When I first stumbled across the Orto Botanico five years ago, I felt I’d found a forgotten garden; ancient trees, tangled briar roses, stone steps covered with drifted leaves and rockeries smothered with scrambling weeds. Beautiful but sadly neglected.
Today Rome’s botanic garden shows many signs of new beginnings. The paths are swept and the fountains sparkle. The gnarled old trees are carefully labelled. In fact there are signs and labels everywhere; information boards about endangered habitats, botanical illustrations by selected trees, way marks and direction signs. The beds of medicinal simples, the historic heart of any botanic garden, are well organised and yes, well labelled.
The Orto Botanico is still a quiet and beautiful place. There are still banks of wildflowers and thickets full of bird song but now it’s clear that this is a place with a mission, to engage and inform visitors of all ages. The garden wasn’t busy on an April weekday but I came across purposeful school parties of young children and teenagers as well as a guided group of earnest grey-haired visitors. For the independent visitor botanical information is an optional extra. It’s simply a great place for a peaceful hour or two away from the noisy city.
(Click on any photo to view the gallery)
The twelve hectare Orto Botanico, situated at the end of Largo Cristina di Svezia in Trastevere, is open Monday to Saturday from 9.00 to 18.30 (17.30 in winter). There is an 8€ entrance charge with the usual reductions.