The Borghese Gallery is simply one of the best galleries in Rome, housed in a lovely historic villa in beautiful gardens of 150 acres. Built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese under the auspice of Pope Paul V (who was his uncle) in the early seventeenth century, the villa was built on a large vineyard, which was quickly turned into the Cardinal’s vision for a Theatre of the Universe. Rare plants and animals were imported, there were waterfalls and hunting grounds, huge groves of trees and still some vineyard and farming to sustain the family.
These days the Borghese Gardens are a shady haven on a hill rising up from the crowded streets surrounding the Piazza del Popolo. Cardinal Scipione was also an important patron on the art and supported the controversial and brilliant painter Caravaggio and the influential sculptor Bernini. Through this, the Cardinal is renowned as an important figure in the development of the Baroque art movement. But he also collected widely from other eras including Titian and Raphael and the gallery collection is breathtaking in its number of well-known works. In 1807 another Borghese, Camillo, sold hundreds of pieces from the collection to Napoleon and they’re now in the Louvre as the Borghese Collection. There was still plenty left in the villa though – the family collected and commissioned art voraciously. In 1902 the Italian state acquired the property and it became a public gallery and gardens. Because the gallery is small and very popular, you have to reserve tickets online beforehand, and you must enter and exit at your allocated times. It’s located very centrally and you can easily walk there from either the Spanish Steps or up from the Piazza del Popolo. There is no excuse not to go.
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours & things to do, top Rome attractions, and top Rome recommendations. Short in time for the Borghese Gallery? Make sure to check our Skip the Line: Borghese Gallery and Gardens Walking Tour.