Art and culture

Rome’s beautiful villas and their gardens

January 07, 2021

From sprawling estates and ornate palaces to romantic retreats and secret gardens, many of Rome’s most magnificent villas and gardens are now public parks. Built by the great Italian dynasties that once governed the city, these villas offer a fascinating glimpse into Roman history.

Villa Borghese

An essential stop on any art lover’s itinerary, Villa Borghese brings together beautiful gardens, striking architecture and an incredible collection of paintings and sculpture. Located on Pincian Hill, at the top of the Spanish Steps, the gardens stretch out over almost 200 acres and feature a romantic lake, landscaped gardens, wooded glades and even a small zoo. Created by Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese in 1606 – the nephew of Pope Paul V – this grand private estate became a public park in 1903 and has remained one of the city’s favourite green spaces ever since. At the heart of the property, Galleria Borghese houses Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese’s outstanding collection of art. From Titian and Raphael to Bernini and Caravaggio, there are some true treasures to uncover.

Antique fountain in Villa Doria-Pamphili Rome © Shutterstock - Greentellect Studio

Villa Doria Pamphili

Rome’s largest public park, Villa Doria Pamphili was purchased by the powerful Pamphili dynasty in 1630. An influential family that aspired to greatness – Cardinal Giambattista Pamphili became Pope Innocent X in 1644 – the family set about remodelling the existing villa to create the opulent Casino del Bel Respiro, which today serves as the Prime Minister’s liaison offices. The grounds are enormous, encompassing ornate landscaped gardens, forested groves, open fields, pretty ponds and a beautiful lake – the perfect spot for a picnic in the summer months. Popular with runners and cyclists, Villa Doria Pamphili is the ideal place to enjoy some outdoor exercise, or simply spend an afternoon exploring the greenery on foot.

Villa Sciarra

Built upon the ancient sacred wood of the Furrina nymph, and believed to be the site of Caesar’s Garden – where, rumour has it, he hosted Queen Cleopatra – Villa Sciarra has an almost mythical appeal. From elaborate fountains and statues of mythological creatures to ancient ruins and even an aviary (which was once home to a flock of white peacocks), the estate has been owned and adapted over the years by its many different owners. Filled with hundreds of species of flora and fauna, introduced to the park by its last owners, there are few better places to visit in the capital for a dose of unspoiled nature. One of Rome’s lesser-known public parks, Villa Sciarra has the added advantage of fewer crowds.

Villa Sciarra in Rome © Shutterstock - Fabianodp
Villa Torlonia Casino Nobile in Rome © Shutterstock - Gloria Imbrogno

Villa Torlonia

Famous for being the official residence of Mussolini from 1925-1943, Villa Torlonia is a sprawling estate filled with grand buildings, beautiful landscaped gardens and eclectic curiosities. In 1802, the Torlonia family hired Neoclassical architect Valadier to transform the existing villa into an imposing palace, with the gardens also given an extensive makeover. Over the years, modifications were made to the villa and more buildings were added to the estate, including false ruins, a temple and an unusual ‘Swiss cabin’ (now the Casina delle Civette). Bought by the Municipality of Rome in 1977, Villa Torlonia is now a public park and museum.

Villa Celimontana  

Set atop the Caelian Hill, Villa Celimontana enjoys incredible views over southern Rome and the ancient Baths of Caracalla. Originally a vineyard, the land was purchased by the Mattei family in the 16th century and transformed into a striking estate with an attractive villa – now home to the Italian Geographic Society – surrounded by landscaped gardens. On the property you’ll also find a few more unusual features, including an Egyptian obelisk of Ramsete II. A popular destination among locals in the spring and summer months, the grounds offer respite from the fast pace of the capital, and the ideal location for a long walk or leisurely picnic. Villa Celimontana also hosts an atmospheric jazz festival in late summer and autumn, which sees many of the world’s great players descend on the elegant estate.

Discover Rome’s beautiful villas and parks when you stay at Hotel Eden. From forested glades to immaculate gardens, imposing palaces to pretty villas, our concierges can help you uncover the city’s magnificent estates.

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