Villa Borghese

The Tempietto of Asclepio on the Laghetto in Rome's Villa Borghese Gardens park
The Tempietto of Asclepio in Villa Borghese. (Photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist)

The Villa Borghese is Rome's version of Central Park—only with more museums

Rome's greatest central green lung is the Villa Borghese park, 226 acres of gardens, statue- and bust-lined paths, fountains, artificial lakes, museums, and tehaters (including a replica of Shakepseare's Globe—performances in Italian only, though; www.globetheatreroma.com/).

Renting a bike in Villa Borghese park

It's a pretty big park, so I like to get around by renting a bike.

I usually hit the octagonal kiosk at the southeast corner of the Pincio area where Viale dell'Orolorgio meets Viale Medici, though here are other rental locations in the park: Viale dei Bambini at Via di Villa Medici; Viale JW Goethe, Piazzale M. Cervantes, Viale dell'Uccelleria (near the Galleria Borghese; www.ascolbike.com, tel. +39-339-602-0432), and on Via delle Belle Arti near the Bipparco and the Modern Art Museum (www.ronconibiciclette.it)

Bikes cost about €4 an hour, or €10 for the day.

Another favorite activity: rent a paddleboat on the small lake with its weensy 19th-century Greek-style temple on a mini-island.

The museums

This being Rome, the park also contains a number of foreign academies, institutes, and museums, the best of which include:

  • Galleria Borghese ★★★ - Among my favorite little museums in the world, positively crammed with Caravaggios and Berninis—and one you really must book ahead to visit. It's in the northeast corner of the park. » more
  • Villa Giulia - Miles and miles of Etruscan vases and other antiquities, well worth it for the Classically inclined; in the northwest corner of the park (tel. +39-06-322-6571; villagiulia.beniculturali.it; open Tues-Sun 8:30am–7:30pm).
  • Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna - A national gallery of modern and contemporary art; along the northern edge of the park (tel. +39-06-322-981; www.gnam.beniculturali.it; open Tues-Sun 8:30am–7:30pm).

The Pincio and the puppet shows

The terraces up to Villa Borghese's Pinco Gardens above Piazza del Popolo.
The terraces up to Villa Borghese's Pincio Gardens above Piazza del Popolo. (Photo by Sailko)

The Villa Borghese is sub-divided into several different park areas. Make sure you make time for the terraced 19th-century Pincio Gardens rising above Piazza del Popolo.

It offers great views, a nifty old merry-go-round, and an old fashioned Teatro del Burattino (puppet theater) on Viale dei Bambini Villa Borghese, with shows Saturdays and Sundays, and occasionally other days (closed Jan and Aug; tel. +39-06-6992-2117; www.sancarlino.it).

The Bioparco zoo

Giraffes at the Bioparco Zoo in Rome's Villa Borghese Park.
Giraffes at the Bioparco. (Photo by Alinti)
Kids overwhelmed by too many churches and museum might enjoy a break at the the newly revamped Bioparco zoo (tel. +39-06-361-4015; www.bioparco.it).

It is one of the oldest zoos in Europe (founded 1911), but in the mid-1990s was retooled from a zoo of cages to a biological garden of natural habitat enclosures which primarily house endangered species and injured animals that are being rehabilitated to return to the wild.

It has become a teaching zoo, with placards at each endangered or threatened animal's enclosure that show via pictograms what threat the animal faces in the wild (climate changes, pollution, habitat destruction, hunting, etc.).

The bears, wolves, lions, and apes are especially popular. (I always get a charge out of suddenly seeing wolves pacing past me when I tool by the outer fence on a rented bicycle.)

The Rome Zoo is in the northeast corner of the park; take Tram 19 to "Bioparco." It is open daily 9:30am to 6pm (weekends to 7pm); Late Oct –Mar it can close earlier (as early as 5pm or 4pm).

Tips & links

Details
ADDRESS

In the northeast quadrant of the historic center, accessible from Piazza del Popolo and the adjacent Piazzale Falminio, the top of Via Veneto, Via di Porta Pinciana, and Via delle Belle Arti,
tel. +39-06-6710-9312 or +39-06-6710-9315

No official site for the park, but here's a great, kid-centric blog entry from Jan 2010: lolamamma.wordpress.com

Museums in the park
Galleria Borghese: www.galleriaborghese.it
Villa Giulia: villagiulia.beniculturali.it
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna: www.gnam.beniculturali.it

Other park attractions
Puppet theater: www.sancarlino.it
Zoo: www.bioparco.it
Globe Theatre a Villa Borghese: www.globetheatreroma.com

OPEN

Daily dawn-dusk

(Visit sites for more details)

ADMISSION

Free

(Visit sites for more details)

TRANSPORT

Bus: 52, 53, 61, 89, 120F, 150F, 160, 160F, 490, 491, 495, M, 116
Metro: Spagna (A)
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza di Spagna

TOURS
How long does Villa Borghese take?

Planning your day: Hey: it's a park. You spend however long you want in here. I'd say give it at least two hours.. » Rome itineraries

Picnic Time

Rome's main park makes a great shady spot for that picnic fit for a Roman emperor. » more

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Giardini Villa Borghese
ADDRESS

In the northeast quadrant of the historic center, accessible from Piazza del Popolo and the adjacent Piazzale Falminio, the top of Via Veneto, Via di Porta Pinciana, and Via delle Belle Arti,
tel. +39-06-6710-9312 or +39-06-6710-9315

No official site for the park, but here's a great, kid-centric blog entry from Jan 2010: lolamamma.wordpress.com

Museums in the park
Galleria Borghese: www.galleriaborghese.it
Villa Giulia: villagiulia.beniculturali.it
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna: www.gnam.beniculturali.it

Other park attractions
Puppet theater: www.sancarlino.it
Zoo: www.bioparco.it
Globe Theatre a Villa Borghese: www.globetheatreroma.com

OPEN

Daily dawn-dusk

(Visit sites for more details)

ADMISSION

Free

(Visit sites for more details)

TRANSPORT

Bus: 52, 53, 61, 89, 120F, 150F, 160, 160F, 490, 491, 495, M, 116
Metro: Spagna (A)
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza di Spagna

TOURS


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