Behind St Peter’s Basilica lies the high-known Gardens of Vatican City. Used since the 13th century by Popes and cardinals as a peaceful refuge, the beautiful gardens now cover around a third of the state.
The gardens of the Vatican City are definitely some of the least accessible gardens in the area of Rome, however they are also some of the most beautiful, pristine and well kept due to the lack of visitors and attention to detail.
The Vatican City State is only 108 acres and the gardens take up just over half of that space. Booking in advance is necessary as only a small amount of visitors are allowed to stroll through these wonderfully green pathways. As the gardens are within the Vatican walls they were designed to be the Pope’s private oasis within the not so often welcoming city of Rome.
Rome’s temperate climate allows the Vatican Gardens to play host to many different types of plants from all over the world. Together with the mix of beautiful greenery, small fountains and amazing views of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, not to mention lack of crowds, the Vatican Gardens are a relaxing yet fun activity.
Although a visit to the Vatican Gardens are a great way to see a different view of the Vatican, Vatican and Sistine Chapel tours are the best way to experience the great Roman gems coupled with interesting facts and history
Atop Janiculum Hill you’ll find 11 acres of organically-cultivated gardens. It is a typically Roman space surrounded by 17th century defence walls and filled with fruit trees and flowers. Villa Aurelia is best known for its grand fountains and impressive city views.
Academy in Rome since 1909 and is the site for cultural events organized by the Academy, such as concerts and conferences. The recently restored Villa is perched on the crest of the Janiculum Hill, one of Rome's great hills. The beauty of the Villa gardens, the breathtaking views of the historic city center, and the variety of spaces available make Villa Aurelia an ideal location for private events such as receptions, dinners and board meetings.
Bringing a hearty dose of greenery to Rome’s city centre is Orto Botanico. Maintained by the Sapienza University of Rome, the 12-hectare park showcases and cultivates thousands of species of rare and tropical plants. A highlight for nature lovers, the garden offers guided tours for those who wish to delve a little deeper.
This botanic garden is located in the heart of Trastevere, behind Palazzo Corsini and across from the Villa Farnesina, on a 12-hectare sloping site filled with palms, yucca and terraces with gravel paths. Established in 1883 after the Corsini family donated it to the Italian government, it is now run by the University of Rome La Sapienza. The gardens host over 3,500 species of plants, including specially-cultivated plants in danger of extinction in the wild, and feature a scent-and-touch garden for the visually impaired. Open every day 09.30-18.30, and from 30 Oct-31 Dec 09.30-17.30.
The largest landscaped public park in Rome, the grounds of Villa Doria Pamphilj is an essential stop on the itinerary. The large Renaissance-style garden is exceptional when it comes to both architecture and nature, with a 17th century classic Italian design featuring tree-lined paths, wide lawns and a charming lake overlooked by the grandiose 17th century Fontana del Giglio.
Seated in a quaint neighbourhood of Monteverde, Villa is touted as the biggest landscaped park in Rome. Amidst the hustle and bustle, this sliver of green is like an oasis laden with manicured gardens, lush meadows and towering umbrella pines.
The park once belonged to the papal Pamphili family; they treated it as a hunting resort.When the Pamphililine perished in the 18th century, the pope gifted the property to Prince Giovanni Andrea IV Doria, the spouse of a Pamphili daughter. The centrepiece though, however, is the pompous Casino del BelRespiro – a 17th-century villa with perfectly landscaped parterre gardens. It’s an absolute beauty to behold!
Once the private estate of the Barberini family, and subsequently Maffeo Sciarra, Villa Sciarra has been a public park since the 1930s. It’s quiet and peaceful and is filled to the brim with romantic statues and historic fountains. At its heart lies the Casino Barberini, the headquarters of the Italian Institute of Germanic Studies. Climb the tower for fantastic panoramic views of the city.
The best approach is from Viale Trastevere.
