Galleria Borghese Travel Guide
IntroductionIf you’re in Rome and would like to tour the local museums and view some truly masterful pieces of art, the collection at the Galleria Borghese is a must-see. Located inside the group of buildings that sits within the property of Villa Borghese, the Galleria Borghese houses an art collection that was started as early as the 1600s by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, who was a patron of the artist Bernini, and was also fond of the works of Caravaggio.
Originally a villa suburbana, or a party villa, the building was designed from sketches by the cardinal himself, and construction was overseen by the famous architect Flaminio Ponzio. During its early days, it was also known to have a vivarium that had a variety of animals in it, including cranes, swans, ostriches, and peacocks.
The estate remained as private property owned by members of the Roman Borghese family for centuries, undergoing a number of modifications and renovations over the years. It wasn’t until 1902, when the estate as well as surrounding land was sold to the Italian government, did it slowly transform into the gallery that know it as today.
At the moment, it houses an extensive collection of art, both classical and modern, from the likes of Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Rubens, and Bellini. The artwork is spread across two floors and twenty rooms, with the first floor mostly dedicated to sculptures, and the second floor to paintings.
What to SeeSculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
One of the most prominent Italian artists of the Baroque movement, he is known for his grand sculptural compositions as well as his skill in working with marble. His notable pieces that are currently housed at the Galleria Borghese include Truth Unveiled by Time, Apollo and Daphne which shows the nymph in mid-transformation into a laurel tree as she is being pursued by the god Apollo, The Rape of Persephone, David, as well as the incredibly detailed bust of his patron, Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
Paintings by Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a famous Italian painter who was a major influencer of the Baroque style in painting. He is known for his dramatic use of lighting, as well as for his effective use of the Chiaroscuro technique which is identified by strong contrasts between light and dark within the entire composition. Of his works in the Galleria Borghese, of note are Saint Jerome Writing, St. John the Baptist, Madonna, Child and Serpent, Boy With A Basket of Fruit, as well as Young Sick Bacchus which is essentially an early self-portrait.
Artwork by Other Masters
Among the works that are housed within the collection are those by the likes of Raphael and Titian who were both heavy influencers of Italian Renaissance art. Among the many notable pieces from these masters, the gallery houses Raphael’s The Deposition, and Lady With a Unicorn. Meanwhile, among Titian’s works, Galleria Borghese is currently home to Sacred and Profane Love, The Scourging of Christ, Venus Blindfolding Cupid, and St. Dominic, to name a few. Another art piece worth mentioning would be a sculpture of Napoleon’s younger sister, Pauline Bonaparte, posed as Venus, known by the name Paolina Borghese. It was crafted by the 18th century Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova who is famous for his exquisite marble sculptures that feature nude flesh.
Tips and Advice
- The Villa Borghese is a large compound, and the Galleria Borghese is just one of the many buildings within this compound. After touring the main gallery, feel free to take a stroll through its beautiful English gardens.
- There are also other museums within the Villa’s grounds. This includes the Villa Giulia which is now the Etruscan Museum, and the Villa Medici which now houses the French Academy in Rome. There is also the Bioparco di Roma, the Zoological Museum, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, as well as smaller pavilions in the area, one of which is now the British School at Rome.
- Take note that to visit the Galleria Borghese, a ticket reservation is required. Tickets can be purchased in advance either online via the gallery’s official website, or through a tour operator. All tickets are non-refundable, with the full ticket price set at EUR 13 including service charges. However, there are discounted as well as free passes available, provided you meet certain criteria indicated on their site.
- Galleria Borghese is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 8:30am to 7:30pm. The ticket office closes at 6:30pm, and visitors are allowed entry only up until 7pm.
- Note that it is COMPULSORY to deposit every kind of bag, purse, camera, video camera, or umbrella at the cloak room. It is forbidden to take photos or videos, and food and cigarettes re also prohibited.
- There are audio guides available for rent at the entrance, which is required if you are visiting with a guided group of four or more. Audio guides are available in Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. This equipment cannot be reserved. For a small extra fee, you can also join the English-language guided tours that occur at 9:10am, and again at 11:10am.