A luscious botanical garden smack in the center of Rome.
If you're tired of city life maybe it's time to tend the garden.
Rome's Botanical Garden is surprisingly large, and surprisingly well-hidden. Yet here, between the Tiber and the Gianicolo, you will find more than 3000 plant species hidden on 12 hectares of luscious, wild greenery.
This veritable Garden of Eden is a great place to escape the crowds and noise of Rome's historical center and get your nature-fix in the middle of the crowded alleys of historical Rome.
At the northwestern tip of Trastevere, close to the river and not far from the Vatican. Map.
IT TOOK TWO years of living in the Eternal City, as well as an additional 20+ visits over the course of a decade, before Minor Sights finally made it down the Yellow Brick Road to Rome's Botanical Garden (It: Orto Botanico.) And that's not unusual: in spite of being a 5 minute stroll from various tourist attractions, 99% of visitors never discovers this great little garden.
|Emperor Severus used to bathe here; Prince Corsini used to stroll here.|
However, it took Italian reunification, and the hostile take-over of the gardens of the adjacent Orsini Palace before the gardens reached their current shape and legal status. Now managed by the Biology Department of the University of Rome La Sapienza, the garden is open to anybody, regardless of Papal or noble connections.
|Bonus points if you can tell us what this is (comment box below). We have no idea!|
But hey, just like you didn't come to Rome to look for straight lines and modern architecture, the higgledy-piggledy nature of the Botanical Garden is very much part of its charm.
There's a Japanese garden with tiny red maple leaves (in late autumn at least.) There's a bamboo forest that wouldn't be out of place in rural China. There are Mediterranean cacti and Himalayan cedars, greenhouses galore, and depending on the season, the multi-coloured hues of either flowers or dying leaves.
|A touch of Japan in central Rome|
As usual in Rome, your best bet is walking. The Garden's entrance is reached through Via Corsini, off of Via della Lungara. You'll pass the massive Palazzo Corsini, a magnificent late-Baroque pile whose original extensive gardens were confiscated in the post-reunification Anschluss to create the current Orto Botanico.
(As an aside, Palazzo Corsini was the Roman residence of the infamous Christina, the slightly eccentric/bonkers Queen of Sweden, and the square in front of the Garden bears her name.)
|Palazzo Corsini as seen from its erstwhile gardens.|
On the way to the garden you will pass another fantastic Minor Sight, the Villa Farnesina with Raphael's stunning frescoes.
La Sapienza publishes a useful leaflet of the gardens which can be downloaded here.