Jardins secrets de la Villa Borghèse à Rome, de l’histoire à la restauration by Alberta CAMPITELLI – Château de Bénouville

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Jardins secrets de la Villa Borghèse à Rome, de l’histoire à la restauration by Alberta CAMPITELLI – Château de Bénouville

Villa Borghese secret gardens, from history to restoration

Secret gardens were built alongside the noble Villa (Casino) during the first decades of the 17th century by Cardinal Scipion Borghese, nephew to Pope Paul V. They were surrounded by high walls (hence them being referred to as “secret”) and reserved for use by the Cardinal’s visitors who could admire their rare flowers. All foreign visitors to Rome unanimously described the beauty, the variety and the rarity of the plants displayed in these gardens. Although all belonging to the same family, the gardens of the Villa Borghese were in a state of decay in the 19th century and when, in 1903, the entire villa became the property of the Rome City Council and was opened to the public, no trace remained of these precious flowers. During the 20th century, the gardens went through alternating periods of splendour and neglect, until 1999, when the Rome City Council decided to restore the site and to reproduce the gardens as they had been during Cardinal Borghese’s life. After an in-depth study led by a team of botanists, agronomists, architects and art historians, a project was implemented. After a year’s work, the secret gardens recovered their bygone beauty and charm. Today, they offer an opportunity to rediscover forgotten flowers and to understand how, over the Baroque period, the marvels of nature were admired like works of art.

Alberta Campitelli


Alberta Campitelli is an art historian. She is in charge of the Rome City Council’s department of cultural and artistic heritage of historic villas and is also, since June 2013, director of the MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome). She has worked on the villas and gardens of Rome and its region and has published many books and articles on the subject, in particular on Villa Borghese, Villa Torlonia, 20th century Roman villas and the villas of Viterbo. She has directed the restoration of furniture and gardens in Roman villas such as Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia and is co-designer of many campaigns to restore gardens and furnishings in historic villas. She restored and created the Museo della Casina delle Civette, the Casino Nobile and the Roman School in Villa Torlonia, the Museo Carlo Bilotti in Villa Borghese, which she currently manages and where she organises various activities (research, exhibitions…). She acts as a consultant for the American Academy of Rome. In 2013, she was named Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry for Culture. Alberta Campitelli is currently preparing a book on Italian villas and another on European villas.