Filled with historical treasure troves, artistic masterpieces, scenic nature, and spectacular views, Villa Borghese park is one of Rome’s most attractive public gardens. A green oasis in the middle of the busy heart of the Italian capital, its borders run through the serpentine Viale del Muro Torto, Via Pinciana, Viale di Trinità dei Monti and Parioli neighborhood. Whether you are traveling to Rome with a baby or with a toddler, or discovering the romantic side of Rome as a couple, Villa Borghese has it all.
But what to do in Villa Borghese besides jogging and picnicking? Here are some of our suggestions after exploring the park a few times, enjoying some of its landmarks, and planning to see more of it!
A bit of history
In origins, this was the site of the ancient Horti Luculli, roughly where the Pincio hill is situated. The construction of the scenic urban park we see today began in 1606 by the will of Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V Borghese, who wanted to build a magnificent residence in line with the family’s undisputed stature in the Roman aristocratic scene.
Originally, the villa was built on a relatively small land the family had owned since the 16th century expanded through the purchase of bordering lands and from 1611, the ever-expanding villa was supplied water with the Aqua Felice aqueduct. After less than a decade, Villa Borghese was a triumph of imposing gates, lush gardens and majestic palaces protected by lavish tree-lined fences.
The residential palace, known as Casino Nobile, was built as a luxurious building but from the beginning, most of it was set up like a museum to display the huge art collection amassed by the Borghese family, and only a limited area devoted to the private apartments. The palace was extremely elegant with the main facade featuring a sumptuous double staircase and the two sides being rich in bas-reliefs, carvings, and sculptures.
All this artwork contributed to making the building a precious architectural feat surrounded by what was once the villa’s “Secret Gardens”, the family’s private gardens protected by walls where they planted fine flowers and citrus fruit trees. At the end of the gardens were the two buildings of the Uccelliera (aviary), where, according to old documents, rare birds were kept to be seen by visitors, and Meridiana, built similar to the Aviary and featuring a solar clock. Today, the gardens are not so secret anymore, but they have been restored as loyally as possible to their original look.
What to see and do in Villa Borghese
Visit Galleria Borghese
The Casino Nobile became the great Galleria Borghese, one of the top museums to visit in Rome. A rich collection of artwork dating between the 16th and the 18th centuries, wandering the rooms of Galleria Borghese you can see the masterpieces of Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael and Canova among others. You can either visit independently or book a guided tour for a deeper understanding of the art and history behind the beautiful Villa Borghese palace.
Row a boat
With as little as 4€ for 20 minutes, you can rent a little boat and gently row it in the lake of Villa Borghese around the beautiful Temple of Aesculapius. This is a lovely romantic experience and can also be fun if you have children, they will love floating around the ducks that populate this quiet little lake.
Enjoy the view from the Pincio Terrace
Take in all the beauty of Piazza del Popolo from above watching from the beautiful terrace of the Pincio hill in Villa Borghese. While Piazza del Popolo is immediately below, your view will extend to all the Tridente streets, meaning Via del Corso, Via di Ripetta and Via del Babuino and all the way to Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano complex.
Find its fountains
Scattered all around the park are beautiful water-gushing sculptures that feature different subjects from goddesses to marine creatures. Walking around the park you will see the fountains here and there and they make the gardens even more beautiful. Don’t miss the beautiful Sea Horse Fountain in Piazzale dei Cavalli Marini, the Aesculapius Fountain, and the Venus Fountain in Piazzale Scipione Borghese.
See the water clock
Villa Borghese’s water clock is very close to the Pincio terrace. Built by Dominican friar Giovanni Battista Embriaco, a great clock enthusiastic, in 1867 and was finally exposed to where we see it today in 1873 with the installation by the Granaglia brothers. Set in a lovely pond, the engine of this clock works with water, the element that also charges the striking mechanism. It’s a very quiet place to visit in Villa Borghese where you can also sit and relax a little before resuming your journey around this historical park.
Go on a safari at Rome’s zoo
This might be more of a place to go with children in Rome, but adults like it, too. Rome’s zoo, Italy’s largest, is known as Bioparco and is located inside Villa Borghese. Housing different animal species from all over the world, lately Bioparco has been focusing on sustainability, animal protection, and conservation of endangered species.
