Galleria Borghese

Rape of Persephone (1621–2) by Bernini at the Galleria Borghese
Rape of Persephone (1621–2) by Bernini at the Galleria Borghese

Cardinal Scipione Borghese had money, taste, and, most importantly, a pope for an uncle. He started collecting paintings and sculptures for his villa in the (then) outskirts of Rome in 1605, and over the course of a lifetime amassed a truly awe-inspiring collection. His smartest move was hiring the young artist Bernini to work for him. His second smartest was to kick off his collection by confiscating a hundred wonderful canvases from Caravaggio’s teacher, the painter Cavalier d’Arpino.

The Galleria Borghese has only 20 rooms, but there isn’t a single one that won’t make you gasp in delighted recognition. You have to book a 2-hour slot in advance, but this makes the whole experience much more civilized. On the first floor there’s sculpture, including some of Bernini’s finest statues.

When you see the fingers of the god Pluto pressed into the impossibly soft marble flesh of Proserpina, you’ll understand what a sharp eye for talent the cardinal had. On the second floor the collection of paintings is so rich, so full of chocolate and cream, that an aesthetic tummy ache may force you to leave before your 2 hours are up: Titian, Raphael, and six (count them, six!) Caravaggios.

Practical Information

Address Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5;

Getting There The Galleria Borghese is on the eastern side of the Parco Villa Borghese. The Spagna metro stop, on Line A, is at the other end of the park, 1 mile (1.5 km) away.

Opening Times 8:30am–7:30pm Tue–Sun. Visits must be booked in advance. You will be given a 2-hour slot.

Leave a Comment