Villa Borghese Gardens

A vast and lovely scenic public park, adjoining the Borghese gallery.

TravelCurious Tip

Feeling stressed from the hustle and bustle of the city? Come here to relax in this lovely green space.

Cardinal virtues

The Villa Borghese Gardens are exquisite grounds covering 80 hectares in the centre of Rome, and today make up one of Rome’s largest public parks. The gardens were built in 1605 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was a nephew to Pope Paul V. He constructed these elaborate gardens on the land which had formerly been his personal vineyard, and which before that was the site of the Gardens of Lucullus, the most famous in the Roman Empire.

Indeed, the Villa Borghese Gardens were the most extensive gardens to be built in Rome since the extravagance of the Empire. The Gardens are built in an English style, but the connection with ancient Roman gardens was intentionally emphasised and the design of the Villa Borghese incorporates many classical Roman architectural elements and even Roman religious features. This is evident in the modern Temple to Aesculapius which was included as an ornamental feature on one of the lakes. 

Visual delights

The Gardens boast plenty of attractions including statues, fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk; numerous villas are scattered throughout, such as the Villa Medici and the Galleria Borghese. There is even a zoo, and a reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Should you wish to visit the park today there are a number of points of entry, including the Flaminio entrance just across from the famous Roman Porta Flaminia, the gate to modern day Piazza del Popolo; or you may enter by the renowned Spanish Steps, which lead right up to the park.

Today it is typical to find lots of people enjoying its green spaces, holding public events, or picnicking in the shady trees in summer time. The Villa Borghese Gardens offer a chance to escape the fast pace of the city, and make for a great day out combined with the nearby gallery.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Spanish Steps
Once you climb Europe’s longest outdoor stairs, enjoy a beautiful vista of Rome with St Peter's Basilica in the distance.
Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo is one of Rome's most beautiful squares, with an important and long-standing history.
Galleria Borghese
The former home of the great Cardinal Borghese, displaying his magnificent collection of priceless artworks.
The David by Bernini
A life-size marble sculpture by Bernini, depicting the biblical David, about to throw the stone that will bring down Goliath.
Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix by Canova
A semi-nude life-size marble sculpture by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova.
Mausoleum of Augustus
Largest circular tomb in the world built by Emperor Augustus in 28 BC

Related Tours

Borghese Gallery and Gardens: Private Half-Day Walking Tour
Embark on a private half-day walking tour of the Borghese Gallery,  a gem of Baroque art including masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian and Raphael, and explore the Villa Borghese Gardens, one of the most popular attractions in Rome with a fascinating history.

On your private half-day tour you will: 

  • Explore not only the Borghese Gallery Museum but also the Villa Borghese gardens; 
  • Learn about Rome’s greatest Baroque artist, sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini as you admire the early masterpieces that brought him fame and fortune;
  • Hear tales of Cardinal Scipione Borghese – the man behind the museum and how he acquired some of his art (in occasionally underhand ways!)
  • Marvel at works by renowned painters like Canova, Raphael, Titian and more;
  • Linger in the room dedicated to Caravaggio and admire the largest collection of Caravaggio’s paintings anywhere in the world;
  • After a short break with time to browse the gift shop, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the magnificent Borghese gardens and park – known as the green heart of Rome;
  • See Piazza di Siena, home to equestrian eventing and fashion shows, the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe, the charming lake adorned with the Temple of Asclepius, and hundreds of statues and busts of various artistic, political and intellectual luminaries as your guide tells you the stories behind it all;
  • End the tour on the Pincio Terrace with a breathtaking view over Piazza del Popolo and the City of Rome.

Formerly the private villa of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew to Pope Paul V, who commissioned it in 1609, the Galleria Borghese remained the private property of the Borghese family until the Italian state purchased it at the beginning of the twentieth century in 1902, insisting that it should be open to the public.

Cardinal Scipione (1577-1633) was a great patron of the arts. A magpie-like collector of all that glittered, he also had a keen eye for up-and-coming talent. He spotted the young Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) in his father, Pietro Bernini’s workshop, and commissioned his first marble sculptures – now world famed for their exceptional quality: Aeneus Escaping Troy – or the Three Stages of Man, the mesmerising Rape of Persephone, the astonishing Apollo and Daphne, and Bernini's very different version of the young David taking on Goliath. These statues, sculpted when Bernini was in his early twenties, launched him into the stratosphere of fame, and he became to the Baroque what Michelangelo had been to the Renaissance.

Scipione commissioned the architect Flamino Ponzio to design a grand villa in 1609. It was to be a party villa for visiting diplomats, and filled like Aladdin’s Cave, with treasures from Antiquity (you’ll see amazing 3rd-century mosaics of Gladiatorial combat on the floor in the grand entrance, and colossal 2nd-century busts of goddesses and Roman emperors as you enter) as well as the best art and sculpture of the day. 

Successive Borghese family members have only added to the lavishness over the centuries – not least Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Paulina Borghese, who is sculpted as the alluring Venus Victrix by Canova. The villa is covered in floor-to-ceiling frescoes, and all twenty rooms are filled with priceless antiquities and world-famous art by some of the greatest maestros of all time - BerniniTitianRaphaelDomenichinoPeruginoCorreggio... and not to mention an entire room dedicated to Caravaggio

Your guide will regale you with the political stories behind the art, the coded messages, the lives and secrets of the artists and the conquests and scandals of the Borghese family too.

After the tour of the gallery, a strictly timed two-hour visit, you will have a short break to refresh or browse the gift shop, before setting off to explore the sumptuous gardens and park, dotted with umbrella pine treespicturesque fountains and statues of famous literarypolitical and artistic figures through the ages. 

Your guide will lead you to the Pincio Terrace, next to the Villa Medici (a great spot for a refreshing aperitif cocktail or coffee) and where the tour ends overlooking the beautiful Piazza del Popolo, with a panoramic view over the Eternal City. 


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