Rome is not short on beauty, and around almost every corner in this historic city, you’ll find some new and overwhelming aesthetic wonder, from opulent buildings to sparkling fountains to famous works of art. But if you want to spend a whole day completely immersed in beauty, with the hectic traffic of the city seemingly a million miles away, the stunning Borghese Gardens have to be one of the top choices.
Dating back to the early 17th century, these ornamental gardens – the brainchild of art-loving cardinal Scipione Borghese – are not only gorgeous themselves; they’re also home to dozens of different acclaimed museums and other attractions, including the grand Borghese Gallery.
The gallery is among the most popular sights in Rome, and it really does benefit from being seen with the help of an expert eye. So to get the most out of your visit, we recommend our Skip the Line – Borghese Gardens & Gallery Tour, which offers priority access to the gallery and includes an expert-led tour taking in both the artworks and the highlights of the gardens.
Read on for five great reasons to visit the Borghese Gardens and Gallery. But to discover the full splendour of this place, you really do have to see it in person.
The Borghese Gallery is Extraordinary
As the focal point of the gardens, it goes without saying that the Borghese Gallery is a major reason to come here. The 17th-century building that houses the gallery is in itself a spectacular work of art, but step inside and you’ll be even more impressed. The interiors are so ornate that they seem like something from a dream, with elaborate marble floors and wall panels, liberal use of gold detailing and astoundingly detailed frescoes covering every ceiling.
But if you can tear your eyes away from all that for a moment, you’re in for a treat. This gallery contains one of the finest collections of art by the Old Masters in all of Italy (a bold claim, but a true one). See sculptures and paintings by the likes of Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio and Canova.
The Other Borghese Museums Aren’t Bad, Either
The Borghese Gallery is just one of several incredible museums situated within the gardens. Others to choose from include the Villa Medici, a stately 16th-century mansion. It houses the French Academy in Rome, a creative and academic institution, but is also open to members of the public who come here to gape at its sumptuous interiors. Then there’s the Museo Pietro Canonica, an art museum dedicated to the life’s work of the artist Pietro Canonica. A short walk away, the Museo Carloi Bilotti sits in a picturesque orangery. It displays the vast art collection of the billionaire Carlo Bilotti – including a portrait of his family painted by none other than Andy Warhol.
You Can Take in an Alfresco Movie
The Casa Del Cinema is an arthouse movie theatre that’s among the major draws of the gardens. Taking in a movie here is a lovely way to spend an evening whenever you choose to do it, but for something extra special, book a ticket for one of the special outdoor screenings that take place in the gardens themselves in the summer.
Kids Will Never Get Bored Here
Many of the tourist attractions in Rome – especially the historic ones – aren’t especially child-friendly. But the Borghese Gardens are different. Not only are they home to the amazing Bioparco di Roma, a zoo showcasing over 200 different species; they also include even more novel attractions, like the Teatro Dei Burattani San Carlino. This pretty little puppet theatre, where regulars on the stage include the classic Neapolitan character Pulcinella, offers kids something a bit different to what they’re likely to experience back home.
The beautiful Casina di Raffaello, with its frescoed rooms, is another option for keeping kids entertained – check ahead before your visit to see its program of children’s workshops and events.
The Borghese Gardens Are Romantic
Competition for the title of Rome’s most romantic spot is steep, but the Borghese Gardens are up there, almost guaranteed to set hearts aflutter. Hire a boat and row beneath the weeping willows and past the classical-style temple on the manmade lake. Stroll to the Terraza del Pincio (Pincio Terrace) for phenomenal views of the city. Or reserve an outdoor table at Casina Valadier, a gourmet restaurant located within an elegant orange villa inside the gardens. If there’s a more romantic place for dinner than this, it’s hard to imagine.
If you’re hungry for yet more classically Italian beauty, take a look at our dazzling tours of Vatican City. Or to get a sense of the other delights that lie in store when you visit Rome, check out our full list of Rome tours.