Sunday, January 17, 2010
RST Top 40. #29: Villa Pamphili Park
It's hard to know where to start with so vast a property as the park of Villa Pamphili. Perhaps it's the variety of offerings to myriad tastes that made us put it on the RST Top 40 - as in, something for everyone.
For starters, it's the largest public park in Rome at over 450 acres (it's 180+ hectares, larger than Hyde Park and about 55% the size of Central Park).
Second, it's beloved by Romans for Sunday picnics, passeggiatas (walking about... slowly), games, exercise (jogging - it was the site of the Christmas half-marathon last month - and biking are popular), dog-walking, children-minding....
Third, it's full of history (and what in Rome isn't?), especially the unsuccessful first occupation and defense of the city by the Garibaldi forces in 1849-50. A bit of that history, and of the park's, is on the Wikopedia site in English for the park. Print below shows the park when the Villa Corsini was still standing; it was destroyed in the French (on behalf of the Pope) attack on the Garibaldini in 1850.
Fourth, it has some wonderful buildings and walls left - ancient and modern, including an aqueduct that comes in from the north, crosses into and along the park, and ends in the fabulous Fontanone, the huge Acqua Paola Fountain below the park.Itinerary 2 in Rome the Second Time dips into the park off the Gianicolo.
Fifth, it's a vast nature preserve, with lots of flora (and some smaller fauna, including many varieties of birds) for the amateur botanists among us - a real green space. The park's grove of pine trees (pini, the grove, a pineto) defines one of the skylines of Rome - those gorgeous umbrella pines against the sky.
And we can also say what Villa Pamphili is not. It's not the Villa Borghese. It doesn't have a blockbuster museum, or a race track, or a zoo, or a puppet theater, or a cinema house, or a ton of tourists. Fine by us!
We've been to Villa Pamphili over and over... always with new experiences... our starter was a picnic with one of our sons where we really did try to kick the soccer ball in the pine grove. Another time we followed the aqueduct and studied the Risorgimento (the Italian drive to unification - and to unseat the Pope) of the mid-19th century. More recently, we dwelled on the graffiti particularly lush in the area of the park near via Vitellia. We recommend coming in this entrance, around the small lake to a crumbled-down water course that once formed the center of a pleasure park for the Pamphili elite and their friends. The history of the water course, and the missing statues, tells the story of the government's takeover of the park in about 1970 - yes, that's 40 years ago, not 140 - and its inability to keep the park from being raided by thieves and vandals. And yet another evening we came upon a lovely concert here, enjoying the music before rain caused us all to go our separate ways.
All of these comments just scratch the surface of the Villa Pamphili. Go for yourself and we know you'll discover something new. As one Roman blogger said recently, "Central Park and Hyde Park are parks; this is a world."