I believe the current hot topic is Coronavirus. As a blogger based in Rome, how can I maintain my normal life here? I know it is better to stay at home for the sake of myself and others, but come on, the whole month at home! If I really want to catch some fresh air, what to do in Rome now? Where to go now? The question brings me to today’s topic about the 7 best and free parks and gardens in Rome city center.
The situation is:
Midnight of last Sunday, we’ve heard the news that 16 districts of Italy would be locked down.
Monday night, the government extended the locked-down to the whole of Italy – the whole country.
Again, it was still midnight. We knew that all the business activities (mainly shops) would remain closed except supermarkets and pharmacies.
Coronavirus makes me stay in Rome without museums, theatres, bars or restaurants. This critical situation is largely affecting many people’s lives, not only the Italians’ but everyone’s in the world.
Many people get panic and are overwhelmed by the negative thoughts. It does no good to themselves, nor to the people around them. About Coronavirus, I’ve read another blogger’s recent sharing which gave a very neutral and objective opinion. I feel necessary to share with you here.
However, what I want to say is, without getting ourselves in trouble or creating problems for others, we shouldn’t let the negative situation take over us.
This post’s purpose is not to encourage people going out often under current situation, but just to give a direction if you feel the pressure of staying indoor becomes too overwhelming. I and Luigi work from home 6 days a week currently. The only 1 day, we go out to shop necessary goods, and as the newest regulation in Italy, either I go or he goes, we don’t go together.
Rome has a history of building villas and gardens since the Roman Empire. At that time, those beautiful places are private properties of those royal and important families in Rome. Many of the precious marble sculptures and art pieces which you go to see in the museums now were restored from those abandoned villas and gardens.
Now in Rome, they are public parks and gardens. Their beauty is maintained to be seen and admired by more people. Indeed, among the many free things to do in Rome, visiting the free parks and gardens in Rome is always a high-ranking option.
Talking about the current situation, I also consider parks and gardens as a good idea for an easy outdoor activity. The sun and the fresh air from there is an unlimited source of the enjoyable life sensation. And, we can make sure one-meter distance to others easily.
So which are those 7 best free parks and gardens in Rome on my list?
The most important keywords to know Villa Borghese are Borghese, art, and villas.
In 1605, Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, started his big project by turning the old vineyard to a dream villa for the great Borghese family.
The huge villa on Pinician Hill was not only a luxury private house, but also the place where Scipione stored and exhibited his art collection. This 15th-century villa hosted the greatest and the most important art pieces in Baroque and Neoclassic style. Scipione also kept a personal collection of the ancient Roman and Greek-style marble sculptures there.
To walk in the Borghese’s villa, you cannot miss the Temple of Asclepius on the peaceful lake. This huge villa also houses many fountains, for example, Fontana di Esculapio, Fontana Rotonda, and Fontana dei Cavalli Marini. If you enter from Piazza del Popolo, Terrazza dei Pincio is the first place for you to get a stunning view of Rome.
Interestingly, Villa Borghese is a villa of many villas. Villa Giulia was a summer vacation house for Pope Julius III and now Etruscan Museum. Villa Medici is now the French Academy in Rome. It was the house of Messalina, who was the third wife of Emperor Claudius. Later on, it became the powerful sign of the Medici family in Rome.
Last but not least, I have to mention Galleria Borghese. If you want to see the greatest Renaissance art in Rome, you cannot skip this museum. My recent visit to Canova’s exhibition in Museo di Roma brings me back to the room of Galleria Borghese, where has the unreal masterpiece, Venus Victrix. To visit Galleria Borghese, I highly recommend booking-in-advance. You can simply do via their website, however, now it is closed with all other museums and monuments in Rome.
Villa Doria Pamphili
Doria Pamphili is the largest public park in Rome city center nowadays. The story of this villa started from the 17th century when the Pamphili bought the vineyards close by in the area and connected them together. The most impressive history of this villa was with the General, Garibaldi. In the short history of Roman Republic in the middle 19th century, Garibaldi’s civil army overthrew the French alliance after a fierce combat in the area.
Belvedere lake in the middle and the Fontana del Giglio become the most beautiful places in this large villa. Also, there is a garden called Giardino del Teatro where you can see the Casino del Ben Respiro as a background. On the southern side, there is a trail where people walk, jog or just sit on the grass.
This was another 18th/19th century villa privately owned by the Torlonia family. It was designed by the Neoclassic architecture Giuseppe Valadier, however, you might find a big difference in its style to the other Villas in Rome. Because Mussolini took the place as his house and office from the 1920s until the end of WWII.
Musei di Villa Torlonia was originally Mussolini’s house, but now a museum hosting a small collection of Torlonia family’s properties, the art collectings and more. There is another interesting building to see in Villa Torlonia. It is called “The House of Owls”, which refers to the owl decorations inside this little house. Casina delle Civette, is its Italian name. More than the owl decoration, the style of the English garden and the large glass windows are absolutely the refreshing things to see in Rome.
The villa of the Aldobrandini family was from 16th/17th century, however, the original building and the base of this villa existed since the 2nd century. The palazzo, now is separated from the public park area, was the house of a rich art collection from the major artists in that time. To name a few, artists were Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, Tiziano, and many more. It also hosted a first-century Roman fresco called Aldobrandini Wedding, and now it is in the Vatican Apostolic Library.
Nowadays, the villa is a small and quiet park. From there, you can see the busy Rome streets because one of the most important modern streets of Rome, Via Nazionale, ends here. Piazza Venezia shows the top part, as you can see from there too. Mercati di Tjaiano is just next to it. I love this small park because it is such a peaceful place to make you forget it is in the Rome city center.
Giardino degli Aranci & Giardino di Sant’ Alessio
Passing Colosseum and Circo Massimo, climbing up Aventino Hill, you will see two beautiful gardens in a row.
Giardino degli Aranci, the “Orange Garden”, gives such a view of Rome city. The name follows its many orange trees. The legend said Saint Dominic gave the first orange tree to this garden. Then, Saint Catherine of Siena picked the oranges from this tree and made candied fruit to Pope Urban VI. This Orange Garden is the 3rd viewpoint of Rome after the ones on Pinician Hill (Villa Borghese) and Janiculum (Terrazza del Gianicolo). In spring and summer, it is a nice place to sit in the shadow of those tall trees and to read a book.
Giardino di Sant’ Alessio is between the Orange Garden and the Knights of Malta keyhole. Not much history to dig but it is a cute and nice garden. The view from there is not as good as the one from Orange Garden, but it has much fewer tourists. Next to it, is the famous keyhole which always attracts a line of people who wants to admire the genius design. You can see St.Peter’s dome! Well, whether it is a trick by its designer or not, is not clear.
Parco del Colle Oppio
The Oppian Hill park lays between Colosseum and Cavour (“Suburra”). Rome is built upon layers and this park is the perfect example. Under it, there is Domus Aurea (Golden House of Emperor Nero). On the surface, you can see part of the Baths of Trajan (Tjaiano) and the earlier Baths of Titus. Now we cannot get closer nor see more because many archaeological works are still in progress.
The park itself is very much to the local community. In the weekends, it is not difficult to see many locals walking there and school kids having their weekend-sport.
Following the central avenue of this park, you will see Colosseum from below the hill.
This is a very different and off-the-beaten angle to see Colosseum, especially when green trees are covering the ancient monument in half.
To visit all the public parks and gardens doesn’t require a ticket or any charge. However, each park or garden has their own opening house. The easiest way is to Google it before you go. As a local, I have one more tip. Day time is the best timing to go to those beautiful and free parks and gardens in Rome. I will not suggest to visit in the post-sunset hours!