While Rome is famous for its ancient sites and impressive museums and churches, it’s also a remarkably green city. As one of Europe’s greenest cities, the center of the Rome is home to lush gardens and sprawling parks that in true Roman style are just as full of history as they are natural beauty. From the sweet scent of orange blossoms to spectacular garden overlooks and the perfect spot to quite literally stop and smell the roses, here’s a look and our favorite parks and gardens in Rome.
One of Rome’s most popular parks, Villa Borghese is the green heart of Rome. Fun fact: the gardens are roughly heart shaped! The expansive park began in the 17th-century as the private estate of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1579-1633), who also created the art collection that has become the notable Galleria Borghese where you can see masterpieces by Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and more. But beyond the Galleria Borghese, the rest of the beautifully landscaped gardens are ideal for a relaxing stroll under Roman pine trees or a fun bike ride or run. The massive gardens are designed in the English manner featuring a natural setting with a lake and plenty of fountains and statues dotting the landscape. You can even rent a boat and paddle around on the lake to admire the picturesque Tempio di Esculapio, an 18th-century temple with a statue of Aesculapius. While exploring the park, don’t miss the large terrace on Pincio Hill, another of Rome’s beautiful overlooks, set above Piazza del Popolo.
The Villa Borghese gardens are free to visit and open daily from dawn to dusk. While there are multiple entrances to the gardens, the most popular are at Piazza Flaminio, at Porta Pinciana near Via Veneto and from Piazza del Popolo by following the steps up to the Pincio overlook.
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Orto Botanico di Roma
In our Trastevere Neighborhood Guide, we shared how much we love Rome’s Botanical Gardens set on the Gianicolo Hill. Once part of the 17th-century Palazzo Corsini, the Orto Botanico di Roma climbs up the hillside above Trastevere with many different types of gardens to explore as well as beautiful fountains, greenhouses and an especially fine Japanese Garden. Covering about 30 acres and featuring over 2,500 different plant species, there’s plenty to enjoy in this garden oasis – and all for only a small entrance fee of €4. The Botanical Gardens are open daily from 8:30am to 6:30pm.
Villa Doria Pamphilj
Located west of the Gianicolo, the Villa Doria Pamphilj is the largest landscaped park in Rome. While today the park is open to the public and managed by the City of Rome, this massive park began as a private estate for the noble Pamphilj family in the 17th century. After the Pamphilj family line merged with the Doria family, the property took on its current name. At 455 acres, its expansive grounds are shaded by those typical Roman umbrella pine trees and are a popular spot for jogging, cycling and relaxing with family and friends. While exploring the grounds, don’t miss seeing the Casino del Bel Respiro, a beautiful 17th-century home built to display the Pamphilj family’s rich collection of art and antiquities. While the Casino del Bel Respiro is now only used for official state functions, you can still admire it from the park. There’s a great view from Viale del Casino Algardi that runs along the western side of the Casino del Bel Respiro.
The Villa Doria Pamphilj park is free to visit and is open daily 7am-9pm from April to August but note that it closes at 8pm in March and September and at 6pm from October to February.
While most visitors head to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, the beautifully manicured Vatican Gardens offer a peaceful respite in Vatican City. Covering 57 acres, these gardens date back to the 6th century and feature Italian, English and French gardening styles. In this place of tranquility and spirituality, you can see the formal gardens, remarkable statues and fountains dedicated to the Virgin Mary and saints, and a surprisingly diverse range of architectural elements. The gardens are also one of the best spots for admiring the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica surrounded by the lush landscape.
Visiting the Vatican Gardens is only possible on a guided tour. Join a walking tour to explore the gardens or opt for a 45-minute open bus tour with an audio guide that takes you past many of the garden’s highlights. As with all things Vatican, book in advance and keep in mind that the same dress code for visiting the Vatican also applies to the gardens. Avoid sleeveless or low-cut tops, shorts above the knee or miniskirts. Visit the Vatican Museums website for opening hours and tour options.
Giardino degli Aranci
One of Rome’s loveliest viewpoints, this park sits on the Aventine Hill with gorgeous views overlooking the city. Have fun picking out Roman sights like the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the stark white monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, and admiring all the city’s domes and bell towers interspersed with the lush green trees along the Tiber. Although technically called Parco Savello, its much more romantic name meaning Garden of Orange Trees comes from the bitter orange trees that grow here. A large central pathway leads beneath a soaring canopy of pine trees to a belvedere where you can take in the views, which are especially romantic at sunset. Don’t miss the chance to visit the nearby Basilica of Santa Sabina, a Dominican monastery from the 5th century that is an extraordinary example of early Christian architecture.
The Giardino degli Aranci is free to visit and is open daily 7am-9pm from April to August, but closes earlier at 8pm in March and September and 6pm from October to February.
Rome’s Rose Garden
If you’re traveling to Rome from late April to mid-June, don’t miss the chance to visit Rome’s municipal rose garden. Set in a scenic spot on the Aventine Hill overlooking the Circus Maximus, this lovely garden is home to about 1,100 rose varieties from all over the world. The garden also hosts the Premio Roma, an international flower competition that takes place in May each year. Free to visit, it’s a lovely spot for garden enthusiasts or simply a stroll through the gardens with the sweetly scented air and romantic views.
Strolling along the pathways through the garden, you might miss the significance of the shape they cut through the rose beds. Beginning in the mid 17th century, this location — not far from the Roman Ghetto — was used as a garden and nearby a Jewish cemetery. After the Jewish community obtained a section in Rome’s Campo Verano cemetery in the early 20th century, the space was eventually transformed into the rose garden. To commemorate the past, the footpaths were designed in the form a Menorah – a significant reminder that Rome’s past is always present.
The Roseto di Roma is free and open daily from April 21st to mid-June from 8:30am-7:30pm. Check here for the latest visiting hours and to arrange a paid guided tour.