In a city of almost three million people, I always enjoy finding a place to get away from it all. When I needed a break from the fast pace of sightseeing in Rome, I made my way over to Borghese Park, also known as Villa Borghese, located north of the Spanish Steps. Roughly one-fifth the size of New York City’s Central Park, Borghese Park is a welcome respite for tired feet after a few busy days in Rome. The park has two main entrances, one at Piazza del Popolo and the Porta Pinciana entrance off via Veneto.
What was originally a vineyard became the 2nd largest public park in Rome, with the Villa Doria Pamphili in western Rome considered to be the largest. After obtaining the Villa Borghese from the Borghese family in 1903, the city opened the park to the public. The park offers something for people of all ages, with open green spaces, bocce courts, picnic areas, a zoo, museums, bicycle rentals, a lake with boats, an amphitheatre and a botanical garden.
The most well-known museum in the park is Galleria Borghese, or the Borghese Gallery, which is in the original Villa Borghese, after which the park derived its name. Galleria Borghese features works of art from the masters, Raphael, Titian and Rubens as well as sculptures from Bernini and Canova. It is located near the Porta Pinciana entrance.
The National Gallery of Modern Art, or Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, has 75 rooms featuring the largest collection from 19 th and 20th century Italian artists. It is close to the National Etruscan Museum, or Museo Nazionale Etrusco, which is inside the Villa Giulia, the former summer home for Pope Julius III. One of its main features is a life size reclining bride and groom monument.
Called the Bioparco, the zoo in the northeastern area of Borghese Gardens, is a delight to both children and adults. It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, built in 1911 and has over one thousand animals. It is open daily except Christmas for an entrance fee of 15 euros for adults and 12 euros for children and seniors.
The lake in the park is not only a beautiful serene spot with swans, ducks and geese, but you can also rent boats here. A favorite subject with photographers, the Temple of Esculapius next to the lake allows for great photo opportunities.
Rentals and Other Fun Activities
Besides renting boats at the lake, you can rent bicycles and Segways as well as take a hot air balloon ride from inside the park. For children, there are playgrounds and a children’s library and also a small touring train which traverses the park. A cinema house featuring predominantly Italian films also is in this park.
Rome is beautiful and there is so much to see, but part of living the sweet life or “la dolce vita” is taking time to relax in one of its few green spaces. Borghese Park is a pleasant alternative to the cobble-stoned streets and uphill roads of the Eternal City.