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When visiting Rome, the average tourist thinks of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica, and certainly not of the gardens. A shame because the gardens in Rome are as much a part of the city’s history as all those important monuments.
And the best thing about the parks in Rome: a large number of them are public parks that are therefore free and quite easily accessible, right in the center. These gardens represent a peaceful respite from the city’s chaos, just a couple of steps away from the most important monuments!
So, without further ado, keep reading to learn about the top Rome gardens.
Villa Borghese is the most central large park in Rome as well as the fourth largest public park. It’s located on Pincian Hill in central Rome, just a couple of steps away from Piazza del Popolo.
The large gardens were developed for Villa Borghese, a suburban estate of cardinal Scipione Borghese at the start of the 17th century. The park was remodeled and enlarged in the 19th century by Camillo and Francesco Borghese, while it was bought out by the Italian state in 1903 and made a public park.
What once was a large suburban vineyard at the edge of Rome is today a central public park right next to the well-known Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo. The large villas in the park house several museums, among them the Galleria Borghese and The National Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art.
Other than the villas that are remnants of the 1911 world exposition in Rome, the park is home to fountains, little caves and temples, monuments, and even a replica of the Globe Theatre. The park’s zoo has recently been redesigned into a cageless Bioparco and the Zoological Museum.
Villa Doria Pamphili
The largest of Rome’s urban parks, Villa Doria Pamphili, is located on a hill in the Monteverde district. This large park offers everything from picnic areas, free gym equipment, kids’ playgrounds, and large areas of greenery.
Far more than just a park, though, Villa Doria Pamphili is a magnificent maze of pedestrian paths, fantastical fountains, and incredible villas. Have a stroll and discover the Casino del Bel Respiro and numerous fountains, the Casino’s terraced gardens, and little waterfalls.
While you’re at it, visit the Arch of the Four Winds, the only reminder of the Villa Corsini, destroyed during Garibaldi’s fight against the French troops in 1850. And do not miss the nearby Palazzino Corsini if you’d like to enjoy some art!
Parco degli Acquedotti
Completely off the tourist track of a typical visitor of Rome but no less grand is Parco degli Acquedotti or the Aqueduct Park. The grand structures that give the park its name are the remains of ancient Roman aqueducts and are today a part of the wider complex of Appia Antica Park.
Apart from the aqueducts, this park is characterized by large pine trees, throwing shade over the paths and meadows of this park. Because it’s so far out of the city, the only people you’ll likely run into will be Romans. This place is perfect for spending a relaxing day in nature with a picnic.
In the park, you can see the remains of 7 separate aqueducts as well as several medieval structures, like the Casale Roma Vecchia, a defense structure later converter into a farm, the Torre del Fiscale and Torre di Guardia su Cisterna, both defensive towers, and the remains of the ancient Via Latina.
Nicola Calipari Gardens
Another entry in the category of free gardens in Rome is the Nicola Calipari Gardens in the center of Rome’s Esquilino district. The exotic, statue-filled gardens are the heart of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. and are characterized by numerous palms, magnolias, and plane trees.
In the Garden, named after an Italian secret agent killed in Iraq in 2005, you’ll find several fountains, Fontana degli Zampilli, Fontana del Glauco, affectionately called the fritto misto, from 1910, and the grand structure called Trofei di Mario, dated to 226 AD, intended to be a water distribution castle.
When you visit, don’t miss the Porta Magica, the only part that remains of Villa Palombara, built in 1620 and demolished in the second half of the 19th century during the building of the new district. The door called Alchemical Gate contains inscriptions in Hebrew and Latin and numerous symbols that seem to relate to the mystical philosopher’s stone.
Garden of Palazzo Venezia
One of the best secret gardens in Rome and a well-kept secret at that, the gardens of Palazzo Venezia have only been open to the public for a few years. Set in the palace courtyard, the gardens are surrounded by a mix of buildings in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.
The Garden is just a short walk from the Fori Imperiali, the Capitoline Hill, and Museums. To get to the gardens you can enter through the gate at 118 Via del Plebiscito or pass the Basilica di San Marco and you’ll see the gate in the corner.
