A Cardinal collection
Galleria Borghese is a highlight among Rome’s many fantastic art galleries. Sat in extensive and beautiful gardens, the gallery building was the former Villa Borghese and the rooms are so beautifully decorated that they are quite a sight in themselves.
The Villa’s owner was Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633), a nephew to Pope Paul V, who used it mainly for leisure and entertainment. The building remained a private villa, undergoing various repairs and modifications, until it was made a national museum for the public in the late 18th century. The Galleria is full of exquisite ancient and 17th century art displayed as it would have been in the Villa’s heyday, and is further adorned with wonderful frescoes.
The best of Bernini
The Cardinal was an early patron of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the greatest sculptor of his age, whose hand can be seen in St. Peter’s Basilica
and Piazza Navona
. The Galleria houses some of Bernini’s most masterful Baroque sculpture including his David
and Apollo and Daphne
, in addition to a handsome early self-portrait. It is also the home of stunning paintings by Caravaggio, such as his Boy with a Basket of Fruit
, and works by Raphael, including the Entombment of Christ
and Girl with a Unicorn
, as well as pieces by Titian, Rubens and other eminent masters.
The gardens around the gallery are now a public park, and are great for relaxing or for letting the kids run around and play after enjoying the collection. Admissions are limited in two-hour slots, which means you must book in advance, but this makes for a less crowded visit than some of the city’s busier museums.