In 1653 Cardinal Antonio Barberini bought most of the land within the Janiculum walls between Porta Portese and Porta San Pancrazio to build an estate mainly used as a farm. In 1811 the property was acquired by the Colonna di Sciarra, who gave the villa its current name and enlarged it by acquiring the land belonging to Monastero di San Cosimato. In the 1880s Prince Maffeo Sciarra Colonna went bankrupt and the estate was split and a large part of it became a residential area.
The last owners, George Washington Wurts and his wife Henrietta Tower, who was the sister of Charlemagne Tower, established the remaining land as a botanic garden and aviary complex embellished with an original sculptural decoration coming from an 18th-century Lombard villa near Milan. The park was given to Benito Mussolini by the widowed Henrietta in 1932 on condition it became a public park.
Palazzo Barberini may be known for its ancient art, but look a little closer and you’ll also discover a beautiful garden that’s hidden in plain sight. Restored to its original design, it features immaculately manicured lawns with trimmed shrubbery creating a striking pattern on the grass. Best of all, you don’t need to buy a ticket to the museum to enter the gardens.
Slip away to a grande dame of a villa museum and garden in the heart of Roma that masses of tourists never flock to and spend an hour or two with sumptuous art and winding marble staircases, and then escape to the private back garden and artist studio on their grounds. Wander virtually alone in a secluded, quiet, lovely walk surrounded by pretty Baroque buildings and canopies of Italian trees.
There are sculptures and indoor fountains from classical antiquity collected by the powerful Sforza family, and many sumptuous allegorical and historical paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Guido Reni, and Elisabetta Sirani, both artists have been named as the mystery author of the classical portrait of famed Beatrice Cenci, the same painting worshipped by Shelley and Byron during the Romantic period.
The Palazzo Barberini is the perfect respite from the crowds and noise and heat of Rome without missing important art or pieces of classical antiquity, with the added bonus of your own (temporarily) private villa garden for contemplation … or romance!
As its name suggests, The Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci or Parco Savello) is an urban orange grove overlooking the River Tiber. The shady space offers respite from the glaring sun in the summer and uninterrupted panoramic views of the city from its terrace. At the entrance is a distinctive fountain by Giacomo Della Porta, thought to be the face of river god Oceanus.
Perched just above the river on the Aventine Hill, the Orange Garden of Rome is one of the city's most beloved natural areas.
The Orange Garden's Name
Because this land fell under the ownership of the Savelli family at the end of the 1200s, the Orange Garden's real name is the Savello Garden.
The Savelli were one of the most powerful aristocratic families in Rome. On a par with the Borgia family (though far less infamous) they produced at least two popes and owned property throughout the region.
In Rome, they fortified the Aventine Hill, on which the Orange Garden stands, around the 13th and 14th century. Outside the city, they fortified Castel Gandolfo, now home to the Pope's summer residence.
Locals today wouldn't recognize the name Savello Park. They know this area as the Orange Gardens (giardini degli aranci) because of the abundance of bitter oranges it bears.
Standing proudly atop Monte Celio (Caelian Hill) is a beautiful manor called Villa Celimontana, which is best known for its gardens. Travel up the palm-lined driveway and explore the picturesque park, which surrounds the Palazzetto Mattei, to discover marble monuments, luscious lawns, an Egyptian obelisk and striking views.
During the mediaeval and Renaissance period, the land on which Villa Celimontana stands was used for the cultivation of vegetables and vineyards. The property was bought by Giacomo Mattei in 1553, for a thousand gold coins, and in 1580 it was transformed into a villa by the Mattei family.
Designed by Giacomo Del Duca, a student of Michelangelo, the villa was much adapted and expanded over the years. It changed hands many times and by the late 19th-century it was in possession of the Bavarian baron Richard Hoffman.
Situated between the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla, the 100,000-sqm oasis is home to rare species of plants, 16-century fountains, a neogothic temple and the Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II which, according to legend, holds the ashes of Emperor Augustus.
Villa Ada is the second largest park in the city of Rome following closely behind the Villa Doria Pamphilj. Often referred to as a green lung of Rome due to its large scale and shape, the vast and hilly grasslands were once home to Italian royalty. Preceding their occupation, the estate turned park was property of the Pallavicini princes towards the end of the 18th century. It was then that the area was redeveloped to include landscape gardens and structures like the Belvedere, Cafehaus, and the Flora Temple. The terrain possessed a great deal of hills and terracing that presented a wealth of opportunity in terms of gardening and landscape design.
