A moment to breath and take a break from the crowds. In bustling Rome, it can be difficult to take a moment and breathe, but the Botanical Gardens of La Sapienza University offer a surprising secret place away from the traffic and the noise of the city. It seems almost impossible for this 12 hectares of luscious greenness to fit in the heart of Trastevere, close by the bustling commercial part of the neighborhood and the historic buildings of Villa Farnesina and Palazzo Corsini.

The Botanical Garden of Rome is one of the Museums of the Department of Environmental Biology of the city’s premier university, La Sapienza, and its origins can be traced back to the papacy of Nicolò III (1277-1280), who ordered the creation of the first of a long series of Vatican gardens from which the Botanical Gardens evolved. Since 1883, the Gardens are located in their current location, that occupies part of the archaeological area called ‘Horti Getae’, which in ancient times constituted the spa of Septimius Severus.

Part of the hilly area of this surprising green, open-air museum is occupied by an important ‘Collection of Gymnosperms’, which includes rare specimen such a Wollemi pine, believed to be extinct until 1994, when it was found in Wollemi National Park (Australia). Always on the hilly area, there is the ‘Mediterranean Woods’, a testimony of the vegetation that once covered the Colle del Gianicolo. Moreover, the Botanical Gardens boast, an impressive trail in one of the richest bamboo collections in Europe; an important ‘Palm Collections‘, which includes some rare species; a ‘Rose garden’ designed to illustrate how current cultivated roses have been obtained from wild ones; a ‘Garden of Aromas’, housing species that are recognizable through touch or smell; a ‘Mediterranean Garden’; a ‘Monumental Greenhouse’ built in 1877; a ‘Japanese Garden’ with water features, small waterfalls, and two ponds; a ‘Tropical Greenhouse’; a ‘Monumental Trees’ collection with specimens that are hundreds of years old.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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