Everyone knows that Rome is a city with lots to offer. Everywhere you look there’s wonderful architecture and art, ancient ruins, splashing fountains, romantic vistas. But when you’re tired of sightseeing, a great place to relax and recharge the batteries is the Botanical Gardens. Not only is it a renowned research establishment, it’s a lovely way to spend a hot afternoon.
Set in the heart of the bustling Trastevere district, and only 15 minutes’ walk from the historic centre of Rome, the Botanical Gardens are by contrast tranquil and contemplative. Except, that is, for the colony of colourful parakeets who live in a palm tree near the entrance and are always screeching like a street scene from Eastenders! I knew the Gardens must be close by when I spotted this wonderful brugmansia signposting our way.
There has been a botanical gardens in Rome since the end of the 13th century, although not on this site. The Gardens transferred to this location in 1873, so many of the trees are now reaching maturity. Only metres beneath the ground surface lie the remains of the Baths of Septimus Severus, whose fountains and shaded colonnades were laid out more than18 centuries ago. The park’s central area is set out formally, with avenues meeting at a lovely fountain – a popular spot for people to sit and relax, listening to its quiet splashing.
The planting is a mix of Mediterranean succulents, shrubs such as rosemary and bay, and more billowing flowering plants such as romneya, which soften the formal lines and make for a pleasingly relaxed atmosphere.
The park extends up the hillside, where I found a small Japanese garden tucked away and these two local artists busy with their watercolours.
Sinuous paths are laid out between a variety of native trees such as oaks, and specimens such as the rare wollemi pine from Australia. It’s worth the effort to walk up to the far end of the 16 acre grounds as the views back over to the historic centre of Rome are superb.
Wandering slowly back to the main paths I came across these gorgeous orchids growing in swathes alongside ferns beneath a shady canopy.
The Botanical Gardens is completely enclosed by the residential district. But of course, as this is Rome, almost every street you walk down has an elegant palazzo, a beautiful Baroque church, or an ancient cobbled street to engage your attention. And the festoons of bright bougainvillea add a festive finishing touch as you leave to begin another round of sightseeing!