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Redolent of the yesteryears of Henry James and Edith Wharton, the Pincian gardens always have been a favorite spot for strolling. Grand Tourists, and even a pope or two, would head here to see and be seen among the beau monde of Rome. Today, the Pincian terrace remains a favorite spot to cool off overheated locals. The rather formal, early-19th-century style contrasts with the far more elaborate terraced gardens of Lucullus, the Roman gourmand who held legendary banquets here. Today, off-white marble busts of Italian heroes and artists line the pathways. Along with similar busts on the Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill), their noses have been victims of vandalism, perhaps as an attempt to fight ghosts: A belief going back to ancient times held that the nose was the source of breath and therefore of life itself, even after death. By depriving a bust of the same organ, its accompanying spirit would be deprived of oxygen, which evidently spirits need to walk the night.
A stretch of ancient walls separates the Pincio from the southwest corner of Villa Borghese. From the balustraded terrace, you can look down at Piazza del Popolo and beyond, surveying much of Rome. Southeast of the Pincian terrace is the Casina Valadier, a magnificently decorated Neoclassical building that was reopened to the public in 2007 after a decade-long renovation. It remains one of Rome's most historic restaurants (06/69922090, casinavaladier.it).
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