Orto Botanico di Roma - Atlas Obscura

Orto Botanico di Roma

An oasis of beauty, tranquility and botanical research in the middle of Rome.  


Rome is antiquity, divinity and Buon appetito. And Rome is crowds, graffiti and exhaust fumes. But a trek through the Orto Botanico di Roma is a respite, where an unhurried stroll through the quiet greenery instills calm. With its visual and olfactory pleasures, Orto Botanico more than holds its own with Rome’s more popular parks like the elegant Villa Borghese, itself a worthy (and free) destination, and the pricey Vatican gardens tours. 

Covering just under 30 acres, the Orto Botanico sprawls upward from Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood to claim its place on Janiculum Hill. It is a living laboratory, operated by the plant biology department of Sapienza University of Rome. Portions of the gardens reach back to the Renaissance; it’s occupied its current location since 1883. It contains more than 3,000 species of trees, grasses, and flowers, plentiful enough for a day-long visit for horticulture enthusiasts, but also easily covered in an hour or two for visitors seeking a shorter jaunt. 

Greenhouses shelter the more fragile denizens, in addition to providing room for year-round study. A standout is the French Greenhouse, built in 1883-84. With its swirls of wrought iron and tiered green glass panels, it is the quintessence of the Belle Epoque.

The Orto Botanico includes palm-lined paths, rose gardens, ferns, and citrus trees. Its Garden of the Senses is filled with plants that can be identified by touch or smell (and features labels in Braille). Walking through the narrow paths inside the bamboo forest—described by the university as one of Europe’s richest collections—visitors are struck by the incongruity of the tall, woody grasses in the middle of Rome.

Hike to the park’s upper reaches for the Scalinata delle Undici Fontane (the Stairs of Eleven Fountains) to watch water flow down the terraced mid-section of the stairway. It’s lovely and provides a vantage point to appreciate how high many of the trees reach. Keep an eye out for some of Rome’s famed green parakeets.

Know Before You Go

Cost: 13 euro for adults; group rates available; free for children under 5

Guided tours are available 

Picnics and food are prohibited, as are dogs (except seeing-eye dogs)

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December 18, 2023

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