Villa Borghese, the green heart of Rome
Like every great city of honor, Rome has its green heart: it is Villa Borghese, next to the big Piazza del Popolo and a few steps by the romantic Piazza di Spagna. Whether you are a citizen of the eternal city or just curious tourists, you will find yourself immersed in a luxuriant world of Italian or English gardens, groves with centuries-old pines, artificial lakes, sculptures, monuments and so many museums to be worth the nickname of "Park of Museums", an about 80 hectares area, It is the most loved place in Rome to walk, relax, play sports or dedicate a day to culture. And where, if not from the terraces of Villa Borghese as that one of the Pincio, you can enjoy unforgettable views of the city of Rome with the Dome of St. Peter always in the foreground?
The birth of the villa
Originally, at least until 1580, the area was occupied by the vineyards of the Borghese, an ancient family of Sienese origin. At the beginning of the Seventeenth century, Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, Pope Paul V's nephew, decided to buy the surrounding land to build a luxurious mansion that could symbolize the family's coat of arms. The cardinal therefore commissioned the project to the important architects Vasanzio Giovanni and Pontius Flaminio, and to gardeners such as Savini Domenico, to create an extraordinary bucolic world, around the villa: pines were planted, Bernini's sculptures were placed and wonderful and suggestive water games were made, thanks to the genius of Giovanni Fontana.
The Casino Noble
You can enter this large four centuries old park through the nine entrances, among which the one with the propylaea of the eagles dating back to 1790 and made by Aspruccistands out: the feature you will immediately notice is the presence of the great eagles, symbol - together with the dragons - of the Borghese family coat of arms, on the Ionic columns.
The main attraction of Villa Borghese is the Casino Nobile, today Galleria and Museo Borghese, located in Piazzale Scipione Borghese. It was thanks to the family's love for art that works of great value have been collected in this building. The building is divided into two sections: the Museo Borghese and the Galleria Borghese.
In the first you can admire sculptures such as the "Rape of Proserpina" and "Apollo and Daphne", both sculptural groups by Bernini, and Canova's "Paolina Bonaparte", representing the essence of neoclassical feminine beauty.
In the Gallery you will see paintings by artists such as the "Madonna dei Palafrenieri" by Caravaggio, the "Deposition" by Raphael, "Amor sacro e amor profano" by Titian.
From the fountains to the artificial lakes
Not far from the ancient Casino Nobile, there are the Fontane Oscure, created by the Pontius, in 1613: they have that name because eternally in the shade, under the thick fronds of the trees above. Once, they were decorated by statues on the edges, and took their name by their shape, just the oval and the round fountain.
But the fountains that lie between the large tree-lined avenues and the narrow lanes are many more, including sculptures by Victor Hugo, Lord Byron and Goethe, such as the Fontana dei Cavalli Marini and the Fontana dei Fauni, in typical art style nouveau, made up of a group of fauns.
The most suggestive areas of Villa Borghese are certainly the artificial lakes. In the Pincio area, one of them is surrounded by luxuriant exotic plants and surmounted by a wooden bridge: being there, you can not be captured by the wooden clock standing in the middle of the pond, with its mechanisms working thanks to the water. Giovanni Battista Embriaco realized this peculiar hydro-chronometer, which looks like a small look-out tower surrounded by nature.
The other artificial lake represents the most beautiful and romantic point of Villa Borghese: it is the Giardino del Lago, commissioned by Marcantonio IV Borghese, at the end of the 18th century.
You will find this garden from the arch of Septimius Severus: you arrive in front of a lake with a small island in the middle, where the Temple of Aesculapius - built in Ionic style by the Asprucci and containing the Greek statue of the god of medicine found in Rome, in the majestic villa of Augustus - stands.
Speaking about the ancient history, if you love Roman or Greek art, the Tempio di Diana deserves a visit: it was made in 1789, presumably by Mario Asprucci, and inspired by the Temple of Love situated in the Palace of Versailles in France. It is a small circular temple, whose dome is supported by eight grey marble columns, under a pine cone, containing a pedestal that once held the statue of Diana, goddess of hunting.
Villa Borghese is full of buildings to be discovered such as the Casina di Raffaello - that seems to be property of the great painter -, or the nearby Fortezzuola di Canina: in this building - appearing to be medieval - in the heart of the the park, the sculptor Pietro Canonica lived until his death, in 1959, and many of his works are exhibited here.
You will also find very interesting the Casino dell'Uccelliera designed by Rinaldi: at first, you will notice the two large dome cages, joined in the lower part by a vaulted corridor richly decorated by stuccos, busts and paintings that reproduce a realistic pergola for birds. There are also two circular tanks in the middle of each cage designed to quench the rare exotic birds.
If you love museums, you will not be disappointed by visiting Villa Giulia, built in sixteenth-century style and site of the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, rich in numerous Italian and Etruscan remains - in the gardens you can also admire two beautiful nymphs made in neoclassical style -, and the Museo Carlo Bilotti also called "Aranciera di Villa Borghese", dedicated to contemporary art, exhibiting works by De Chirico, Rivers and Andy Warhol. If you travel with your family, the Bioparco will satisfy adults and children: it was created in 1911, and it has become one of the oldest zoological gardens in Europe, where you can admire thousands of animals of at least 150 different species, including lemurs, zebras, elephants, hippos and even lions.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Ariston, the ideal starting point to discover Rome!