Although the famous gardens of Villa Borghese are lovely at any time of the year, the brisk days of winter and early spring, when the air is fresh and crisp, are an ideal time to visit.
The garden occupies an area of give-or-take 100 hectares and it is now in the heart of the city. When, in 1604, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, walked through his new property it was in open country, outside the city walls. The noble families, including the Borghese, lived in Rome in their palaces; Villa Borghese was used as a luxurious country residence, designed for entertaining.
The original garden was formal, but when Prince Marcantonio Borghese took over the property in 1776 he created a romantic English-style garden, the kind that was then in fashion all over Europe. He built the charming little lake with its tiny island and temple dedicated to Aesculapius, which remains a favourite spot over 200 years later. One of the holm oaks (Quercus ilex) from the original planting can still be admired on the northeast side of the lake behind the little temple. These evergreen oaks provide dense shade for the gardens in the summer.
The garden was enlarged during the Napoleonic occupation when Prince Camillo Borghese married Napoleon