Rome has long been known for its architecture and artistry. However, a lesser known fact of Rome is that it’s home to some of the most beautiful gardens in all of Europe. In all of the sophistication, elegance and prowess this city has to offer, you can still come out of it feeling like a hot sticky mess. This is where the gardens come into play. Studies have recently shown that people respond favorably to green spaces. Green open spaces can induce a psychological/physiological sense of calm and serenity. In other words, your very own happy place, far away from the shouting tourists and beeping traffic. Take in the sunset at the end of your day or even just rest and cool down. No matter whether you are on a tour of the Vatican, or visiting the Borghese Gallery, there is always a garden near. The following is a list of our 6 favorite gardens within walking distance of the city center.
Widely known as the Central Park of Rome, the Borghese Gardens span across 226 acres, from Piazza del Poppolo to the top of Via Veneto. In 1605 it became the life work of Cardinal Scipione Borghese to transform this expanse from a vineyard into the most luxurious dwelling in Rome. It was only under these conditions that the rest of the Borghese family would agree to put the gardens in their name. These vast gardens are home to a plethora of unique attractions, including; fountains, sculptures, children’s areas and a lake to relax at. If you are just spending one day at the park, it’s nice to have a few areas to visit in mind. One of our favorites and a winner for every age group is the Bioparco. Here you can witness a wide variety of wildlife and unique horticulture. This is one of Europe’s oldest zoological gardens. The goal of this area is to protect animals from extinction by developing unique habitats for each species to thrive. Additionally, there are a series of enclaves “Secret Gardens” if you are looking for a more private experience.
Covering more than half of the Vatican City (57 acres), these gardens spread from the western border up to the Vatican hill. These gardens were started by Pope Nicholas II during the 13th century and came into fruition during the 16th century. This green space has commonly been used as a place of meditation and relaxation by many a Pope. Two key factors differentiating these gardens from most are the unique papal shrines and three distinct landscaping styles. The landscaping styles are split out into French, English and Italian influence. French influence can be seen via the elaborate flower arrangements. English influence can be seen via the gravel paths and naturalistic design. Italian influence is apparent through the elegant sculptures and water features on display. Since the beginning of the 16th century, these gardens have become an ongoing collection of renaissance artwork, architecture, sculptures and fountains. Some of our favourites include; the “Fountain of the Eagle” and “Lourdes Grotto”.
Orange Garden (Savello Park)
Designed by architect Raffaele De Vico in 1932 and spanning 8,000 square meters, the Orange Gardens are hailed as the most beautiful spot to capture the sunset in Rome. Located at “Piazza Pietro d’Illiria” this garden can be found between the river Tiber and Circo Massimo. On entry, you are greeted by a fountain dating back to the ancient city’s thermal baths. The garden itself is predominantly one long, wide avenue, lined with tall flat topped trees giving it a uniquely shaded silhouette effect. On the way out, make sure to look for the “Priory of the Knights of Malta”. Just by the priory is one of Rome’s best kept secrets, an Iron gate with a keyhole view of St. Peter’s basilica. No matter how tempting it may be, make sure not to pick the fruit in this thriving orchard, it is deemed forbidden by the locals.
Rose Garden (Roseto Communale)
Less than 300 meters from the Orange Garden is the Rose Garden. This was originally the site of Rome’s Jewish cemetery and is paid homage to with symbols and features such as a path depicting the Menorah. The 10,000 square meter grounds are home to a huge collection of roses with extensive and elaborate range. The delicate beauty of the roses along the contrasting backdrop of the Palatine Ruins create a uniquely memorable experience. This is a beautiful place to spend some time, stroll around, lounge on a bench or take a photo by the heart shaped trail.
Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico)
Stretching over the slopes of the Gianicolo Hills in Trastevere (walking distance from the Vatican), the Botanical Gardens are a sight to behold. In all, the gardens encompass a 30-acre space with 2,000 square meters of greenhouses and over 3,000 different species of plants. On entry to the gardens you will pass an array of themed plant life, each of which lay host to some of the world’s rarest species. The Japanese Gardens are among our favorites, here you will find delicate displays and waterfalls that engulf you with a sense of calm and serenity. The Mediterranean Garden is home to a collection of palm trees and cacti. The Garden of Aroma is a more subtle landscape, home to plants that can be identified by their distinctive smell or touch. No trip to the botanical gardens is complete without a visit to each of its four greenhouses. The Corsini Greenhouse, Monumental Greenhouse, French Greenhouse and Tropical Greenhouse. Each of these host plants from various exotic ecosystems throughout the world. Among all of this beauty lie fountains and food to make sure all of your senses are treated.
Villa Doria Pamphili
These gardens are located on the Gianicolo, making them the furthest of our top 6 from the city center. However, do not let that deter you from a visit to this beautiful, intricate landscape. At 450 acres, these are the largest public gardens in all of Rome. Of all the many splendors throughout this vast expanse, the star of the show must be Casino del Bel Respiro. This beautiful building overlooks a geometric garden, host to peculiar architecture including; chapels, statues and roman ruins. Additional features to make note of are; a series of small waterfalls, Mediterranean gardens and elaborate water features.