Villa Borghese Gallery and Gardens: A Guide to Rome’s Version of Central Park

Mansion-turned-gallery full of immaculate works by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, and the like. Each room is about as impressive as the pieces that inhabit it, surrounded by illusionistic ceilings and impressive details. Outside, sprawling gardens full of fountains, sculptures, segways, and dogs roaming freely create an oasis in a city of tourists and selfie-stick sellers.

Tips before you go: Galleria Borghese

  • Reserve a ticket online (it’s required!). You can choose from a selection of 2-hour time slots during the day, as only 360 guests are let in at a time. Do this at least a few days in advance to get the time and date you prefer.
  • Get there early. While the ticket pick up line is short, all bags and cameras need to be checked. I waited for around 20 minutes, which cut into my short, 2-hour time slot.
  • Take pictures… slyly. Technically, photography is not allowed. However, many of the rooms do not have a guard in them, so snipe Apollo e Dafne on your phone quickly before stuffing your phone back into the pages of your guidebook.
  • Take a full lap around the first floor before heading upstairs. The first floor is home to sculpture, and the second is dedicated to painting. The staircase is in the Ratto di Posperpina room, halfway through the first floor. Wait to go upstairs until you have made a full lap around, then head back to the Ratto di Posperpina room and ascend the spiral staircase. This way, you can walk through half of the first floor again, which will be empty, as most of the visitors have either headed upstairs or are in the second half of the first floor at this point.
  • Appreciate the ceilings. From trompe l’oeil paintings of architecture and sculpture, to illusions of the heavens above, don’t forget to look up!

The gardens:

  • Rent something to help you get around. The gardens are huge, and my feet were angry at me for spending the whole 2.5 hours I wandered around there on foot. There were multiple types of bikes, group bikes, and segways to choose from that would make getting around a little faster.
  • Or, don’t. I read that you need to leave a form of identification with the rental people, and I personally would not feel comfortable leaving an id or a passport. For a more secure option, take a ride on the trenino, or little train that goes through the parks. It’s adorable!
  • Take a look at the maps around the park. Or, take a picture of them. There is much more to see than you would think, so it was helpful to look at a map to find your way around. I would have never found the pond with the temple in it had I not used the map!
  • Get a panoramic view of Rome from Pincian Hill. End the day on Viale del Belvedere, so you can take in the city at sunset. When you are finished, walk down the hill and right into Piazza del Popolo, which connects you to the rest of the city (via Via del Corso – do some shopping!).

The Villa Borghese is my favorite area of Rome thus far, and it is well with a visit. Put it towards the top of your list of things to see in Rome!

 

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