What to Do In and Around Rome’s Villa Borghese

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Posted October 30, 2017

Two hundred and ten acres of rolling greens make up Villa Borghese, Rome's favorite public park, which belonged to the Borghese family until the end of the 19th century.

Two hundred and ten acres of rolling greens make up Villa Borghese, Rome's favorite public park, which belonged to the Borghese family until the end of the 19th century. Whether you prefer to enjoy a quiet moment in the sun or bike along the paths, you'll find plenty to do. Within the park, there are art galleries at Villa Giulia, the Borghese Gallery, Canonica Museum and Bilotti Chapel; children's programs at the Casa di Raffaello; rentals of all kinds (bikes, pedal cars, boats, and roller blades); a children's cinema and Casa del Cinema, a modern repertoire film with a full program of screenings, film editing, and direction classes; a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater; a dog park; and several cafés. And exploring the the area immediately surrounding the park provides a nice compliment to a day spent in it. Here, five places you shouldn’t miss, both inside and within walking distance of Villa Borghese.

Borghese Gallery

The outstanding private collection of the noble Borghese family went public when they lost their fortune in the late 1800's; today it's the world's most perfect small art museum. The works here are immediately impressive and provocative, from ancient Roman mosaics of gory amphitheater scenes to the topless statue of Pauline Bonaparte by Canova. Bernini's astonishing marble sculptures, including David, Apollo and Daphne, and Rape of Persephone, are masterpieces of baroque tension and show off the mind-boggling chisel skills of the artist. Rounding out the collection are a slew of high-keyed Caravaggios, including David with the Head of Goliath; Correggio's delightful (and racy) Danae; and Titian's iconic Renaissance painting Sacred and Profane Love. The Borghese Gallery has timed entrances with limited tickets so advanced reservations are obligatory.

Palazzo Fendi

Fendi's flagship store reopened in late 2015, to show off its restyling of the massive 17th-century palazzo that sits at the intersection of Via Condotti and Via del Corso. The multi-level building includes two floors of luxury goods (including a window box atelier to watch the actualization of Fendi's handcrafted designs), Fendi Privée—seven luxury suites with panoramic views—and a rooftop restaurant.

Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel

If you want to spend the night near the Villa Borghese, it's hard to beat this beautifully updated 19th-century palazzo with 122 rooms, phenomenal terraced gardens, and incredible location between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps. Since its 2000 opening, the Hotel de Russie has been a favorite of Hollywood elite not just for its convenient location and white glove service, but also for its urban seclusion. Near some of the city's best shopping on Via Condotti, the hotel is a shopper's paradise as well as a rare urban oasis of green. Its distinctive modern interiors are an eclectic mix of pastels, handsome dark woods, and walls accented with Mapplethorpe photography. The newly renovated on-site spa is rock star-ready with Turkish bath, swimming pool, chromatherapy, wellness zone, and ever-present personal trainers. Especially pleasant in summer is the Stravinskij bar in the outdoor garden courtyard and the Jardin de Russie restaurant with its terraced gardens.

Dal Bolognese

Star-gazers head for Ristorante dal Bolognese, frequented by luminaries from Rome's political and entertainment scenes. Insider tip: Ask Italian friends to book your table, or you may find yourselves seated alongside other foreign guests.Dine by the docks at Baja (Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, near Ponte Margherita; 39-06/3260-0118; dinner for two $65), a restaurant on a minimalist moored boat, serving oddball dishes such as salmon marinated in pink grapefruit.

Ara Pacis Museum

Overlooking the Tiber River is the Ara Pacis Museum, which houses the eponymous Altar of Peace. The altar was built in 9 B.C. to celebrate Emperor Augustus’s victories in Hispania and Gaul and the subsequent Pax Augusta (Augustan Peace). Considered the most significant example of Augustan sculpture, the white marble monument depicts the emperor and his family offering sacrifices to the gods, and the lifesize portraits are recognizable as real people rather than idealized types. Designed by American architect Richard Meier, the museum features 5,381 square feet of crystal panels, bathing the altar with natural light.

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