From the historic centre to the Aventine Hill, from the Esquiline to the places just outside the city, Rome and its surroundings keep romantic and "secret" gardens, enveloped in an ancient and fascinating aura, linked to the course of history or works of patronage. Green spaces where to stroll, relax while reading a book and take a break from the chaos of the city, have an outdoor snack or admire one of the many sides of the Great Beauty of the Eternal City.
The gold of the early morning, the blue of the day, the pink of the sunset; it is the magic of the colours of Rome to experience in all seasons: during the awakening of nature in spring, when the warm shades of late summer blooms explode or in autumn with the romantic gold-orange of the foliage.
Among ancient remains, noble residences, and beautiful landscape architectures, let's discover some "hidden" places, more or less known oases of peace which, as Rousseau wrote, reveal a wonderful book "always open for all eyes: nature".
Between fascination and geometries: the Garden of Palazzo Colonna
If you are nearby Piazza Venezia on a Saturday morning, after visiting the splendid Galleria Colonna in via della Pilotta, four small bridges lead you to the marvelous garden of the historical residence of the noble Roman family.
The monumental green space, a real open-air museum, extends over the Quirinal Hill, on the ancient area where a majestic temple complex from the 1st-3rd century AD once stood, initially dedicated to Saturn and Bacchus, then the temple of the Sun, temple of Serapis and, later, Severian temple of Hercules and Dionysus. The garden, transformed into a pleasure garden between the 16th and 18th centuries, is divided into three large terraces decorated with sculptures and archaeological finds, a large nymphaeum with a water display and an aedicule with the statues of Marcantonio, Fabrizio and Prospero Colonna.
Walking along the paths decorated with Italian hedges, small box and citrus hedges, in the shade of big magnolia trees, you can retrace the steps of great personalities of the history of the Capital, such as Petrarca, Michelangelo, Bernini, Pope Martin V, up to to the third terrace which will give you an unforgettable experience. From the Janiculum Hill to St. Peter's Basilica, the magnificence of the city opens in front of you from a privileged perspective.
The oasis of the cardinals: the Giardino Grande of Palazzo Venezia
Imagine an island of quiet in the nerve centre of the city, where the melodious sound of the gush of water from a fountain reigns supreme: you are in Piazza Venezia, where, inside the homonymous 15th-century palace, there is this delightful Renaissance-style garden embellished with box hedges, palm trees, magnolias and flowers.
The Giardino Grande was born as the courtyard of the imposing building, once the cardinals of San Marco and papal residence, and transformed into a garden in the 19th century. Enter from Piazza San Marco, where, after admiring Madama Lucrezia, one of Rome's talking statues, the entrance with a coffered vault will definitely remind you of the dome of the Pantheon.
In the centre, there is a beautiful 18th-century fountain depicting Venice marrying the sea, built when the building was the seat of the Embassy of the Republic of Venice, which symbolically recalls the union between the "Serenissima" and the waters, celebrated annually in a traditional and very ancient ceremony of the lagoon city.
Enjoy this little paradise for an unusual break between the spectacular architecture of the Basilica of San Marco in Campidoglio and the classically inspired two-order portico inspired by the most famous Roman amphitheatre worldwide and symbol of Rome, the Colosseum.
A green terrace with a view: Villa Aldobrandini
A stone's throw from the Quirinale is this lovely hanging garden, enclosed by walls, with an entrance from via Mazzarino, through a steep staircase, between ancient ruins from the end of the I century. Its overlooking position offers an extraordinary view with which the eye catches, depending on the direction, some of the most suggestive glimpses of the historic centre: Piazza Venezia, the imposing Torre delle Milizie and the Church of Santa Caterina da Siena, the Quirinale Palace, Salita del Grillo and the Church of Saints Domenico and Sisto.
