Those crisp winter mornings are fading, and that spring smell has once again returned. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the children are restless to get outside. The park is the perfect combination of relaxation and entertainment. Not all parks are created equal though, Borghese Park is one that stands out from the rest. It actually surpasses the others I use to be so fond of, like Central Park, Boston Common, and Balboa Park. This 197.7-acre park, located just north of the Spanish Steps, is by far the best park in Rome for kids of all ages. Borghese Park can be accessed by the Spanish Steps and at the Porte del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo. This park features fountains, a lake, temples, statues, museums, and a botanical garden, to name just a few.
A Short History of the Park of Villa Borghese.
Cardinal Scipione Borghese transformed his private home (now the Borghese Museum) and gardens into an art gallery and park of rare beauty, wanting to make this the most expensive park in Rome. To grow his property, he started buying up vineyards and adding them on to his existing ‘back yard’.
Landscaper Domenico Savino was appointed to design the park in the early 1600’s, replicating an English style garden. Various busts (228 to be exact) of Italian statesmen, architects, poets, and sculptors can be found throughout the park. You may be interested to know that the Tritons found in Piazza Navona are actually nineteenth-century replicas, while the originals can be found in Borghese Park. There are also several Villas in the park including Villa Giulia and Villa Medici. Villa Giulia was the summer residence of Pope Julius III and now is the Etruscan Museum. Villa Medici has housed the French Academy of Rome since 1803. Other villas you will find in the park are remains of the 1911 world exposition. The park was given to the public in 1903. Also, included within the park is Bioparco di Roma. It is located in the northern area of the park and is one of the oldest zoos in Europe.
TAKING THE KIDS TO THE PARK
My husband and I frequent the park with my six and four-year-old sons. Since the park is rather large (and our kids have little legs), we rent a four-person quadracycle and ride around. Most of the time we just drive around exploring in an attempt to get lost. If you are more of a planner, I suggest you print out a map of the park before you go or if you forget, there are stationary maps in the park where you can take a photo and keep it on hand. In our explorations, we discovered a kiddie amusement park where little ones can play games and ride cars around a small racing track. For the older kids (or kids at heart), rent a one-person quadracycle. If electric is more your style, rent a segway or golf cart for touring the park. Otherwise take a tour of the borghese Gallery that also includes a short walk in the park itself.
PICNICS AND OTHER OPTIONS
If you need a break from your exercise, then head over to Teatro San Carlino Marionette Theater located on Viale dei Bambini, Pincio. Check the schedule online beforehand since they host a number of theatrical performances each week. You will find a few cafes and restaurants throughout the park. I believe the best way to enjoy a meal here is to pack a picnic lunch. I let the boys choose the shadiest spot and set up camp. A delicious loaf of freshly baked bread stuffed with mortadella and cheese always brings a smile to everyone’s face. Since dessert is a must in our family, enjoy some gelato at La Casina dell’Orologio, located on Piazza dei Martiri, this bar has been open since 1922 serving traditional favorites including excellent gelato. There are also a number of equestrian events held in the park each year including the famous Piazza di Siena International Horse Show.
ONE OF THE BEST VIEW OF ROME
If after all of these activities the kids still have extra energy, then stopping at the bouncy castle and carousel, next to Piazza dei Martiri, will do the trick. Sometimes, we just stroll through the park and stop to watch some experts on rollerblades put on a show. Or, we blow bubbles while listening to a local musician playing his saxophone. It’s amazing how my kids are mesmerized by the tunes, it always seems to be the simple stuff which makes them the happiest. The point here is to relax, have some fun, and take in your surroundings. The sounds, smells, sights, and people you find are what Rome and Borghese Park is all about. With endless activities and some imagination, a fabulous day is awaiting you.
For a great photo opportunity, head to the south of the park to the Pincio (formerly Pincian Hill). This overlook encompasses many sights you may see in your tours of Rome including: the Vatican, Piazza del Popolo, and the Monument to King Victor Emanuel.