Fast forward to 1839 and the property ownership briefly shifts to the Potenziani family before ultimately being purchased by King Vittorio Emanuele II in 1872. Thus began the Savoia family reign over the estate.
Today, The park is a favourite among locals living in northern Rome as its diverse terrain features an array of flora and fauna specific to its history. Trees such as cypresses, dwarf palms, pines and the metasequoia can be seen throughout.
Park admission is free to all with visitors having the option to rent canoes, bicycles, and riding horses. In the summer Villa Ada park is the set location of Roma Incontra Il Mondo (Rome Meets the World) music festival. Following the gruelling restoration of Bunker Villa Ada Savoia, the historic passageway recently became open to the public. The tours are just one of the many ways in which Villa Ada’s rich and complex history can be observed in modern day Rome.
Nature lovers can discover a wide array of plant life and trees; animal lovers can spot myriad species of animals and birds, from rabbits to parrots; while visitors looking to get active can enjoy canoeing on the lake, cycling or even horse riding.
Located close to Villa Borghese, the 16th century Villa Medici and its gardens reflect the classic landscaping style of its larger neighbour. Visit to explore the intricate gardens, discover ancient statues and fountains and witness some of the best panoramas of the city from the terrace. Visitors can take a tour of the house and gardens to learn more about its history and architecture.
The gardens of the Villa Medici, with an extention of over 7 hectares from north to south, it maintains a XVIth century style. In 1564 it only consisted of a farm in the middle of an area with vineries when Cardinal Ricci bought the Casina Crescenzi, on the Collis Hortulorum (The hill of Gardens). Afterwards, massive terracing programs were begun. The gardens are surrounded by walls, close to the Santa Maria Del Popolo vineyard on its northern border. The garden’s design is divided into sixteen squares and six lawns, following the principles of the time period. Thanks to irrigation projects by the Milanese mathematician and architect Camillo Agrippa, lots of pools and fountains decorate the place. In the southern part, a silva (or bosco) seemed to have partially been constructed in 1570, between the aisle of the Via Pinciania on the west, Aurelus Wall on the east, and the gardens’ terrace on the north. That dedicated plot still contains buried ruins of a Roman temple probably devoted to Fortune.
Ferdinando de’ Medici committed himself to finish the works started by Cardinal Ricci when he bought the domain from Cardinal Ricci’s heirs in 1576. He also bought the vineyard of Giulio Bosco in 1580, in the southern portion of the silva, to eventually close the area of the villa, between the Aurelus Wall and via di porta Pinciana. He set up a new north-south route, the viale lungo, connecting the gardens to the Parnassus, and built a tiny artificial hill on the ruins of the antique temple. This Parnassus seemed to put the owner of the property under the protection of Apollo. At the end of the 15th century the group of Niobids was discovered by archaeological excavation. Ferdinando de’ Medici bought it and put it at the end of a lawn in his garden. Although the gardens lost most of their sculptures, they kept their essential design
Dotted with serene walkways, wooded glades, grassy banks, an artificial lake with rowboats and several other stunning buildings and follies, Villa Borghese is Rome’s third largest park, located right in the heart of the city. It’s a mere coincidence that Villa Borghese is heart-shaped too!
Admittedly, part of the charm of Rome is the absolute electricity emanating from the Eternal City every second of the day. Vespas buzz by the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps are a playground for lovers (and cat-calling Romans), and the Trevi Fountain radiates the wishes of a return. But even in the most captivating cities, it’s sometimes nice just to escape it all, even for just a little bit. The Borghese Gardens are Rome’s version of Central Park and stretch for 226 acres from Piazza del Poppolo to the top of Via Veneto.
The lush, green Borghese Gardens have it all: bust-lined paths, statues, a carousel for the kiddos, an artificial lake that you can rent a row boat on, and even a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (performances are only in Italian though).
