An elegant jewel box filled to bursting with gems of ancient, Renaissance and Baroque art, the Galleria Borghese is a nevertheless a museum on a manageable scale, and is set in a beautiful park on the Pincio hill.
When Pope Paul V of the Sienese Borghese family was elected Pope in 1605, his nephew Scipione was given the title cardinal nipote (Cardinal nephew, which gives us the word “nepotism”). Scipione was a man of culture, an enthusiastic and astute collector of works of art both ancient and modern, and he set about creating in his park on the Pincio hill what was termed a “Theatre of the Universe”. Such was this “universal” reach that, as well as statuary and paintings, the museum also housed fossils and orreries; its gardens were filled with exotic plants, and its aviaries with exotic birds. Musical recitals added to the multiplicity of cultural endeavours housed within its walls. The Museum was always intended as such, rather than a residence, and it was an important seat of representation, playing host to many a diplomatic visitor, perhaps most notably the Ambassador of Japan in 1615, who is said to have returned home not having reached his goal.
The rooms are themselves part of the exhibit, remodelled in the eighteenth century (when more was more) they are a cacophony of ancient and faux ancient relief, statuary and painting, all beneath opulently painted ceilings. Undoubtedly the stars of the show are the statues on the ground floor by Scipione’s protege, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which catalogue the meteoric rise of the sculptor’s early career. Another contemporary artist who numbered Scipione among his patrons was the tormented painter Caravaggio, whose works dominate Room X on the ground floor.
Upstairs the Picture Gallery houses a veritable Who’s Who of Italian art: Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and more Bernini amongst many others.
A visit to the Galleria Borghese requires reservations and at busy times of year sells out fairly quickly. Entrance times are fixed and limited to two hours.
The cost of the tour does not include your entrance fees, currently €8.50 per person.
Any alterations to the suggested itinerary are very welcome, and will be accommodated wherever accessibility permits.
- Explore masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, and more.