You can simply plan an independent visit or book a tour with an in-house guide who will explain everything connected to the animals hosted there and also involve your children in fascinating and interactive experiences. If you would like to join a tour, it’s recommended to book it at least a week before the visit through their website.
Go on a literary walk
Many countries have donated to the city of Rome the statues of their national poets and writers, so a walk around Villa Borghese will reveal the marble portrait of authors like the German Goethe, the Persian Ferdowsi, the French Victor Hugo and the Arab poet Ahmed Shawky.
Visit Carlo Bilotti Museum in the Aranciera
A museum of contemporary art, this is set in Villa Borghese Orangery (Aranciera), a sort of greenhouse where oranges, lemons, and all citrus fruits were kept. The museum hosts the private collection of entrepreneur and passionate art collector Carlo Bilotti who gathered, throughout the years, masterpieces of contemporary artists including Andy Warhol, Giorgio de Chirico, Gino Severini, Larry Rivers and Giacomo Manzù.
Feel the London vibe at the Globe Theatre
That’s right, also in Rome, there is the Elizabethian Globe Theatre, and also in Rome, they put in act Shakespeare’s tragedies and the plays of the English Renaissance, as well as adaptations aimed at families with children. If you are interested in booking your seat for a show, check out directly their website.
Go on a bike tour
Being Villa Borghese park so huge, if you book a bike tour or rent a pedal-powered vehicle, you will definitely have the chance to see more of it than if you traveled around on foot. Usually guided tours last two to three hours, so once they are over, you can also enter the Borghese Gallery to complete the history of the powerful family former owner of the villa.
Casina di Raffaello – Ludoteca
Commissioned by the patron of the villa, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, as the house for the family’s cloakroom attendant. Originally, it was surrounded by mulberry trees until the end of the 18th century, when they built Piazza di Siena for the family’s mundane events. Today, Casina di Raffaello is being used as a Game Room where they organize events and workshops for children that you can book by calling Rome’s municipality number 060608.
Where to eat near Villa Borghese
Inside Villa Borghese, there is the small and quaint cafe of Casina del Lago located near Carlo Bilotti Museum and following the same opening hours. Serving breakfast, and a light, casual lunch, it’s perfect for a break during your Villa Borghese tour. For more places to eat within the park, there is the luxury Casina Valadier restaurant that also offers fantastic views of Rome’s rooftops.
From every exit of Villa Borghese, you can reach many good Rome restaurants in different neighborhoods. If you leave the park near Flaminio, you can eat at the lovely Margutta, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Rome, or walk a little more along Via del Corso and stop at Ginger in Via Borgognona.
If you leave from Piazza di Spagna, you can enjoy an English tea experience at Babington’s Tea Rooms, while if you exit from the northern side, near Galleria Borghese Museum, in about ten minutes walk you can reach Piazza Fiume, around which is a fantastic variety of great restaurants such as Berberè pizzeria, Smor Scandinavian-inspired street food place, Ops! vegan restaurant, Santi Sebastiano e Valentino bakery and bistro, and Faro – Caffè Specialty coffee shop.
Where to stay near Villa Borghese
From luxury to budget, some of the best hotels to book in the area include Sofitel Villa Borghese, a 5-star boutique hotel featuring luxury rooms and a great rooftop restaurant, Majestic Hotel in Via Veneto or Hotel Splendide Royal Via di Porta Pinciana.
- Address. There are different entrances to Villa Borghese so as many streets you can access from such as Via Aldrovandi, Via Raimondi, Via Pinciana, Piazzale San Paolo del Brasile, Piazzale Flaminio, Piazzale Cervantes, Piazzale Pablo Picasso (via di Valle Giulia).
- How to reach. Since it’s so big and counting so many entrances, you can reach Villa Borghese in many ways. The easiest is with metro, line A, and stops Flaminio and Spagna. Right next to Flaminio there is the long
- Opening hours. The park is always open. Galleria Borghese museum opens 9 am to 7 pm (last entrance is at 6 pm).
- Entrance fee. Accessing the park is free of charge. The ticket for Galleria Borghese is 13€.
- Best time to go. If you want to picnic, walk, run, rent a bike, or one of those cute pedal-powered vehicles, you need to visit Villa Borghese on a nice day, better in summer or spring, or at least a clear winter day.