Borghese & Pincio Gardens Walk

If you look at a color map of Rome, you will see a large, heart-shaped greenspace. This is Villa Borghese Gardens. Within 148 acres are nearly 90 attractions for all members of the family. Top features include some of Rome’s best art museums. Adjacent to Villa Borghese is Pincio Gardens. Although smaller, it contains over 200 amazing sculptures. Your circular walking tour will end at Piazza del Popolo. This is a few feet from where you started.

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1 Neoclassical Gateway to Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

Visiting Villa Borghese Gardens is a captivating way to spend several hours. The 148 acre park is designed as an English landscape garden. Prior to the 17th century, this was the vineyard of Cardinal Scipione Borghese. 300 years of evolution passed before the gardens opened to the public. Nestled among rolling hills and treelined green space are lakes, sculptures, monuments, the zoo, museums and historic villas. The next several photos will introduce you to some of the park’s highlights. This Neoclassical gateway to the gardens is located at Piazzale Flaminio.

Viale Giorgio Washington, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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2 Carlo Bilotti Museum in Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

The Ceuli family were wealthy bankers when they built a villa in the 16th century. The property became palatial and filled with spectacular art when owned by Marcantonio IV Borghese during the 18th century. The former Villa Borghese Orangery now houses the Carlo Bilotti Museum. Inside is the private collection of the cosmetic entrepreneur who died in 2006. Contemporary artists represented include Any Warhol and surrealist Giorgio de Chirico. In a rectangular garden outside of the museum is the Neoclassical style Portico of Lions dating from 1800.

Viale Fiorello La Guardia, 6, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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3 National Gallery of Modern Art in Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

The heart-shaped Villa Borghese Gardens is often referred to as Museum Park. One of the spectacular reasons is the National Gallery of Modern Art. Since it was founded in 1883, the collection of La Galleria Nazional has grown to over 1,000 pieces from celebrated 19th and 20th century Italian artists. International painters such as Degas, Monet, Rodin and Van Gogh are also represented. There are 75 rooms of exhibit space inside the Palace of Fine Arts.

Viale delle Belle Arti, 131, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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4 Romanian Academy in Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

There are a half dozen academies within Villa Borghese Gardens. Each is sponsored by a different country. Accademia di Romania was founded in 1920. Romanian architect Petre Antonescu designed these facilities which opened in 1933. The mission of Romanian Academy in Rome is to educate about Romania’s culture, history and language. It is also a research institute.

Piazza José de S. Martín, 1, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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5 British School at Rome at Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

This marvelous design by London-based architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was created as the Britain Pavilion for Rome’s 1911 world’s fair called the International Exhibition of Art. The Neoclassical building was then repurposed for the British School at Rome. The research center fosters the understanding of Italy’s literature, arts and history. BSR was granted a royal charter in 1912 and is financed by the British government.

Via Antonio Gramsci, 61, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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6 Zoological Garden at Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

When Rome’s zoo opened in Villa Borghese Gardens in 1911, it was heralded as a zoo without bars because of the open spaces designed by Carl Hagenbeck. Bioparco di Roma currently has about 1,100 animals representing over 200 species across 42 acres. Among the most popular animals are “lions and tigers and bears … oh my!”

Viale del Giardino Zoologico, 1, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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7 Borghese Gallery at Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

The namesake and must-see attraction at Villa Borghese Gardens is the Borghese Gallery. The property was the extravagant passion of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577 to 1633). In 1613, he commissioned Flaminio Ponzio to design Villa Borghese Pinciana, also called Casino Nobile. Rumors claim the construction, plus the cardinal’s lavish love of art, were secretly funded by the papal government. These became the foundation of Galleria Borghese when it opened in 1903. The museum exhibits artwork – many considered masterpieces – from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Have fun exploring the 20 opulent rooms decorated with carved marble and fresco ceilings.

Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
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8 Introduction to Pincio Gardens in Rome, Italy

Adjacent to Villa Borghese Gardens yet separated by the 3rd century Aurelian Wall is the much smaller Pincio Gardens. The gardens’ name and where it is located (Pincian Hill) is derived from Pincii family. They lived here in the 4th century. It was later the vineyard of Santa Maria del Popolo in nearby Piazza Del Popolo. The current landscape was created for Napoleon in 1818 by Giuseppe Valadier. There are an amazing 228 sculptures in this park. The Moses Fountain by Francesco Laboureur portrays when the hidden baby was discovered in the Nile River by a pharaoh’s daughter.

Viale dell'Obelisco, a39, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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9 Water Clock at Pincio Gardens in Rome, Italy

A curiosity to admire at Pincio Gardens is the Water Clock. The hydrochronometer was invented by Dominican friar Giovanni Battista Embriaco and exhibited at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867. The four-side dials still show the accurate time.

Viale dell'Obelisco, a39, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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10 Elevated View from Pincio Gardens in Rome, Italy

The visual highlight of Pincio Gardens is the elevated panorama from Terrazza del Pincio. Below you is Piazza Del Popolo. Punctuating People’s Square is the 79 foot tall Flaminio Obelisk. It was created during the 66 year reign (1279 – 1213 BC) of Ramses II. Many experts consider him Egypt’s most powerful pharaoh. Obelisco Flaminio was imported to Rome by Emperor Augustus in 10 BC. Behind this artifact is the Fountain of Neptune created by Giovanni Ceccarini in 1823. From the terrace overlook you are also treated to a spectacular view of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on the other side of the Tiber River.

Terrazza del Pincio, Viale Gabriele D'Annunzio, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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11 Goddess of Rome Fountain at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

Descend from the Terrazza del Pincio at Pincio Gardens (background) to the oval-shaped Piazza del Popolo. Then admire the Goddess of Rome Fountain. In the center is Roma, the personification of the city. Origins of this deity are from 195 BC. Flanking her are allegories for the Tiber and Aniene, the two rivers that converge in Rome. At Roma’s feet is the she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. This marble sculptural grouping was created by Giovanni Ceccarini from 1818 to 1824.

Piazza del Popolo, 16, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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12 Porta del Popolo at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

Over 2, 200 years ago, a road was constructed from the Adriatic Sea into Rome. The terminus for Flaminian Way (Via Flaminia) and the city’s entrance was the gate on the left. The first version, Porta Flaminia, was built in 1475. It was renamed Porta del Popolo after reconstruction in 1565. Interestingly, the columns on the façade were salvaged from the Old St. Peter’s Basilica (built in 360 AD). Sharing the northern edge of Piazza del Popolo is Santa Maria del Popolo.

Piazza del Popolo, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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13 Santa Maria del Popolo at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

This site has a fascinating legend. Nero, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, was buried here after dying from assisted suicide in 68 AD. His evil spirit plagued those who entered Rome until a massive walnut tree housing demons was exorcised in 1099. In thanksgiving for the spiritual cleansing, Pope Paschal II had a chapel built. The origin of the first church of Santa Maria ad Flaminiam was during the 13th century. The current structure is called the Parish Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo (St. Mary of the People). The Augustinian church dates from the 1470s with a significant renovation in the 17th century. Next door is the Leonardo da Vinci Museum.

Piazza del Popolo, 12, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
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