Originally a private vineyard, in 1605, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, began turning the gardens into the most extensive in Rome since Antiquity. Only on the condition that the gardens would boast the most luxurious dwelling in Rome, did the Borghese family agree to name the gardens and villa after them. Grandiose and exquisite it was! Shrouded in trees, “secret gardens” can be found throughout the expanse. Tranquil and secluded, back then these secret gardens were only for the invited and the privileged. Today, they are lovely spots to escape with a picnic for two.
Towering Roman pines against ancient aqueducts is a vision crafted to perfection! To view such stunning vistas and soak in the grandeur of nature and heritage, we recommend a walk along Parco degli Acquedotti. The suburban nature escapade offers a great way immerse yourself in the splendour of Rome’s iconic aqueducts.
The well-preserved ancient aqueducts jutted across verdant hills exhibits a standing testimony of incredible engineering of that time. If you want to explore the natural wonders of Rome minus the crowd, this is the place to be! Saunter along the endless stretches of the Aqua Felix and some fragments of the aqueduct called Aqua Claudiain sheer solitude – when the dusk sets in, and the slanting Tuscan sunrays intensely fall on the park, the ambience turns magical!
With their cherry trees, wisteria, irises and dwarf pines the gardens of the Rome’s Japanese Cultural Institute feature all the essential elements associated with the Sen-en style, including a waterfall, ponds, an ornamental bridge and a traditional tōrō stone lamp. The gardens are the work of garden designer Ken Nakajima, who was also responsible for the Japanese section of the botanic gardens in Trastevere.
Azaleas bushes cover the slope, leading to the top, where there are an open wooden pavilion and a pond adorned with rocks. A waterfall feeds the lake and a stream, which drains the water, passes under a small bridge and rapidly goes down the hill. The garden trees include several Japanese maples, cherry and ginko trees. Also interesting in the Botanic Garden is the bamboo area, with several varieties of bamboos.
Groups of 15-20 people are taken on guided tours, free of charge, but booking by telephone is necessary. The gardens are open to the public with tours every half hour on Thursdays and Fridays from 15.00-16.30, and on Saturdays from 10.00-12.00, until 30 May
Built for the Cardinal Ippolito D'Este around 1555, these complex renaissance water gardens in Tivoli are among the most famous in the world. Water from the nearby river Aniene is channeled under the city of Tivoli to feed the gardens' vast range of spectacular fountains, including the celebrated organ fountain. Cascades, pools, water staircases, grottoes and nymphs are revealed at every turn.
Nearly 500 years of myth and history have done nothing to dull the magic and mystery of the glorious Villa d’Este in Tivoli, the famed Tivoli water-and-wind garden, a haven for princes and lovers of the humanities, and arguably one of the most beautiful villas in all of Italy.
And that is saying much, considering the breathtaking beauty and lush design of wonderful, sprawling Italian villa gardens: the gardens of Italy are legendary.
Shrouded in the rich history of the Renaissance and its embrace of classical arts and antiquities
Time has eroded some of the garden’s features, frescoes and even its famous statue of Hercules. But the entire Villa has witnessed a rebirth of its own in recent years, as art and music patrons have sought to restore what was once called “the Garden of Miracles” to its former glory.
Even the 2,000-year-old technology that gave life to the magical Fountain of the Water Organ has been recreated, and Liszt’s 19th-century compositional tribute to the Fountain once again flows from those legendary pipes.
No description of Villa d’Este is complete without mention of the famous Water Organ Fountain. It’s said that the hydraulic-pneumatic technology that made this water-and-air-powered musical fountain possible in the 16th century actually dates back to 1st-century Alexandria.
Without a doubt, this beautiful villa will entice you into hours of delightful exploration of its gardens, fish pools, magnificent statuary and contrived, often difficult, pathways leading you on while they draw you around and away.
Rome’s municipal rose garden on the Aventine hill opens from 21 April until mid-June. There are two separate sections overlooking the Palatine hill and Circo Massimo: the upper garden with its collection of classic “old roses”, and the lower garden featuring the entries of the prestigious annual international rose competition known as the Premio Roma, which this year takes place on 18 May, and a collection of winning roses from previous years. The gardens will be closed on the day of the prize-giving but from the next day onwards the public can admire the winning specimens.
