5 parks of Rome… You may not have heard of!
The heatwave that held Italy into its grip has finally broken, which means that it’s easier to go around Rome looking for some off the beaten path, uncrowded spot… which in turn is only natural during these Coronavirus times: after those long months in lockdown we crave for the outdoors, and the Eternal City has it in spades!
This is why we have chosen to delve deeper into the parks of Rome, and more specifically those you may not know – either because they’re not listed in your guidebook, or they’re not in the immediate center of the city – the part of Rome that visitors get to know better during their stays.
The lesser known bit of the Appia Antica
Call it Tor Fiscale or Torre Fiscale, it makes no difference to us – anyway you pronounce it, this beautiful park owes its name to a Medieval tower. Located south of the center, this area full of Roman remains is technically a part of the larger Parco dell’Appia Antica (Appian Way Archaeological Park), however it really values its own identity.
Similarly to the Aqueducts’ Park, with which is sometimes mistaken, this park is the home to a number of aqueducts (1 of them is, oddly enough, from the Renaissance, while all others date back to Roman times) and a few very active volunteer organizations that care after the land and set up several events. The activities are mostly financed through donations and what is sold at the “Ristoro”, a café/bistro that can also be rented for your parties. A website (in Italian) with more information about the park is here.
Address: Via dell’Acquedotto Felice, 120
The other river or Rome
Some may not be aware that the Tiber isn’t the only river flowing in the city. The Aniene is the second largest and around it, north-east of the center, is a series of parks. This one, specifically, is located roughly where the Aniene joins, indeed, the Tiber and we picked it because it’s within easy reach from the subway station at Conca D’Oro. Sports enthusiasts will love it here: you’ve got a running track, a basketball playground and groups of locals hang out here to do yoga or more generally train together. Bikes are welcome, too: one of the longest bike lanes in metropolitan Rome passes through here (for other suggestions, see our dedicated post!). However, if you’re not the active type, don’t worry: you can just relax here, get a suntan, or even… Shop! Indeed, there is a popular flea market right in the park, open each and every Sunday from September to July.
Address: Via Conca d’Oro, 145
Where locals go to hang out
Villa Gordiani is one of the smallest archaeological parks in Rome, but only because it’s on the Via Prenestina, in the heavily populated area between the Pigneto and Tor Pignattara neighborhoods. This offers a nice contrast, and even more so because seeing scenes like kids play ball in the shadows of an imperial era mansion (hence the name of the park) is at once surreal and… Completely ordinary. Easily reached from central Rome and even from the train station at Termini by tram lines 5, 14 or 19, it’s a change of scenery compared to other parks closer to the main attractions!
Address: Via Prenestina, 325
A surprise on the Janiculum Hill
Many will tell you that the Janiculum Hill is great for scenic pictures of Rome as seen from above, but before you get to the top, take a minute (or 10!) to visit the lovely, cosy Villa Sciarra. As the name suggests, the park was born around a mansion, specifically a Seventeenth-century palazzo built for the noble Barberini family. The American Academy is housed on a portion of the original estate, which was also briefly owned by none other than Benito Mussolini. For those looking for some respite in the Monteverde area, this is it!
Address: Viale delle Mura Gianicolensi, 11
Looking for St. Valentine…
Villa Glori owes its reputation to the (dubious, but we like legends!) fact that St. Valentine himself was beheaded and buried here. In fact, this hill in north Rome overlooking the majestic Auditorium Parco della Musica featured ancient catacombs, which are unfortunately flooded and off limits to visitors. We may never know whether St. Valentine is here, but couples like to walk on the steep (this park is completely uphill!) paths here, admiring the contemporary sculptures by the likes of Jannis Kounellis or Giuseppe Uncini and waiting for the sun to set. Children can make the most of a pony rental service – a much loved activity around these parts!
Address: Piazzale del Parco della Rimembranza, 1
Park etiquette in Rome: what to know before you go!
After you’re finally in the park you crave to visit, there are not that many specific rules to follow, except maybe cleaning after yourself: the number of people employed in the parks and recreation department in the city of Rome is embarrassingly low, and cleaning cannot be taken for granted.
Also, barbecues are strictly regulated, so please don’t set up one if you’re not sure whether it is allowed where you are. Looking at what others are doing around you is definitely not a good idea: they may be foreigners unaware of the rules themselves!
If you’re there with a pet, and specifically a dog, know that larger parks have dedicated areas where they can run and play without a leash. Please don’t leave them unleashed anywhere else, again even if you do see people doing so.
Finally, if you wish to spend time after dark in one of the parks above, we can’t recommend it. Some will be closing after sunset, but more generally speaking they have become the homes to an increasingly number of homeless. We sympathize with their situation and we give help whenever we can, but we simply cannot know whether they are dangerous or not.