The small green corner is the accessible part of the park of Monsignor Giulio Vitelli's 16th-century villa in Monte Magnanapoli, which also included a building and a secret garden, sold to the Aldobrandini Family in 1600 and reduced with the opening of via Nazionale in 1926. Today, it is possible to walk among reproductions of ancient statues, archaeological finds - such as vases, memorial stones, and seats - some fountains, in the shade of secular trees, cypresses, laurels, lemons, palms of various species and camellias of many shades planted for over one hundred years.
In the shadow of the Baroque: the Garden of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale
Not far from Villa Aldobrandini, in front of the imposing Palazzo del Quirinale, is a green spot hidden between the churches of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale and San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. While you stroll along its elegant paths, these two Baroque masterpieces will tell you the fascinating story of the most famous artistic antagonism ever: the one between Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini.
Dominated in the centre by the evocative and modern bronze monument "Carabinieri nella tormenta", the garden extends overthe previous vegetable garden of the neighbouring convent complex of Sant'Andrea. The religious, returning from missions in distant lands, brought plants that were unknown and exotic at the time, such as cedars and camphor, to plant in the garden. After the unification of Italy, when the Quirinale became the royal family residence, the garden took its present form with curvilinear paths, flower beds and a rustic fountain.
Opened to the public in the late 1960s, the Sant'Andrea Garden is the ideal place to relax in the shade of the centuries-old trees, maybe after an exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, a walk to discover the Rione Monti, a stop for your purchases in Via Nazionale or just for a pleasant lunch break.
The eclectic charm: the gardens of Piazza Vittorio
Nature, archaeology and mystery are the three elements that characterize the Nicola Calipari gardens, inaugurated in the second half of the 19th century, which occupy most of the surface of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in the multi-ethnic Rione Esquilino.
Among palm trees, magnolias, plane trees and a lovely rose garden, an eclectic mix of Roman, 19th-century and modern architecture offers a journey through history and fascinating facts surrounded by greenery.
Walking among the various fountains, you can discover the monumental "The Trophies of Marius" dated to 226 AD, built by Alessandro Severo as a castle for distributing water, and the extravagant fountain of the Glauco by Mario Rutelli with the sculptures of a dolphin, three tritons and a large octopus: made in 1910 for what was then Piazza Esedra, it was ironically called the "fritto misto" (fried fish).
If you are fascinated by ancient legends, you can admire the so-called Porta Magica (Magic Door) what remains of the 17th-century Villa Palombara of the Marquis Oddo Savelli di Palombara. The curious structure, also known as the "Alchemical Door", is set in a wall guarded by two statues of the Egyptian god Bes. On it are esoteric and cabalistic symbols and inscriptions in Hebrew and Latin, which, according to tradition, refer to the enigmatic secret of the philosopher's stone.
In the footsteps of the Aniene River: Villa Gregoriana
This suggestive naturalistic park is located in the ancient city of Tivoli, about 30 kilometres from Rome, famous for its UNESCO heritage villas and an ideal destination for a day or a weekend to discover the ancient architecture and the characteristic medieval citadel.
Fundamental requirement: wear comfortable shoes for better enjoying the experience of this enchanted landscape, commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI in the first half of the 19th century, an imperative destination of the Grand Tour and a protagonist of the great artists' paintings.
Dominated by the ancient acropolis with the Roman temples of Vesta and Sibilla, Villa Gregoriana will carry you into a magical universe: archaeological and architectural remains from various times, waterfalls, caves, terraces and exciting panoramas. The Great Waterfall, born from the waters of the Aniene artificially diverted into Mount Catillo, will leave you breathless with its 120-metre drop. Walking through its winding paths, surrounded by lush vegetation, you can admire the remains of the Roman domus of Manlio Vopisco, the caves eroded by water, such as the Grotta di Nettuno and the Grotta delle Sirene (Neptune's and Sirens' cave), and explore tunnels dug into the rock, up to the "Valle dell'Inferno" (Valley of Hell), the gorge dug by the fury of the river over time.