Orto Giurassico

Orto Botanico di Roma

The Botanical Garden of Rome is located on the Janiculum, or Janiculan Hill, the second tallest. It is not, however, one of the proverbial Seven Hills of Rome, as it is west of the Tiber, and thus not within the bounds of the ancient city.

When we visited, the Botanical Garden had an exhibition in conjunction with the APPI Paleontological Association, so that there were sculptures of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in various spots of the park.

The garden belongs to the Sapienza University of Rome, and was established in 1883, the heir to the Papal Botanical Gardens, which themselves go back to the Renaissance. The land this park currently covers was once used for vineyards and farms to serve the Papal states.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that the first true botanical garden was built in Rome, by Alexander VI. It was later rebuilt by Pius IV, and endowed with a guardian to safekeep it. Pius V later enlarged it, and hired the botanist Michele Mercati to lead work on it. After the garden suffered some abandonment, Alexander VII poured more work into it, turning it into one of the main botanical gardens in Europe. He even restored Trajan’s ancient aqueduct and used it to irrigate the garden.

The Botanical Garden further grew in size after the Italian State acquired ownership of the neighboring Villa Corsini, the gardens of which it unified with the Orto. The garden contains more than 3,000 species of plants, including a Japanese garden, bamboo groves, and a garden of medicinal plants, itself spanning 300 species. In total, it covers an area of 12 hectares (or nearly 30 acres).

Villa Corsini

The Botanical Garden claims its bamboo grove to be one of the richest in Europe. I can’t say I’ve visited many, but this one was certainly a pleasure to wander through and forget that we were in the chaotic Italian capital for a few moments.

The Japanese Garden was designed by Ken Nakajima, who also created the garden of the Japanese Cultural Institute in Rome. The garden is based on the Kayushiki Teien model, or walking garden, which means that it has fountains and small waterfalls, ponds, and a pavilion.

In the Spring, the Botanical Garden organizes visits and events around the blooming of the Japanese cherry trees. We were there much too early, so that we just caught the buds on the trees, but no flowers.

The greenhouses were, which I’m sure surprises no one, my favorite part. I love when the design of the greenhouse matches the type of plant it holds, and that’s certainly the case of these and the succulents that populate them.

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