but also contains several interesting cultural institutions. Amble along the pathways and lawns, view a collection of stunning Renaissance masterpieces at the Galleria Borghese and check out rare pre-Roman artifacts at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco.
Originally the estate of esteemed 17th-century art collector Cardinal Scipione Borghese, this park was obtained by the city in 1903. Since then, this 198-acre (80-hectare) area of grass and woodland has been restored and added to, establishing itself as a firm favorite among tourists on the museum trail and among locals looking for a recreational space.
Villa Borghese is home to three of the city’s museums. Browse the exhibits at the world-class Galleria Borghese, which counts paintings by Titian and Raphael as well as sculptures by Canova and Bernini among its collection. Examine an assortment of 19th- and 20th-century pieces at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna and an array of pre-Roman jewelry and utensils at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco.
Stroll along the narrow trails of the park and head toward the lake close to the center of the grounds. On a little islet here sits a small Ionic temple, which is dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing.
Try to find the tranquil “secret gardens,” which were once reserved for elite invited guests. Located near the Galleria Borghese, they are now open to all, yet are still relatively quiet and secluded. Particularly charming is the garden of the bitter oranges, where a grand fountain topped with an eagle dominates the scene. Don’t miss the entrance, which is engulfed in thick hanging branches.
Villa Borghese is in Municipio II, close to the heart of Rome. There are bus stops throughout the park, which is open all day from dawn until dusk. Explore on foot or rent bikes from various points around the park for a faster way to get around.