Full of flowerbeds, scenic views, museums, cultural attractions and leisure facilities, this is the city’s most popular and beloved park. Owned by the Borghese family for four centuries, in 1903 the princes’ garden became a park for the people of Rome after it was purchased by the Italian State and placed under Municipality of Rome management.

Cardinal Scipione, nephew of Pope Paul V, commissioned Villa Borghese just outside the city walls in the early 17th century. The 80-hectare park features a “Casino Nobile” (the modern-day Galleria Borghese), which today houses a rich collection of art. The Park’s many smaller buildings, originally used to manage the complex, have since been repurposed as museums and venues for cultural activities. Alongside an area arranged in geometric patterns and full of statues and fountains, the Cardinal was keen on creating prized “Secret Gardens” filled with rare flowers; he also set aside large areas for farming and hunting. Between the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Prince Marcantonio IV and his sons Camillo and Francesco transformed the park’s appearance and had it extended. Agricultural production was wound up, the park was enriched with spectacular architecture, and the more rustic buildings were upgraded to a luxurious style. The biggest change, however, was the transformation of a plantation of holm oaks into a “Lake Garden”. This feature was inspired by the canons of the English-style garden which, albeit later than in England, France and northern Italy, was gaining popularity in Rome. A long-running dispute between the family and the Italian State ended with the State purchasing the park and opening it to the public in 1903. With the exception of the Borghese Gallery, which remained under State management, the Municipality of Rome took over the complex and made further changes. During Fascism and World War II, the park’s layout was altered once again, with the addition of asphalt driveways, and removal of its gates and protective walls.