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Trastevere / Testaccio / Aventino

Botanical Garden and Palazzo Corsini - Greens for Popes and Royals

Botanical Garden and Palazzo Corsini - Greens for Popes and Royals

The once green pastures of Roman suburbia used to begin here, in Trastevere, at the foot of the Gianicolo hill. The area used to be part of the Simpliciarius Pontificius Vaticanus, which is no less than the personal herb garden of the Vatican that was founded in the XII century. The garden has taken many shapes and forms under the many Popes who first wanted it to be a vineyard, then a medical herb garden, but first and foremost a private piece of green paradise available but to a select few.

Though botany was studied at the Sapienza University since the mid 16th century the garden remained secluded and only rare visits were permitted to the students of the budding science. However, the fortune of the eager students was to turn (though only after the turn of a century) when Pope Alexander VII donated it to the Sapienza anno domini 1660.

Its current size was defined only in the year 1883, when the recently founded Italian State acquired the estate of Palazzo Corsini with which it confines. The great variety of species and environments give the garden a peculiar atmosphere. In fact, walking through the different parts it almost seems to pass from one end of the world to the other, not to speak of eras. What first appears like a traditional baroque garden, carefully curated and trimmed soon billows into a bushy and fragrant herb garden that reminds of the Provence, only to slim into an elegant and minimalistic Japanese garden further up the slope.

The over 3000 species present in the garden are all planted, grown and care for by the students of the Botany department of the University, in fact the garden is still, after over 400 years, among the belongings of the Sapienza.

The confining garden of Palazzo Corsini is nothing like the botanical garden; in the summer it is arid and even the palms seem to be suffering, while in the winter it appears simply empty and somewhat desolate. Fear not, the loving care is simply directed elsewhere, that is, to the innards of the palace that used to house Europe’s royals.

The palazzo is famed for having been the long-time home of Swedish rebel Queen kristina who came to Rome after having scandalously converted to Catholicism. A great eccentric and lover of the arts she had a large collection of art and artefacts; parts of which have remained in the Palazzo and are now part of the Gallery.

The Corsini gallery is an incredibly pleasant one to visit, the many sofas and divan’s make admiring the large works some of which by Rubens, Caravaggio and Jusepe de Ribera.


Botanical Garden

Open daily 09:00-17:30

Largo Cristina di Svezia 24


Palazzo Corsini

Open daily except Tuesdays 08:30 - 19:30

Via della Lungara 10


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