The Villa Borghese gardens are actually one of the best parks located in the city of Rome. In 1901, the State acquired the gardens from the Borghese family due to a bad economic situation they were going through and it was opened to the public on July 12, 1903.
Here is what you can see and do in the Villa Borghese gardens if you are planning to visit Rome. This large park is different from other iconic parks because of its harmonious combination of nature and Roman art. Visiting these gardens is one of the must-do things to do on a trip to Rome. Take note and consult this map of the gardens to locate all the sites I recommend.
1. The 9 entrances to the Villa Borghese gardens
If you wish to visit this great park, you should know that it has 9 entrances. The most frequented by visitors are the following:
- The Porta Pinciana, which is one of the ancient gates of the Aurelian walls of Rome.
- The Rampe del Pincio from Piazza del Popolo, through which you can reach the Pincio terrace. From there you can enjoy the most spectacular views of the city of Rome.
- The monumental entrance of Piazzale Flaminio.
Once you are inside the park you will be fascinated by its gardens and leafy trees that simulate a wild nature.
2. The heart of Rome and its 80 hectares
Another thing I would like to tell you is that this park has large open spaces where it is possible to do any activity and sport.
What activities can you do there? First of all, if you love walking, this great park gives you the opportunity to walk through all the areas while enjoying the landscape, fountains and historical monuments of baroque, neoclassical and ecclesiastical artists and, above all, the fascinating sculptures of Villa Borghese.
If you want to tour most of the park in a day, you can also rent bicycles for one person, for the family, segways, even small electric cars.
This magnificent park even has a small train, which is an excellent option, because you can rest and at the same time get to know the area. The ride takes about 35 minutes and costs around 3€.
3. The fountain of the sea horses
The design is the work of Cristoforo Unterperger, a painter of Tyrolean origin that Pope Pius VI Brashi held in high esteem. Its realization was by Vincenzo Pacetti, restorer and sculptor trusted by Marcantonio.
Inside a circular tank on the floor, you can see four horses with fish bodies, which hold above another tub, in turn, other sources of water flowing through their legs and tails.
4. Renting a boat
Arriving at the magical garden of the lake, you have the possibility to rent boats and take a close look at the temple dedicated to Aesculapius, built at the end of the 18th century. For the Romans, Aesculapius was the god of medicine and healing.
The cost of renting a boat is around 4€ for adults and 2€ for children (minimum 2 persons). Allowing you to paddle on the lake for about 20 minutes, which is well worth it.
5. Pincio's water clock
In the middle of one of the ponds, there is a clock, an example of 19th century engineering. It was built in 1867 by Giambattista Embriaco, a Dominican priest and passionate watchmaker, and the Swiss architect Joachim Ersoch. Today it is fully operational.
6. The Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery is one of the best museums you can see in Rome, displaying impressive sculptures. It contains works collected by the Borghese family during the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries and created by the best artists of the Renaissance and Baroque.
Before visiting this gallery you should know that you must book your tickets to the Borghese Gallery for a specific day and time. And once the visit is over, which lasts about 2 hours, the gallery must be completely empty to receive the next group. In low season you must book your ticket at least one month in advance and in high season, at least 2 months in advance.
Remember that you have only 2 hours to see nothing less than almost four centuries of art. Therefore, my recommendation is that you book a guided tour, so that you can enjoy all the history behind each work of art.
7. Sculpture of Venus Victrix (Paolina Borghese) By Canova
It was Paolina Bonaparte, the wife of Camillo Borguese, who posed nude for the Italian neoclassical sculptor Antonio Casanova. This sculpture has raised a great stir over the centuries for its beauty and the magnificent details of the sculptor.
You can see the folds of the sheet, the toes, where you can even see her nails. You can also notice the weight of the model on the mattress, among other details impossible to overlook if you admire this impressive work.
8. Bernini's David
Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted his David when he was only 25 years old in 1623, although the back is unfinished, as it was originally to be placed against a wall. Today it is displayed in the center of the room.
This is a very interesting work, as Bernini used a mirror to detail himself (yes, it is a self-portrait) and see the facial expression that we see captured in his David.
