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Since people who visit Rome usually keep their visits to the city’s historical centre, they sometimes get the idea that there aren’t many green spaces. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rome boasts the title of being the “greenest” city in Europe, with parks all over. Different in size and style, perhaps the city’s most famous one is Villa Borghese. This particular park was developed around what used to be a residence and garden for the powerful Borghese family. In the early XX century, it was acquired by the State and opened to the general public. With almost 200,000 acres of territory, it’s Rome fourth largest park. But Villa Borghese’s way more than just a lovely green area of the city. It is home to an incredible number of attractions. A stroll down the lanes of this park is definitely worth your while. Here are some of the reasons why.

Museums, museums everywhere

 
One of the most important museums in the city (and the world, actually) is located by one of the Villa’s entrance. The Borghese Gallery is a beautiful building near the northern entrance of the park, not far away from the famous Via Veneto. It is the largest museum based on a single person’s collection, Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Among the numerous works you can find here, there are many of Bernini’s sculptures (“Apollo and Daphne” is a personal favourite), some of Caravaggio’s paintings and a lot of other masterpieces by lesser known artists.
But even if this is the park’s most famous museum, it’s not the only one. You can also find smaller ones, like the Pietro Canonica (a lovely little fortress dedicated to the artist that gives the museum its name); the Carlo Bilotti museum, home to works by De Chirico and others; the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art; and the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, these last two barely outside the Villa.

A great place to enjoy a movie

 
In 2004, the Casa del Cinema (House of Cinema) was created to play movies of general interest. Equipped with many rooms for movies, photo expositions and even a theatre out in the open for the summer months, the Casa is an important cultural centre and a great place to catch a movie while having a bite of mozzarella and enjoying the park’s fresh air.
Villa Borghese also prides itself in being home to the world’s smallest movie theatre, the Cinema dei Piccoli, which plays subtitled children films.

Restaurants galore

 
No place in Italy would be complete without at least a couple of cool eating spots. Near the Villa’s famous water clock (created by a Dominican friar and scientist) there’s the traditional and picturesque Casina dell’Orologio, where you can get your espresso fix before walking on and reaching the Pincio Terrace, one of the best views in all of the city. You can take your selfie there and enjoy the sight of Rome (we recommend getting there by sunset), and then either head to the Casina Valadier for a fancy dinner or, if you’re more in the mood for a sweet treat, walk down a little bit further and have a lovely cup of tea with pastries at Colbert, inside the French Academy. You can also, of course, bring your own food to the villa and have a picnic or DIY aperitivo as well. Nothing like a romantic glass of wine by the Pincio or surrounded by classic statues.

Take a boat ride at the Laghetto

 
Villa Borghese is big enough to hold its very own lake. Well, a small artificial lake, but a beautiful one at that. The Laghetto di Esculapio (“Asclepius’ little lake”) is one of the park’s most charming spots. Near the Villa’s exit to Piazza del Popolo, this area is filled with the shade the trees provide, and it gives you the chance to enjoy a short but romantic boat ride. If that is not your choice, you can always head to the Casina del Lago, a little bar ideal for a cocktail or a cup of tea while the heat dies down.
  

As you can now probably see, you can spend more than one day in this park and there would still be things to do and places to visit. We hope you can allot some time in your schedule to visit Villa Borghese and appreciate its beauty personally. If you’re already thinking about it, contact us! We can help you plan the best trip to Rome ever!

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One of the first things that usually strike people as odd when they arrive in Rome is the number of churches they find in the city, especially in the most visited areas. There is, of course, a logical explanation for this. Rome, having been for more than two thousand years the “headquarters” for the Catholic Church, has seen the growth and prosperity of the church throughout history and the temples it has are here as a sign of this. Do not mistake them for abandoned buildings or museums, though. Most of the churches in Rome continue to be active and, besides the visits from the millions of tourists that come here every year, are also active centres for worship, formation and welfare service.
That being said, it is also true that many of them are truly precious, whether for their historical importance, the artistic works of art they house or the building in themselves that make them masterpieces on their own right. This, of course, is no secret, but the huge number of temples makes it impossible to visit them all. That is why we wanted to suggest a couple of them you really shouldn’t miss while you’re here. We’ll skip the more classic and well known, like Saint Peter or the Pantheon, and instead propose some rather unknown but very interesting ones.

Find layer upon layer of Rome in San Clemente

 
Not far away from the Colosseum or Saint John’s Basilica lies San Clemente, “Saint Clement”. This gorgeous basilica is especially interesting, however, not because of the current building, but of what lies underneath. In the lower levels you will find the remains of the medieval basilica, and going even deeper underground the ruins of a Roman house and a Mithraeum, a small ancient temple dedicated to the god Mithras, whose cult was pretty much in fashion during the time of Emperor Hadrian. The whole exhibition is very well curated, definitely worth a visit (and also a refreshing change of temperature in the scorching heat of the summer). You’ll find it at Via Labicana 93.


Geek out at Saint’Ivo alla Sapienza

 
Francesco Borromini is, to this day, one of the persons who has left his very visible mark in Rome. Among his works, one of the most interesting is the small (by Roman standards) chapel for what once was the main building for the Sapienza University and now is home to the State’s Archive. Since it was to become the church for that university’s students, Borromini made of that building a symbol of humanity’s search for wisdom (Sapienza means “wisdom” in Italian). From the foundations to the cross on the top of Saint Ivo, the place is packed with symbols and images related to this pursuit. The gorgeous courtyard where the church is located isolates it from the noisy streets of the city centre, so it can also be an oasis of stillness in the middle of Rome. You’ll find it at Corso del Rinascimento 40, between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.


Be dazzled by mosaics at Santa Prassede

 
Just a few steps away from Santa Maria la Maggiore lies Santa Prassede, one of Rome’s many minor Basilicas. It’s one of those places you’ll risk passing by without noticing it. But once you enter, it’s a different story. While there are other churches in Rome that have kept at least a little of byzantine art, Santa Prassede has probably the lion’s share of it. Both the apse and a small chapel remain as a glorious example of medieval art. Santa Prassede also claims to have a relic from Jesus himself: namely, part of the pillar where he was whipped by the soldiers during his Passion (the Franciscans in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre Basilica claim to have it as well, but that’s another story for another day). The Basilica is also home to a huge reliquary holding the remains of hundreds of Roman martyrs, which makes it an interesting stop if you’re a pilgrim or interested in the early days of Christianism in the city. You’ll find all this at Via di Santa Prassede.


Adjust your sundial at Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

 
What do you do when you have the ruins of ancient baths lying around? Well, Pope Pius IV charged Michelangelo with the task of using them as base to build a Basilica. The famed artist laid down the main design to which other artists would add their own contributions later on. Located at the Piazza della Repubblica, this basilica was for a while the main church for the Kingdom of Italy. All this, and the church’s undisputable beauty makes for a sight to see. But Santa Maria is also the home to the city’s meridian. Pope Clement XI had it built there to check the accuracy of the then new Gregorian Calendar, and also as a way to predict Easter and boast a bigger and better meridian than the one there was in Bologna. Picture a huge sundial decorated with the signs of the zodiac and you’ll get an estimate image of this quirky creation. The Basilica holds contemporary art exhibitions from time to time, so ask if there’s any presentation when you go visit it!



 

This small showing of Rome’s almost thousand churches is another great example of how the city’s attractions are almost limitless. It also reminds us that, while Rome is always amazing, it’s better to know with someone who knows how to move around town. Let us help you plan your trip and guide you through the Eternal City. Contact us! We can’t wait to show you Rome.

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