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Step Inside Rome's Borghese Gardens

The Borghese Gardens, located in the heart of Rome, are more than just a collection of beautiful landscapes and fountains. They represent an enduring legacy of art, culture, and history that resonates with both locals and visitors alike. These gardens, designed in the early 17th century, unfold a narrative that is as complex and captivating as the city itself.

You can hear more Rome stories with Gesso’s self-guided audio walking tours, which you can experience at your own pace.

Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

The Borghese Gardens were created at the behest of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, who wanted to transform his vineyard into a grand garden. The garden's design was commissioned to the architect Flaminio Ponzio and later to his assistant Giovanni Vasanzio.

The original layout of the gardens was a reflection of Renaissance ideals, blending natural elements with classical art and architecture. It was meant to serve as both a private sanctuary for the Cardinal and a venue for lavish parties and gatherings.

The centerpiece of the gardens is the Villa Borghese, which houses the renowned Galleria Borghese. This gallery contains an extraordinary collection of sculptures, paintings, and antiquities, including masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael.

The gardens themselves were adorned with sculptures, fountains, and architectural features, turning the entire estate into an open-air museum. The decision to incorporate art into the natural landscape was groundbreaking and has influenced garden design for centuries to come.

Over the years, the Borghese Gardens underwent several changes in ownership and design. In the 18th century, the garden was remodeled into an English-style landscape under the direction of the architect Mario Asprucci. This transformation marked a departure from the formal layout, giving way to meandering paths, artificial lakes, and lush greenery.

In the early 19th century, the gardens were acquired by Napoleon's sister, Paolina Bonaparte, and became known as the "Villa Paolina." During this period, the garden became a gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals.

The Borghese Gardens were opened to the public in 1903, symbolizing a democratic shift in their accessibility and function. They quickly became a beloved retreat for Romans seeking respite from the city's hustle and bustle. Today, the gardens offer a wide range of recreational activities, including boating on the artificial lake, visiting the Bioparco di Roma (a zoological garden), and enjoying performances at the outdoor Silvano Toti Globe Theatre.

Discover more local history with our Italy audio walking tours, and see which nearby Rome neighborhoods you want to explore next.


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