10 June 2011

Best Things: Rome's Villa Borghese

Lady in the Fountain
Rome is a huge city...as I mentioned in my post about the Vespa tour, there is so much to see when visiting, that time you go, you can find something new and unexpected.

For me, it is also a very overwhelming place. I've now spent quite a bit of time there, and it's no secret that it's not my favorite place in the world. But, the city and I did get along well this time.

One important reason for that? I was able to get away from the crowds and find some moments of peace. Our trip happened to coincide with the beatification of Pope John Paul II, which meant many, many pilgrims heading into town to celebrate him. It also meant throngs of people in almost every nook and cranny...not my favorite thing.

On the day of the actual beatification ceremony, my brother and mom went over to the Vatican and ancient Rome, and I decided to wander. I am so glad I did! I headed to the Spanish Steps, then decided to continue walking up the street and see where that led me.
Bike/walking Path

And there, right in the middle of the touristy center of Rome, was the Villa Borghese. I had heard about these for a while, and my goal HAD been to go to the Borghese Gallery, but that was abandoned once I entered the park (oh, and forgot to get a reservation and all that jazz).

The Borghese Gardens sit atop a hill in Rome, extending from right nearby the Spanish Steps all the way down to the Piazza Popolo. I am not sure how deep it goes, but it looks to be a mile or two. I kind of pooped out after a bit, so couldn't explore it all. BUT, what I did get to see was pretty amazing.

If you just continue down the entry path, you'll hit the  Plaza Napoleone. From there, you will see a gorgeous cityscape view of Rome, including the side of the Vatican. It is fun to try to orient yourself to where you exactly are! While I was there, helicopters were flying all over the Vatican and more central city area...though it felt like they were miles and miles away, that's how peaceful the park was. This particular plaza is rather popular -- when I arrived there was a gaggle of teenagers there on some sort of school trip, all in matching clothing and special little hats, and being followed by a very harried-looking group of adult chaperones -- but still there was a sense of quiet.

I continued my walk throughout the park, and discovered a carousel, bike rentals, signs for a casino, and much more. Locals were there, on their runs, trying to dodge the tourists (made me miss my running shoes!). There is also this very cool water clock...I thought I had taken a picture but apparently I didn't! There are also a ton of trees...which makes me think that on a hot day, this would be a nice respite from the heat of Rome.

Overall, it is a great place to get away from the crowds and noise. I imagine it would get crowded up there, but the sheer size would allow you to find a peaceful spot. And, overall, I think there is something about parks that mellows people out. If you're traveling with kids, this is a great place to let them run loose for a bit, and entertain them with the bikes, little amusement park, and a zoo. Or, if you'd like, perhaps grab a sandwich and some vino and have yourself a little picnic.
View of Piazza Popolo from Villa Borghese

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