Art lovers, if you have time to visit only one museum, this is the one - especially if you’re allergic to crowds. Galleria Borghese’s 22 rooms display works by some of the Italy's greatest geniuses of paint and chisel, and you can see them without being trampled by the mob that overruns the Vatican.
The collection is housed in a two-story, 17th-century villa built especially for the purpose by a Catholic cardinal, Scipione Borghese, who purchased many of the pieces (that he didn’t outright steal from churches or the artists themselves) with funds supplied by his uncle, Pope Paul V. Almost 700 works were lost to France in the 1807 when one of the descendants sold them off to brother-in-law Napoleon and which are now exhibited in the Louvre.
This is no sterile-walled space: in the late 18th century the interior was lavishly, painstakingly redecorated and the collection restaged so that every room has a theme built around the most important piece, and colors and styles blend harmoniously. Marble, gilt and astounding trompe l’oeil decoration are everywhere, floor to ceiling, creating a museum as much a work of art itself as the treasures it contains.
Rubens, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Canova….they’re all here and then some. The stars of the show? Four priceless Bernini’s which will take your breath away. His powerful “David” - face set in grim determination, twisted and straining to hurl his sling - is a striking contrast to Michelangelo’s more famous version and my favorite of the two.
Some info on the collection:
What you need to know to visit the gallery:
• Tickets MUST be ordered in advance. This is easily done by phone or online from the website below. You will be required to choose a specific day and open, 2-hour slot: only 360 people are allowed inside at one time.
• Phone reservations are required if planning to use a Roma pass: see the website
• You are required to check in 30 minutes before your scheduled slot: bring your self-printed voucher to the desk for your tickets, and then proceed to the cloakroom counter where you must check everything on you: cameras, phones, umbrellas, bags, purses, etc. You’re allowed to keep wallets and guidebooks: purchase guides from the gift shop in the reception area if you don't have one.
• The museum is cleared for the next group at the end of each two-hour slot but is easily seen over that period of time
• Restrooms are available to ticket-holders only. Show yours to the attendant to gain access if wanting to use them before your time slot comes up.
• Your tickets are only good for the day/time for which you purchased them: no refunds or exchanges
• Audioguides and tours are available
• Closed on Mondays, Christmas and New Year’s days.
Photo #4 is a Cortona portrait (c. 1633-1635) of Cardinal Pietro Maria Borghese: heir to Scipione's ecclesiastical titles, wealth and art collection. It hangs in the Institute of Art here in my home city of Minneapolis.
I am not quite sure if the park in which the Villa Borghese is located is also called "Villa Borghese" park, but I can certainly advise to visit it. Although we (my husband and me) stayed in Rome only for three days, we decided to spend some two hours approximately in this park and we did not regret that we did not spend that time for some other things to be seen or done in Rome. On the contrary, we had a great time in that BEAUTIFUL PARK and I would suggest to everybody to have a walk in that park, which is, besides the Villa Borghese and Villa Medici and the Museum of modern art, full of beautiful monuments. It laso has a beautiful lake and, of course, beautiful flowers and green surfaces. We also enjoyed a wonderful cappuccino in one of the cafes in the park. The easiest way to reach it is from the Piazza del Popolo.
If you go to Galleria Borghese (and even if you don’t) take some time to explore the great green spaces of Villa Borghese and the Pincio. A onetime vineyard turned private park developed by the same Cardinal Scipione who built the gallery, Villa Borghese became a fully public park in1903. It’s not the carefully tended variety you’d find, say, in England but still a nice way to escape the noise and crowds of the Central Storico. Runners will find its wide paths perfect for getting in those morning miles, children will enjoy the zoo, carousel and puppet shows, and there are a few other good museums nearby. Bikes, pedal surreys and row boats - on a small artificial lake - are available for rent as well, and there are a couple of cafes scattered here and there for refueling.
There are multiple entrances but our favorite is the climb up the steps on the east side of Piazza del Popolo to the terrace at Pincio Gardens: nice view over the piazza and city from there. The Pincio (not officially part of Villa Borghese) anchors the west end of the combined park space and where you’ll find most of the recreational rentals and kid’s activities. You may also access this end of the park from the top of the Spanish Steps or from Via Vento, if you wish.
My one frustration with the park(s) is that there’s no comprehensive website for referencing all of the amenities so you sort of have to figure it out when you get there. A few maps are scattered throughout the grounds but I’d print out a google version of the general area before you go. Also be cautious of not confusing the park (Villa Borghese) with the art museum (Galleria Borghese) as visitors are apt to do.
Information about the two other museums (modern art and Etruscan) near, but not in, the north/northwest end of the park may be found here:
After four or five times in Rome, I must confess that I couldn't get time, yet, to visit the museum of Villa Borghese. But when I visited it with all the family and friends, after an exhaustive morning in the heat of August, we went to the park to rest a while.
The family took real profit of it, relaxing in the lawn, even refreshing the feet in water. I didn't stop for long, with such a beautiful park to see.
However, it was sufficiently reinvigorating, for an end of the day in the Roman Forum.
“Pauline is predestined to marry a Roman, for from head to foot she is every inch a Roman.”