The garden has a decorative fountain and several benches under palm trees which are perfect for a rest after a day filled with activities. The quiet space is also perfect for a quick snack before you’re off exploring the many wonders of Rome again.
Garden of Orange Trees
One of the best and most famous spots to go at sunset is the Garden of Orange Trees on the Aventine Hill. Its official name is Parco Savello, and that’s the name you’ll probably find on a map of Rome.
Nowadays, it’s probably going to be filled with people, but it’s still well worth a visit just for the spectacular view over Rome.
The garden was built by Raffaele de Vico in 1932 with the aim of providing a viewpoint that could match those of Pincio and Gianicolo. The garden offers ample shade from the large pine trees, and the namesake orange trees flank the central path on both sides.
While this garden doesn’t have any amenities or a playground, it can still be very busy, especially at sunset, so it’s not exactly a peaceful oasis and offers a fantastic view over St. Peter’s Basilica.
Garden of Sant’Alessio
If you find the Orange Tree Garden too busy for your liking, take a walk down the road, past the Basilica di Santa Sabina and enter its quieter, smaller, and less famous brother, Garden of Sant’Alessio.
The garden is located between the Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino next to the Garden of Orange Trees and the Basilica dei Santi Bonifacio e Alessio. It offers an equally spectacular view over Rome but it’s usually much less busy if that’s something you prefer.
In the garden, there’s a statue of Joan of Arc and a little fountain with drinking water, some benches and plenty of shade from the large pine trees.
Orto Botanico di Roma
The botanical gardens in Rome are located between Via della Lungara and the Gianicolo Hill in the park of Villa Corsini. It has an important scientific and naturalistic value and is today part of the Plant Biology Department of the Sapienza University of Rome.
Entry to the botanical gardens is at the corner of Largo Cristina di Svezia (once the famous inhabitant of Villa Corsini) and Via Corsini. Entrance costs 4€, and you can even catch a free guided tour on the weekends, you just have to book the tour with your tickets.
The botanical gardens cover 12 hectares and boast a large collection of monumental secular trees, like cork oaks, Himalayan cedars, a large bamboo collection, the glasshouses are home to about 400 orchid species and succulents.
Enjoy this natural oasis and visit everything from the Garden of Aromas, the Japanese Garden, the Mediterranean and Herb Garden to the Rose Garden and a tropical greenhouse.
Gardens at the Vatican Museums
The Gardens at the Vatican Museums are probably the hardest-to-reach gardens on this list. They’ve been open to the public for visits only since 2014 and can be visited only on a guided tour.
They cover approximately 23 hectares and were established during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The gardens are decorated with fountains and sculptures, which the City of Vatican is currently in the process of restoring. A mix of pine trees, lawns, and even a little forest, the gardens might be the least busy park you’ll visit in Rome.
While you can’t buy a ticket just for the Vatican Gardens, there’s a possibility of getting a combo guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Gardens (but not the Vatican Museum!) which costs 39€ and the tours are offered in English.
Rome’s Rose Garden
At the bottom of the Aventine Hill and opposite the Circus Maximus lies another one of the free gardens in Rome, the Rose Garden. It’s just a couple of steps from the Orange Trees Garden and displays over 1,100 varieties of roses.
It was built on the site of a Jewish cemetery, after the Jewish community of Rome obtained a section at the cemetery of Campo Verano in 1934. To commemorate the garden’s past the footpaths were designed to represent the Menorah.
The Rose Garden is divided in two sections, one a place for the exposition of its extensive collection of varieties, antique and modern, and one a testing ground for new varieties to assess their suitability for life in Italy.
The garden is a sight to behold, especially in spring and autumn, when the roses are in bloom. During the blooming season, the garden also offers guided tours, which you have to arrange in advance by email or phone.
When visiting Rome, not many think about making time to visit its fabulous gardens, far more preoccupied with the eternal city’s history.
But the gardens of Rome are its lifeline, its lungs, and offer a unique perspective on history with the added bonus of being quieter than Rome’s busy streets.