The Borghese Gallery is the most famous art gallery in Rome, and justly so. It’s really unique, because it wasn’t intended as a museum, but it was once the week-end getaway of the wealthiest cardinal in Rome, Scipione Borghese, nephew to Pope Paul V. Scipione had the Villa built in 1607, and used it to entertain his guests, to show off his immense wealth, and to display his fabulous art collection.
Over the years, the Borghese family continued to add to the collection, which boasts masterpieces by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian; in the early 1700s the rooms where refurbished in an even more opulent way than before. Eventually, in 1902 the building, the collection and the gardens were acquired by the Italian government and turned into a public museum.
The Gallery has two floors: on the first floor, you find the lavish rooms where the Borghese family hosted their grand parties and receptions, housing the amazing sculptures Gian Lorenzo Bernini created as a young artist for Cardinal Scipione. You’ll feel like you just stepped into a fairytale palace, full of frescoes, gilded stuccowork, precious marble.
On the upper floor we’ll see the private rooms where Scipione would stay whenever he spent time in his country retreat; nowadays they house the picture gallery, with millions of dollars in paintings hanging on the walls. Hear about the cardinal’s escapades, and how his passion for art led him to cajole, bribe, and threaten people, to get the masterpieces he coveted most.