— Napoleon, to his future brother-in-law, Camillo Prince Borghese about Paulina, Napoleon’s favorite sister
It is said the best museum in Rome is the city itself. As true as that is, the Galleria Borghese is a gem worth visiting. Its collections are housed in the magnificent 17th-century villa designed for and by Scipione Cardinal Borghese. Contained in 20 rooms, a visitor can see antiquities, Renaissance and Baroque art and early 19th Neo-Classical works. Visits to the Galleria, in the northeast corner of the sprawling Villa Borghese, are by timed reservation; this allows you the pleasure of seeing the collection without crowds.
Galleria Borghese is laid out in two sections: the ground floor displays sculptures, while on the first floor are paintings. The museum displays Bernini’s “The Rape Proserpino,” “Apollo and Daphne” and “David” as well as the Roman-era “Sleeping Hermaphrodite,” and Antonio Canova’s “Reclining Venus,” a portrait of the beautiful Maria Paola Bonapart Borghese (1780-1825).
Several important paintings are exhibited in the Borghese Gallery, among them are Titian’s “Sacred and Profane Love” and Raphael’s “Deposition from the Cross.” Caravaggio’s “Madonna of the Grooms,” “St. Jerome,” “St. John Baptist,” “David with Goliath’s Head,” “Young Man with a Fruit Basket” and “Little Bacchus” are riches in this collection.
Villa Borghese, a peaceful refuge from the hectic streets of Rome, features a lake, temples, fountains, statues and several museums. Located north of the Spanish Steps, the park has two main entrances, one at the Piazza del Popolo and the other at Porta Pinciana, where Via Veneto ends.
In the 16th century the land that is now Rome’s largest public park, began life as a vineyard. In 1605, Scipione Cardinal Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, converted the vineyard into a park. Landscape architect Domenico Savino da Montepulciano designed a very formal park, with geometric flowerbeds and hedgerows, the first of its kind in Rome. A palazzo was built by architect Flaminio Ponzio, following a sketch made by the cardinal. The park was later designed along the English model, in a more natural way. At the end of the 18th century an artificial lake was created in the middle of the park. On the island in the lake, an small Ionic temple was built. It is dedicated to Aesculapius, the God of healing.
In 1903, the city of Rome bought Villa Borghese from the Borghese family and opened it to the public. The 148 acre park offered wide shady lanes, several temples, beautiful fountains and many statues. The World Exposition of 1911 was held in the Villa Borghese. Several of the national pavilions are still in use.
Sometimes called the ‘park of museums,’ the Villa Borghese is home to several museums. The most famous is Galleria Borghese, housed in the palazzo the cardinal designed. Its collection of sculptures by Antonio Canova and Gialorenzo Bernini and its collection of paintings include masters by Titian, Rubens and Raphael.
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, with its collection of 19th and early 20th century paintings by Italian artists, is located on the grounds of the 1911 World Exposition. Not far from here is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, a collection of Etruscan objects excavated around Rome. The museum is housed in the Villa Giulia, a villa built in 1550-1555 as the summer residence of Pope Julius III.
Designed in the 17th century for Cardinal Borghese, the gardens of Villa Borghese became a public park around 1900. The park is planted with the typically Roman umbrella pines and makes a beautiful shady escape from the city's summer heat. Within the park, there are a zoo, museums and art galleries, in addition to a number of statues of famous characters. The park extends from Piazza del Popolo to Via Veneto and further out.
One of Rome's best known museums, la Galleria Borghese exhibits a portion of the important Borghese collection of art and sculptures, spanning centuries and many important artists. It is housed in Villa Borghese Pinciana, a sumptuous Italianate-style villa built in the early 17th century, by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who began the Borghese art collection. The surrounding Villa Borghese park was once the gardens of this very villa.
The Villa Borghese is a large green area just to the north of the hectic centre of Rome. It is a welcome relief after several days of sightseeing, especially when it is hot!
There are a few cafes dotted around the park or you can of course just bring your own food and drink and sit down and relax with a picnic by the lake.
The layout of the park is fairly formal and dotted with various sculptures. There is also a lake with a mock greek style temple (Temple of Aesculapius) on it which (for us at least) formed a sort of focal point of the park. The lake was also well populated with ducks (of course) and tortoises (more interesting).
There are a few sights in and around the park as well. the Villa Giulia is home to the etruscan museum and we found very interesting - see my review of this for more details. Far more famously is the Galleria Borghese which we did not visit but I understand you have to book in advance to go inside. Opposite the northern entrance to the park near Piazza Thorvaldsen is the Galleria Nazionale D'Arte Moderne. There is also a zoo within the green area of the park's boundaries.
These extensive gardens cover 148 acres on the Monte Pincio hill, and are easily accessible on foot from central Rome.
They were laid by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century, but the present layout dates from the 19th century.
In the park you can find shaded paths, with the beautiful pines of Rome, a lake, a zoo and several villas and museums: Galleria Borghese, Villa Medici, Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Museo Carlo Bilotti, National Gallery of Modern Art. Some of these date back to the 17th century, and some have remained from the Rome world exposition in 1911.
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