Italian land and nature: The Villas of Rome
- WTI Magazine #110 Dec 15, 2018
Take a tour of the villas of Rome, plunged into gorgeous gardens and expansive parks, imbued with magnanimous histories and accessible any time of year.
First up, on the Pincian Hill, is Villa Borghese, Rome’s “green heart” (it is literally shaped like a heart): property of the Borghese Family since its construction in the 1500s, the Italian State acquired it in the 1900s.
These eighty spectacular hectares host Italian-style gardens that alternate with those English, illustrious fountains and ponds surrounded by lush geenery, and breathtaking panoramas onto the Eternal City. The park itself is so immense that it is dotted with a number of cultural institutions, each of which revel in their own environment of the park: think the Villa itself, seat of the Borghese Gallery and its masterpieces by the likes of Bernini, Titian, Canova, Raphael and Caravaggio; Villa Giulia, housing the National Etruscan Museum; Villa Medici, site of the Franch Academy; the National Gallery of Modern Art; and Casina della Rose, with its Casa del Cinema and a favorite spot for the little ones, the Bioparco or Zoological Garden. Villa Borghese is a world of its own, and offers innumerable events every summer, for instance, Piazza di Siena.
In the Celio district (i.e. Caelian Hill), rather, Villa Celimontana is a 16th-Century structure that was re-structured in the 1800s. Archaeological excavations there have recovered some rather interesting finds from various epochs, particularly an Egyptian obelisk with hieroglyphs depicting Ramses II. The villa’s beautiful driveway is lined by high palms and leads to the Palazzetto Mattei at the park’s center. The Palazzetto hosts the Italian Geographic Society. If you visit in summer, you may have the opportunity to attend the Villa's annual summer music festival.
Villa Doria Pamphili
Among several villas inhabiting Rome’s monumental Janiculum Hill is the 184-hectare Villa Doria Pamphili, which makes for the largest park in the city. Designed in the 17th Century, Villa Pamphili is one of the Capital’s best-preserved, and its Casino del Bel Respiro, used as a representative office for the Cabinet of the Prime Minister of Italy, is decorated with invaluable furnishings and stuccoes. It also faces a magnificent Italian-style garden. Then, Palazzina Corsini consists of large stables and farmhouse, as well as a lovely citrus grove articulated by remarkable fountains.
Another famous residence struck on the Gianicolo (between the Trastevere and Monteverde Vecchio neighborhoods) is Villa Sciarra, beloved for its fountains most of all: e.g. the Fontana Belvedere, Fontana dei Satiri, Fontana di Diana ed Endimione, and the Fontana delle Sfingi (Sphynx). In Villa Sciarra’s realm is Casino Barberini, the headquarters of the Italian Institute of Germanic Studies; the Casino is a must-see, and not just for the awe-inspiring view from its tower.
Finally, take on an excursion outside the Aurelian Walls to stroll Rome’s second-largest park, Villa Ada, (Via Salaria). A former hunting grounds belonging to the Savoys, this park comprises not only squirrels and rabbits, but parrots as well!