The Roseto is home to over 1,000 varieties including a green-blossomed rose from China. Daily 08.30-19.30.
One of the nicest and easiest day trips from Rome is to Castel Gandolfo to visit the Apostolic Palace and the gorgeous Barberini Gardens.
The Barberini gardens at Castel Gandolfo are located in the Alban hills about 25 km south-east of the capital, and have spectacular views over Lake Albano. The 30-hectare papal gardens feature ancient Roman ruins dating back to Emperor Domitian as well as a square of holly oaks, paths of roses and aromatic herbs, and a magnolia garden. The 55-hectare site, which includes a 25-hectare Vatican farm, has acted as a papal retreat since the 17th century but in 2014 was opened to the public by Pope Francis for the first time.
Barberini Gardens are really impressive. A green oasis with a fantastic view of the lake and the sea. The gardens were founded as the magnificent country villa of Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 d.C.), the Albanum Domitiani.
After centuries of shifting ownership, in July 1596, under the Pope Clemens VIII, the Vatican seized Castel Gandolfo and Rocca Priora from the then owners, the Savelli family, who had refused to honour a debt of 150.000 ecus.
During WWII, the Pope Pius XII opened the gardens to the local refugees, and since this was a territory of the Vatican, the German Army couldn’t enter. This saved thousands of lives. Inside the Apostolic Palace, the second stop of our tour after the gardens, we visited the pope’s bedroom that during the last war was turned into a nursery for pregnant refugee women. The babies born there were named after the pope, so Pio/Eugenio or Pia/Eugenia if baby girls.
This romantic English-style garden spread over eight hectares was built by the Caetani family at the start of the 20th century on the ruins of the mediaeval town of Ninfa.
Gardens of Ninfa, situated about 80 km south-east of Rome, have reeived a prestigious European Garden Award from the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN).
Ninfa came second only to London's Kew Gardens in the "European heritage of gardens and gardening" section of the EGHN network which comprises 190 parks and gardens in 14 countries.
The recognition was awarded to the president of Ninfa garden's Roffredo Caetani Foundation, Tommaso Agnoni, who said that Ninfa is now a "point of reference throughout Europe."
Considered by the New York Times as "the most beautiful and romantic garden in the world", Ninfa has more than 1,000 shrubs, plants and flowering trees spread out over its eight-hectare site.
The gardens were established among the area's mediaeval ruins in 1922 by Lelia Caetani, the last descendant of the Caetani family which owned the propetrty since the 14th century, and her husband Hubert Howard.
The 10th edition of Floracult, the popular floral and amateur gardening festival, takes place in the La Storta area of north Rome from 25-28 April, from 10.00-19.00.
Dozens of exhibitors participate in the four-day festival which brings together Italy’s horticultural experts and the latest gardening trends.
One of the best rose gardens in Lazio about 7 km from Bracciano north of Rome. The estate gardens surround the large square three-storey farm castle, which stands on a high island of volcanic tufa rock facing Cervetari and the sea, and they encompass the church of S. Fillipo Neri in the grounds.
The Castel Gandolfo property has been in papal hands since 1596 when its previous owners, the Savelli family, were declared bankrupt and the pope as feudal overlord snapped it up. But it wasn’t until the Barberini pope Urban VIII commissioned architect Carlo Maderno to design a villa fit for a pontiff here in the 17th century that popes began spending their summers in the healthy air of the Alban Hills, far away from fever-ridden Rome. There was a hiatus from 1870, when the pope’s temporal power over central Italy was wrested away by the newly united Italian state and Pope Pius IX, in a fit of pique, locked himself inside the Vatican and refused to budge.
But in 1929, when the Lateran Pacts confirmed that Castel Gandolfo remained papal property with extra-territorial status, Pius XI made up for lost time, embarking on a major renovation and re-creating the series of terraced gardens which visitors will now, finally, enjoy.