When the sun’s shining - and in Rome, it nearly always is - there’s no better place to be than outside. With a wealth of parks, piazzas and fascinating archaeological sites, you could easily spend the whole day outdoors, exploring the open spaces of the Eternal City.
1. Villa Borghese - This is the best park in central Rome - a shady sanctuary of statues and umbrella pines. After you’ve seen masterpieces by Bernini and Caravaggio on a Borghese Gallery tour, go for a walk in the park and admire the stunning views from the Pincio.
2. Circus Maximus - The slopes of the Circus Maximus make a surprisingly good place for a picnic. Walk through the ruins of the stadium - once used for Roman chariot races - and sit on the hillside for the perfect view of the Palatine Hill.
3. Villa Doria Pamphili - This beautiful park near Trastevere is much larger (and less crowded) than Villa Borghese. If you want respite from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, this is the place to be.
4. Piazza del Campidoglio - Designed by Michelangelo, this piazza on the Capitoline Hill is undoubtedly the most elegant in Rome. It’s particularly beautiful at night, and there’s something rather magical about having the historic square to yourself. Cross the piazza to discover spectacular views of the Roman Forum.
5. The Roman Forum – Join a Roman Forum to make the most of your visit to these amazing ruins. This sprawling site was the centre of political life in daily Rome, and the location of some of its most important temples. Marvel at the imposing ruins of the Senate and the Temple of Saturn on a walk through the Forum, the most impressive of all of Rome’s open spaces.
6. The Appian Way - The Appian Way is a Roman road built in 312 BC, which once stretched from Rome to Brindisi, making it a very broad definition of “open space”. But the remaining section of the road closest to Rome is all worth exploring, as it’s lined with fields and evocative Roman ruins. Rent a bike and cycle to the Villa dei Quintili, a Roman villa that once belonged to the emperor Commodus.
7. Parco degli Acquedotti - Get the metro (line A) to Giulio Agricola, and explore one of Rome’s best open spaces. As the name suggests, the park is divided by the impressive remains of some Roman aqueducts, dating back to the first century. Parts of the park feel almost rural - you’ll see crops growing and sheep grazing.
8. Baths of Caracalla - The magnificent ruins of these Roman baths are just a short walk from the Circus Maximus. One of the most atmospheric and peaceful places in the city, the Baths of Caracalla are worth a visit any of time year, but they’re particularly spectacular during the summer, when they’re used as the backdrop for outdoor operas.
9. Parco degli Aranci - The orange garden on the Aventine Hill is one of the most romantic places in Rome, appearing in countless wedding photos. The terrace offers beautiful panoramic views of the river and the city centre - come here to watch the sunset.
10. Protestant Cemetery - This tranquil graveyard is filled with umbrella pines, cypresses, and the tombs of non-Catholic non-Italians, most of whom died in Rome. The Romantic poets Keats and Shelley are buried here, along with artists, academics and diplomats of countless other nationalities. Shelley wrote that “It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place”, and after walking through the atmospheric maze of flowers, trees and tombstones, you’ll understand why.
-by Alexandra Turney-