In 1605, Cardinal Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, turned a former vineyard, in what was then, a hill on the outskirts of Rome, into immense gardens. In the 1800s, much of the gardens were changed to English-style gardens, as was the taste then. In 1903, the gardens were given to Rome, now the Villa Borghese Gardens. This is the second largest park in Italy, and it’s huge. It is accessible in many places, most notably at the top of the Spanish Steps. It is a beautiful park of fountains, lakes, forests, an equestrian center, open fields, sports complexes, carnival rides for kids, rent-able bikes for four, museums, fine hotels and more. This is not a post about that.
In this spectacular park sits the Museum Borghese. The museum is the Borghese family collection of 16th and 17th century sculptures, paintings and other works. It’s one of the best private collections of art ever amassed in the in the world. The museum only allows 200 people every two hours and you have to have an appointment to get in–no walk-ups. The collection is well-represented with Berninis, Carvaggios, Raphaels, and more. Also stunning is the craftsmanship of the building itself. The interior is almost completely sheathed in a great variety of spectacular marble and incredible wall and ceiling paintings. Every room is a visual delight, and that’s before you notice the incredible art collection hanging throughout. This is not a post about that.
This post is about the rather unimpressive gardens surrounding the Villa itself. Set around this world-class, magnificent museum–of some of the greatest art ever created, inside the Villa Borghese park–one of the most impressively-landscaped parks ever created on such a scale, is a sort of lame garden that is (or was not at the time of our visit) a not-well-cared-for garden.
Behind the Villa is a typical boxwood-hedged knot garden. Boxwood surrounding lavenders–I could have done THAT! All the boxwood had weeds growing through them (seen in the photo at top). I’ve visited many gardens in my travels and have been in awe of the design & unusual plant selections–and this one sort of fell flat. I’m no connoisseur of gardens or a professional garden critic / historian, but if I’m not impressed, I can’t imagine what a professional gardener writer would think.
Beside the Villa is a vegetable and herb garden that seemed overly designed with elaborate beds–more fussy design than the knot garden! There were star-shaped beds, compass rose-shaped, and less-easily-defined bed shapes, beds of just grass, and many beds filled with low growing plants that just looked a bit messy. Upon close inspection, not many were weeded. This was August–to be fair–all of Rome was on vacation. Apparently the gardeners were too.
I’m not one to complain too much, it’s still nicer than my garden (in parts) but I expected so much more. Have you ever visited a garden with which you’ve been underwhelmed? Not counting family, of course.