After three months of nonstop rain (at least that’s my recollection of Rome during the past winter), I returned to Italy last week to brilliant sunshine, bright blue skies, and spring! Tra la! Sunshine makes everything happier, doesn’t it?
This morning I walked through Rome’s Botanical Garden in Trastevere. I wanted to visit the garden last August when I went to Villa Farnesina, which is just a block away, but I missed the entrance and didn’t have a map to help me change course. I later learned that the garden is closed in August. It’s just as well, because gardens are generally more verdant and arguably more beautiful in spring, as was certainly the case today.
Rome is a busy, noisy city, but the Botanical Garden is just the opposite. I saw few people in the garden this morning, and except for a large group of young Italian schoolkids led by a man yelling into a bullhorn (I’m serious!), the only noise I heard was birds chirping, trees rustling, and water splashing over rocks and into fountains. No traffic, no voices—just quiet.
Nestled into the east side of Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill), the garden’s pathways meander through about 30 acres. The garden includes a walkway lined with palms, a cathedral formed by a bamboo forest, a small Japanese garden with nice view of Rome at the top of the hill, a conifer garden, a sad water garden, a rose garden (which should be blooming in about a month), and a Mediterranean garden of cactus and succulents. According to Wiki, the garden was established in 1883, “although it is the successor to the Papal Botanical Gardens going back to the Renaissance.”
With Rome’s fiscal challenges, I wasn’t surprised to find the garden a bit unkempt in places. Its plantings aren’t extraordinary, and it sports some old structures and fountains that need refurbishing, but it is charming, peaceful, and relaxing.
Near the largest structure, the Scalone Monumentale, I spotted a duck taking his midday bath next to a small pond. I stopped about six feet away and watched him, taking scads of photos. He looked up at me for a moment and then continued with his ritual, clearly not worried that I might do him harm. He was still there when I walked back down the steps of the monument.
I stopped for a rest on one of the benches near the top of the garden around noon. A cannon is fired once from Gianicolo at noon every day and has been since 1847. It was fired right on time today, and I must have been directly below it, because for a moment I thought someone was shooting at me! I hear this cannon every day and should be used to it by now, but I jumped about 20 feet! What a goofball!
Rome has many spectacular sights for visitors, so unless you want a timeout from Rome’s noise and a leisurely walk up the hill from Trastevere, don’t put the garden on your list. That said, it made me happy!