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  • Writer's pictureWill von Behr, MA

A Brief History of Villa Borghese in Rome

What is Villa Borghese?

Villa Borghese is a scenic public garden in Rome that was designed in the late 18th century by Jacob More, and is filled with museums, temples and sculptures.

Villa Borghese History

Villa Borghese gardens and lake

Rome’s most famous public park owes its origin to Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a 17th-century nobleman, art collector and patron of Caravaggio. He commissioned a small palace to be built by the Renaissance architect Flaminio Ponzio, which was continued after Ponzio’s death by Giovanni Vasanzio. In the late 18th century, Prince Mercantonio Borghese hired Jacob More, a Scottish landscape artist, to design the gardens around the family villa, which were subsequently expanded in the century thereafter.

The Piazza di Siena, a rustic amphitheatre located at the garden’s centre, is named after the native town of the Borghese family, and set amongst the umbrella pines, it plays host to international equestrian events. Nearby, you’ll find the Temple of Diana, a small circular structure built in ancient Greek style, and the Lake Garden (Giardino del Lago), one of the most famous corners of the park. The architects Antonio and Mario Asprucci created it when they helped to enlarge the Borghese Gardens at the end of the 18th century. The lake reflects the columns of the Temple of Asclepius, another imitation.

The paths through the Villa Borghese gardens are framed by a romantic landscape of lakes, trees and flower gardens, and flanked by imitation antique sculpture. Just to the north of the Piazza di Siena is a little castle that was the house and studio of the early 20th-century sculptor and musician, Pietro Canonica. It’s now a museum dedicated to the life and works of the artist.

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