9. Apollo and Daphne by Bernini
This sculpture also shows the faithful work of Bernini, who remarked with charcoal the facial expressions of both characters. It shows the delicacy of Apollo's mantle and a spectacular realism in the transformation of Daphne's skin into tree bark. Bernini considered Apollo his masterpiece.
10. Sculpture of the Rape of Proserpina by Bernini
This work is very impressive because it may lead you to wonder how Bernini managed to make Pluto's fingers sink into Proserpina's thigh? And it may be hard to believe that it is a sculpture made of marble with incredible realism.
This sculpture tells the story of Pluto, King of the underworld and Proserpina, daughter of Jupiter and Ceres. When she is kidnapped, she is forced to live with Pluto, Ceres goes in search of her daughter where they reach an agreement in which Proserpina lives half a year in the underworld and half a year under the sun of her mother.
According to this mythology, therefore, for half a year the earth blooms and in the other half it rains, due to the tears of Ceres waiting for her daughter.
11. Painting of David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio
This canvas has quite an interesting history. It happened that Caravaggio killed Ranuccio Tomassoni in a duel. Tomassoni's father was close to Pope Paul V, so the latter, upon learning what happened, condemned Caravaggio to death. He had to flee to the island of Malta, where after four years, the Pope decided to pardon him.
On his return to Rome, he was imprisoned in Naples. While there he painted this canvas that he sent to the Pope, where he used his face to represent Goliath decapitated. However, Caravaggio never arrived in Rome and his death is still a mystery.
12. Bioparco, Rome Zoo
This is the Roman zoo inside the Villa Borghese, home to more than 1,000 animals and 200 different species. Including felines, chimpanzees, bears, among others. It also displays a large botanical exhibition.
This is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It was established in 1908 and was created by Carl Hagenbeck, who sought to design a different Zoo. The structure allows the animals to reside freely without being enclosed in cages, maintaining a clear division with the public.
13. Silvano Toti Globe Theatre
The creation of the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre was made possible by the Silvano Toti Foundation, an association that was created by the Toti family to honor Silvano's memory. Some consider it a copy of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.
Recommendations for visiting the Villa Borghese
Here is what I consider to be the most important things to keep in mind when visiting this park:
- I remind you that it is a fairly large park and if you plan to walk through it, it is very important that you wear appropriate and comfortable shoes.
- You should bring a bottle of water.
- Wear cool clothes if you go in summer, as it can be quite hot.
- If you want to enhance your experience, you can plan your trip to the Villa Borghese in the evening. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy truly spectacular views of Rome's skyline through the gardens and the Pincio terrace.
- Get a map, this will help you navigate the gardens more easily and direct you to the attractions that catch your eye.
- There are few public restrooms in the garden, but if it is urgent, you can go to the one inside the Borghese Gallery if you have purchased a ticket.
- Although there are food options in the park, you can have a picnic under its groves.
Recommendations if you go with children
You should take into account all the recommendations I left you in the previous segment, especially that of carrying water. Since the little ones have an inexhaustible energy! and they will need to hydrate themselves.
The park allows you to practice sports and games, so you can bring a ball, racquets, or any other sporting instrument to play with the kids.
Finally, if you have bought your tickets to enter the Borghese gallery you can take your children to the San Carlino puppet theater. This show features Pulcinella, this is a popular puppet character that was created in Naples. This attraction was designed to entertain the little ones while the adults view the art gallery.
Both in this wonderful park and all over Rome there are many activities you can plan with your children. Therefore, I would like to invite you to read my guide on 10things to do in Rome with kids.
General information about Villa Borghese
- How to get there? You can take the bus, streetcar or subway. If you decide to take the subway you can read the following guide to the subway in Rome. Outside the park there are several stops from where you can disembark and simply walk to any of the entrances.
- Address: Piazzale Napoleone I, 00197 Roma RM, Italy.
- Admission fee: admission is freeHowever, you must pay to enter attractions such as the Borghese Gallery.
- Hours: The gardens are open Monday through Friday, all day, until sunset.
- When is the best time to go? If you want to go when it is less crowded, you can go early in the morning or in the evening.
If you want to visit Rome at some point, or you are already planning everything, I hope you have a happy vacation! Enjoy all the history and scenery you will find there.