The serene Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) is one of Rome’s most beautiful, yet hidden, spots. You have probably never read about it in any of the guidebooks, nor come across it on any travel sites about Europe, Italy, or even Rome! And that’s just what I love about it – it’s a peaceful, well-kept secret.
As a John Cabot University student you most likely pass close to the entrance at least once a day: walking to Guarini from the Gianicolo Residence, heading towards Café Settimiano, or going to grab some cash from the ATM. Yes, you–and many other locals and tourists–probably pass this special place without even realizing it. Why not go in and check it out the next time you’re leaving campus or the Gianicolo residence and are looking for your next adventure? Take a few hours to explore the Botanical Garden and you will feel like you’ve been let in on one of Rome’s best-kept secrets.
The Orto Botanico was founded in 1883. It covers over 12 hectares (30 acres) on the lower slopes of the Gianicolo Hill and it is operated by Rome’s “La Sapienza” University. It acts as a museum representing the university’s Department of Environmental Biology. The garden’s location, between Via della Lungara and Colle del Gianicolo, contained the thermal baths of Septimius Severus in ancient times.
As you stroll through the shaded pathways, the soothing sound of water trickling down the many little fountains will create the most relaxing mood. You can check out 3,000 different species of plants, a Japanese garden, various greenhouses with tropical orchids and bonsai, and so much more.
When I was a student at JCU, I had the opportunity to visit these breathtaking gardens for one of my classes: NS 220 Food and Agriculture with Professor Kneller. I have to admit, if it weren’t for that class trip, I probably would never had made it to the botanical garden on my own. However, the experience was so wonderful that I wish I would have gone earlier, or spent more time there. I would recommend a quiet morning or peaceful afternoon at the Orto Botanico to any John Cabot student!
The gardens are open every day except Sunday from 9am to 6:30pm. You can take a guided tour by yourself, or in a group. You can also wander around and explore this lovely park on your own. Grab your camera and a good book to read, or bring nothing at all and enjoy this hidden gem in the heart of your very own neighborhood.
Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria