Yesterday I walked Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s largest urban parks with gardens, museums, galleries, and more. The popular park is north of central Rome in the upscale Spagna district near the Aurelian Wall, Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, and Piazza di Spagna are other nearby attractions.
Spagna Metro Station
Traffic in Rome is horrific. I took the subway to Spagna metro station (Line A). The 20-minute walk from the subway to Villa Borghese Park was confusing since several subway exits were marked “Villa Borghese”. Google Maps helped me sort it out. The metro circles Central Rome, but after arriving at a subway station getting to your point of interest always involves walking or connecting with a bus or taxi.
I met an Italian family who tried the same subway exists I did. We laughed after running into each other several times retracing our steps. Together we figured out that Via Veneto exit was our best way to Villa Borghese’s main entrance. I’ve learned that asking for directions in Rome isn’t wise. A fully-charged phone and a mapping app are indispensable.
Rome subway is massive and deep! At some stations, it takes ten to fifteen minutes just to get from the street entrance down to the trains. Yesterday, there were several machine-gun-toting guards – many with dogs – positioned throughout the subway. It’s probably connected to the most recent terror attack in the UK putting major European cities on alert. I didn’t notice this level of security on previous visits to Rome.
On the way to Villa Borghese, I passed beautiful galleries, cafés, and palazzo-style buildings in the upscale Spagna neighborhood. One gallery, THESIGN, was featuring a Frida Kahlo exhibit, so I stopped for a few minutes. Every day I notice more interesting galleries and street art.
Villa Borghese is named after its first resident, Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, who was Pope Paul V’s favorite nephew and well known as the “most knowledgeable and ruthless art collector of his day”. Abundant laurel, myrtle, oleander, cypress, and plane (sycamore) trees grace the grounds. The park complex features seventeenth-century buildings and neo classic nineteenth century architecture, like the Water Clock and Lake Garden.
Villa Borghese is named after its first resident, Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, who was Pope Paul V’s favorite nephew and well known as the “most knowledgeable and ruthless art collector of his day”.
Galleria Borghese exhibits art masterpieces from the sixteenth to eighteenth century. Artists displayed include Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Bernini, and Canova. I assumed the museum would be open, but didn’t realize a reservation was necessary. To my disappointment and surprise, the gallery was sold out through June 6.
The Villa Borghese complex is home to:
- Canonica Museum – home-studio Italian artist Pietro Canonica
- Casino di Raffaello – summer-house
- Casa del Cinema – art house, cinema, cafés
- Zoo / Bio Park
- Open Air Elizabethan Theater
After unification in the twentieth century, the State acquired the complex. In 1903, the beautiful park was given to the City of Rome and opened to the public.