Rome is a major European capital, with the traffic and urban congestion that comes along with being such an important Italian city. However, if you break away from the stone alleyways that wind through the center, there are plenty of little green corners to enjoy. Some of the best parks and gardens in Rome are within a few minutes walk from major monuments. Others sit a bit further outside the center but are well worth the small effort needed to reach them.
Pack a picnic, rent a bike or simply go for a walk – these parks also represent some of the best free things to do in Rome. But most importantly, they offer a break from the constant buzz of scooter engines and rumbling trains.
Best Parks and Gardens in Rome
- Villa Borghese: Filled with easy paths, a lake with row boats, and even a horse ring, Villa Borghese is one of the best green spaces in Rome. It is Rome’s third largest park, and is also one of the most central, having once been the private estate of the Borghese family. In addition to outdoor landscaped areas, there are several art museums inside the park including Galleria Borghese and the National Gallery of Modern Art. There is one small eatery, but you should bring snacks and water if you plan to stay the day because the gardens are minimally developed. There are multiple park entrances, but one of the most impressive is accessible from Piazza del Popolo. Climb the stairs into the park and you will arrive at the Pincio Terrace – and one of Rome’s best city views.
- Giardino degli Aranci: This beautiful park on the top of the Aventine hill offers sweeping views of Rome. Giardino degli Aranci means “orange garden,” but the small park is also known as Parco Savello. Orange trees grow in the shade of Roman pines, and the park is often full of picnickers and children playing. However, the main draw is the terrace which looks out towards St. Peter’s Basilica. The garden is an easy uphill walk from either Circo Massimo or Testaccio. There are also stairs from Lungotevere Aventino, not too far from the Mouth of Truth.
- Roseto di Roma Capitale: Rome is beautiful in the spring, and one of the most glorious places to be is inside Rome’s rose garden – the Roseto Capitale. The rose garden is only open for the month of May until mid-June, when the flowers are in full bloom at the air is intoxicatingly sweet. The Roseto was once Rome’s Jewish cemetery, but when the cemetery was moved in the 20th century, the space overlooking Circo Massimo was transformed into a municipal garden that is open to the public in the spring. The garden is small but exquisitely manicured and a great place to sit relax between major sites if you happen to be lucky enough to be in Rome at the right time.
- Villa Torlonia: Located off of Via Nomentana, Villa Torlonia is a villa surrounded by quiet gardens. The villa was originally owned by a noble family, but Mussolini rented the space in the 1920s to use as his state residence. It was abandoned after 1945, and fell into decay, but recent restoration work has allowed it to be opened to the public as a museum. The gardens include several other interesting buildings including false ruins, a replica of the Temple of Saturn, and Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls), which has several references to the birds in its architecture and design.
- Villa Doria Pamphilj: Spend enough time in Rome, and you will do as the Romans do: fight the urge to escape the city. For an urban retreat without having to actually flee town, Villa Pamphilj is an oasis in the midst of chaotic city living. Villa Pamphilj (sometimes spelled Pamphili) is Rome’s largest park. The park once belonged to a noble family and offers everything from manicured gardens, to rolling meadows and pine forests. With plenty of space to frolic and picnic, the huge park is a local favorite. You will also find weekend warriors practicing yoga or tai chi under the shade of the umbrella pines.
- Parco della Caffarella: Parco della Caffarella is a part of the Appian Way Regional Park located in the Caffarella Valley. In Ancient Roman times, the land was owned by an important Roman senator. Today, the area contains several ancient and medieval ruins, as well as a working farm. Wander the green hills are you are likely to encounter groups of sheep. The old farmhouse (called Casale della Vaccareccia, is still inhabited). The huge green space is located to the south of Rome, and cuts into the city through various suburbs along the Appian Way – the straight road built to lead soldiers and supplies out of Ancient Rome. The park is a beautiful place to walk, bike or picnic and reconnect with the countryside while barely leaving the city.
- Villa Ada: After Villa Pamphilj, Villa Ada is Rome’s second largest park. The villa originally belonged to the noble Savoy family and contained the royal residence northeast of Rome. In the late 1800s, it was acquired by a wealthy Swiss count who named the villa after his wife, Ada. Today, the Egyptian Embassy owns part of the land, but much of the park is public and contains an artificial lake where you can rent canoes, numerous footpaths, a pool, and horseback riding trails.
- Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery: While hanging out at a cemetery might not normally be your first choice for a way to pass the days, Rome’s non-Catholic cemetery is a totally non-creepy sanctuary. Yes, it is the final resting place of Romantic English writers Keats and Shelley, among others, but the cemetery is also home to a small park, striking tombs, a large pyramid and plenty of cats. The recently restored pyramid of Cestius gives the piramide metro stop its name and the cats? Well, like many of Rome’s monuments and parks, the cemetery is also a cat refuge.
- Orto Botanico: Rome’s botanical gardens are one of the few green spaces that require an entrance fee. The beautiful gardens in Trastevere are managed by La Sapienza (Rome’s main university) and run along the lower slopes of the Gianicolo hill. The entrance to the (nearly) secret gardens is located directly behind Palazzo Corsini. The 30 acres of space feel entirely removed from the buzzing city beyond the garden walls and contain more than 3,000 species of plants.
- Parco degli acquedotti: One of my favorite parks and gardens in Rome is also one of the most underexplored outdoor spaces – Parco degli acquedotti. The suburban park offers a taste of the grandeur of Rome’s famous aqueducts. Virtually tourist-free, locals know that this section of Parco dell’Appia Antica is an ideal spot for enjoying Rome’s near-perfect weather. Massive and well-preserved aqueducts cut across green hills, sometimes past modern suburb housing. The large grassy areas under the aqueducts are filled with picnicking families on the weekends, but you can also rent a bike to explore the park.
- Parco Del Colle Oppio: Overlooking the Colosseum, Colle Oppio park is a small public garden near Esquilino. The park opened in 1871 as part of the urbanization project after Rome was declared the capital of Italy. Fountains, statues, and sculptures were added in the 1930s, but the parks most impressive feature apart from the view is the Domus Aurea – the ruins of Nero’s golden palace which lie underneath the modern day garden.
Do you have other favorite parks and gardens in Rome?