Villa Borghese ★
The Villa Borghese is Rome's version of Central Park—only with more museums
In the northeast quadrant of the historic center, accessible from Piazza del Popolo and the adjacent Piazzale Falminio, the top of Via Veneto, Via di Porta Pinciana, and Via delle Belle Arti,
tel. +39-06-6710-9312 or +39-06-6710-9315
Open: Daily dawn to dusk
No official site for the park, but here's a great, kid-centric blog entry from Jan 2010: lolamamma.wordpress.com
Museums in the park
Galleria Borghese: www.galleriaborghese.it
Villa Giulia: villagiulia.beniculturali.it
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna: www.gnam.beniculturali.it
Other park attractions
Puppet theater: www.sancarlino.it
Globe Theatre a Villa Borghese: www.globetheatreroma.com
• Skip the Line: Borghese Gallery and Gardens Walking Tour
• Rome Segway Tour: Villa Borghese
• Private Tour: Borghese Gallery and Baroque Rome Art History Walking Tour
• Rome by Night Coach Tour
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The Tempietto of Asclepio in Villa Borghese. (Photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist)Rome's greatest central green lung is the Villa Borghese park, 226 acres of gardens, statue- and bust-lined paths, fountains, artificial lakes, museums, and tehaters (including a replica of Shakepseare's Globe—performances in Italian only, though; www.globetheatreroma.com/).
Renting a bike in Villa Borghese park
It's a pretty big park, so I like to get around by renting a bike.
I usually hit the octagonal kiosk at the southeast corner of the Pincio area where Viale dell'Orolorgio meets Viale Medici, though here are other rental locations in the park: Viale dei Bambini at Via di Villa Medici; Viale JW Goethe, Piazzale M. Cervantes, Viale dell'Uccelleria (near the Galleria Borghese; www.ascolbike.com), and on Via delle Belle Arti near the Bipparco and the Modern Art Museum (www.ronconibiciclette.it).
Bikes cost about €4 an hour, or €10 for the day.
From October 2012 to Oct 2013, the city is experimenting with renting electric bikes at stations on Via delle Magnolie and Piazza delle Canestre—but, inconveniently and inexplicably, you must book ahead at tel. +39-199-206-066 (€2.50 for two hours maximum; afterwards, you pay a €10 an hour "penalty").
Another favorite activity: rent a paddleboat on the small lake with its weensy 19th-century Greek-style temple on a mini-island.
This being Rome, the park also contains a number of foreign academies, institutes, and museums, the best of which include:
- Galleria Borghese ★★★ - Among my favorite little museums in the world, positively crammed with Caravaggios and Berninis—and one you really must book ahead to visit. It's in the northeast corner of the park. » more
- Villa Giulia - Miles and miles of Etruscan vases and other antiquities, well worth it for the Classically inclined; in the northwest corner of the park (tel. +39-06-322-6571; villagiulia.beniculturali.it; open Tues-Sun 8:30am–7:30pm).
- Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna - A national gallery of modern and contemporary art; along the northern edge of the park (tel. +39-06-322-981; www.gnam.beniculturali.it; open Tues-Sun 8:30am–7:30pm).
The Pincio and the puppet shows
The terraces up to Villa Borghese's Pincio Gardens above Piazza del Popolo. (Photo by Sailko)The Villa Borghese is sub-divided into several different park areas. Make sure you make time for the terraced 19th-century Pincio Gardens rising above Piazza del Popolo.
It offers great views, a nifty old merry-go-round, and an old fashioned Teatro del Burattino (puppet theater) on Viale dei Bambini Villa Borghese, with shows Saturdays and Sundays, and occasionally other days (closed Jan and Aug; tel. +39-06-6992-2117; www.sancarlino.it).
The Bioparco zoo
It is one of the oldest zoos in Europe (founded 1911), but in the mid-1990s was retooled from a zoo of cages to a biological garden of natural habitat enclosures which primarily house endangered species and injured animals that are being rehabilitated to return to the wild.
It has become a teaching zoo, with placards at each endangered or threatened animal's enclosure that show via pictograms what threat the animal faces in the wild (climate changes, pollution, habitat destruction, hunting, etc.).
The bears, wolves, lions, and apes are especially popular. (I always get a charge out of suddenly seeing wolves pacing past me when I tool by the outer fence on a rented bicycle.)
The Rome Zoo is in the northeast corner of the park; take Tram 19 to "Bioparco." It is open daily 9:30am to 6pm (weekends to 7pm); Late Oct –Mar it can close earlier (as early as 5pm or 4pm).
- Planning your day: Hey: it's a park. You spend however long you want in here. I'd say give it at least two hours.
- Picnic time: Rome's main park makes a great shady spot for that picnic fit for a Roman emperor. » more
- Book a tour: If you prefer a private guided tour that includes the Villa Borghese, book one via our partners:
- More parks and gardens in Rome
- More sights in and around Villa Borghese and Via Veneto
- Sights in the neighboring Tridente neighborhood
- Putting together a Rome picnic
This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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