Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens)
I'm writing about these first because they are probably the least well-known of Rome's public gardens, but are arguably one of the best. The gardens span 12 hectares on the Gianicolo Hill, and have been in Rome since 1883. The grounds are divided into smaller gardens which include a Japanese garden, a tropical greenhouse, a Mediterranean forest, a medicinal garden, and wonderful bamboo forest.
At eight euros to enter they aren't cheap, but they are definitely worth visiting. Most tourists don't know about them, so if you're lucky you may have the whole garden almost to yourself. The gardens also offer a wonderful panoramic view of the city, and couldn't be in a better location. They are situated right at the entrance to Trastevere, so are in a perfect spot to go for an aperitivo or caffe afterwards.
Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Gardens), Aventino
The Aventine hill is most famous for the 'aventine keyhole', in the piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. Here there is an unassuming green door, which when peered through via the keyhole gives you a breathtaking view of the dome of San Pietro, perfectly framed by a row of arching trees. However, there is something else to be found up here which is not so well-known; a beautiful garden of orange trees.
I should probably say at this point that the oranges are not for picking, something that Emma and I didn't realise until we had already helped ourselves to a handful. Feeling slightly ashamed of ourselves, we escaped from the garden with our booty, only to quickly discover that the oranges are also definitely not for eating. It was like biting straight into a lemon. They were impossible to eat without first adding copious amounts of sugar, (which we later did to make a lovely Aventine Orange Cake - see Emma's blog for more info and pictures here: https://emmalaw.wordpress.com).
The Villa Borghese is so close to my new home that it feels like part of my back garden. However it is actually a gorgeous heart-shaped public park, situated right in the heart of Rome, and accessible from both Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna, as well as many other central places.
This oasis of greenery includes a zoo, a globe theatre to rival London's, two cinemas, a horse racing track, a dog friendly area where your pets can run free, a 'quiet area' for things like tai chi and meditating (very embarrassing for me when our dog Lilla didn't quite stick to her designated area, running straight into a full on yoga session), as well as, of course, the famous Borghese Galleria. The Villa Borghese was originally the grounds of the wealthy Borghese family, and the gallery here, housed in their old residence, is home to a stunning collection of art and sculptures that deserve a post in their own right. Suffice to say that it is a must-visit for any art history aficionados, and is so exclusive and sought after by visitors to Rome that appointments must be made in advance to see it.
The Villa Borghese was the first place I visited with my host family, on the morning I woke up in Rome ready to start my new adventure here. It has become like a part of my home during my time here, and for that reason it is my number one Giardini Romani; swathes of greenery, free to come and go as you please, stunning views of the city, and home to one of the most impressive art collections in the world, what more could you want from your local park?
There are many other gardens in Rome that I haven't mentioned here, and some that I have yet to visit myself. Among others, Rome is home to Villa Ada (Villa Borghese's northern sibling), Villa Doria-Pamphili, Rome's Japanese Gardens, Circo Massimo, and probably a lot of others that I don't even know about yet. So if you ever feel the need to get away to some greenery during your stay in Rome, hopefully this will point you in the right direction.