In verdant Villa Borghese, this is one of Rome’s most ravishing art collections.
One of the world’s great art collections is still displayed in its original setting: the pleasure villa built between 1613 and 1616 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese by Flemish architect Jan Van Santen, aka Giovanni Vasanzio. The cardinal was a great talent spotter – he discovered the young Bernini, and bought up paintings by troubled genius Caravaggio when they were rejected by the churches and religious orders that had commissioned them.
Highlights of the collection, beyond the magnificent villa itself, are Bernini’s exquisite marble statue of 'Apollo and Daphne', Canova’s famously ‘scandalous’ sculpture of a naked Pauline Bonaparte in the guise of Venus Victrix, the six Caravaggios in Room VIII, the Raphaels in Room IX, Correggio’s sensual 'Danae', Domenichino’s 'Diana', and Titian’s 'Sacred and Profane Love'.
You need to plan a trip here, as visitor numbers are strictly limited, and only those who have pre-booked are admitted for one of five daily slots: 9-11am, 11am-1pm, 1-3pm, 3-5pm and 5-7pm. You can book online at www.ticketeria.it, but in my experience it’s better to book by phone at the number given below. Not only do you save on the 1 euro online booking supplement, but the operators (who speak good English) can often help direct you to earlier slots that don’t always show up on the online booking calendar.
If you have a Roma Pass, or are intending to get one, you will still need to book your slot by phone. The other advantage of phone bookings is that you pay nothing until you actually turn up at the Galleria.