Fodor's Rome 25 Best
Villa Borghese Review
Rome's "Central Park," the Villa Borghese was originally laid out as a pleasure garden in the early 17th century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a worldly and cultivated cleric and nephew of Pope Paul V. The word "villa" was used to mean suburban estate, of the type developed by the ancient Romans and adopted by Renaissance nobles. Today's gardens bear little resemblance to the originals. Not only do they cover a much smaller area—by 1630, the perimeter wall was almost 5 km (3 miles) long—but they also have been almost entirely remodeled. This occurred at the end of the 18th century, when a Scottish painter, Jacob More, was employed to transform them into the style of the "cunningly natural" park so popular in 18th-century England. Until then, the park was probably the finest example of an Italian-style garden in the entire country.
In addition to the gloriously restored Galleria Borghese, the highlights of the park are Piazza di Siena, a graceful amphitheater, and the botanical garden on Via Canonica, where there is a pretty little lake, a Neoclassical faux-Temple of Aesculapius (a favorite photo-op), the newly designed Biopark zoo, Rome's own replica of London's Globe Theatre, and the Villa Giulia museum.
The recently opened Carlo Bilotti Museum is particularly visitable for De Chirico fans, although there is more modern art in the nearby Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. The park is dotted with bike, in-line skating, and electric scooter rental concessions and has a children's movie theater (showing films for adults in the evening), as well as a cinema center, Casa del Cinema, where film buffs can screen films or sit at the slick, cherry red, indoor-outdoor caffè (you can find a schedule of events at www.casadelcinema.it).
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