Friday, September 4, 2015

The Secret Gardens - Villa Borghese, Giardini Segreti

"The entire Borghese Gardens park was organized on a formal, symmetrical plan with lanes and small squares lined with statues and fountains. The giardini segreti (secret gardens) located on either side of casino were the most important and well-tended of the gardens. Since the Renaissance, secret gardens, whose roots lie in the kitchen gardens of Medieval convents, have been a common garden type. Their name is an allusion to the fact that they are enclosed by walls that form outdoor rooms, thereby creating a private passage from the closed, interior spaces to the open air of the surrounding park. Between the gardens is a pavilion called “l’Uccelliera,” (the Aviary), which was constructed to house a prized collection of rare and exotic birds.
The restoration of the Villa Borghese to its seventeenth-century appearance was begun in 1997 and has been based on extensive historical research of numerous documents preserved in the Borghese family archives at the Vatican. The fountains and furnishings have been put away for safekeeping and replaced with copies made of cement and marble dust. The originals will eventually be exhibited in the Museum of Villa Borghese, which will be housed in the Clock House. Among the most important recent projects has been the refurbishment of the secret gardens known as the Flower Garden, the Garden of Blooms and Views, and the Garden of the Bitter Oranges. After decades of neglect, all that remained of these three gardens was an occasional remnant of a boxwood hedge without any other plants or flowers. The first step was to reconstruct the history of the gardens and learn how their changing appearance had obscured their original design. In the wake of the economic troubles caused by World War II cabbage and potatoes were grown here to help feed the hungry population. Careful research has unearthed documentation of the iconographic program as well as lists of the plants and flowers that were planted during the time of Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early decades of the seventeenth century. The reconstruction of the design of the flower beds was based on a modular grid created echoing the visible architectural elements: the fountains and the walls with their doors and niches that act as a backdrop to the garden. The restorers also consulted a popular treatise of that period by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (1584–1655) on floriculture for inspiration. Using this historical information, inasmuch as it was possible, the designs of the gardens were reconstructed with flowers used for the original plantings, choosing from those that are available on the market and others that were brought from a number of foreign greenhouses. Within the three gardens, more than 250 varieties of plants permit three rounds of seasonal flowering that include rare and precious flowers that have disappeared from Roman gardens and have been reintroduced for the first time. These include such flowers as fritillaries, numerous varieties of antique tulips, old roses, many aromatic plants, and flowers such as the sunflower, marigolds, and four o ’clocks that were rarities in the seventeenth century because of their recent importation from the Americas. The gardens thus have returned to their original state as true living museums." - Alberta Campitelli


  1. Classical order at its best. Love Villa Borghese. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Talmudic Jewish properties transferred into trust to avoid property taxes