The Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci in Italian), sometimes referred to as Parco Savello, is undoubtedly one of Rome’s most evocative and charming spots due to its desirable location. The view from there spans the Tiber River to the Temples of the Forum Boarium, Santa Maria in Cosmedin to the Janiculum and St. Peter’s Dome.
There is a stunning fountain by Giacomo Della Porta at the entry, with a grotesque mask constructed of a Roman granite hot bath and surrounded by travertine.
The gorgeous garden, filled with orange perfume, has one of the outstanding views of the Roman skyline and is a popular site to watch the sunset. Take a seat on the charming small terrace overlooking the Tiber River and watch the sunset over St. Peter’s Dome. This beautiful little place is undoubtedly a Roman favorite. It is the ideal spot for a bacio or two.
Curious to find out more about the Orange Garden of Rome? Continue reading, I will share with you the best sights, the nearby places to visit, and lots of practical info to plan your visit.
Looking for more parks in Rome? Make sure to read this post.
Make sure to also read my post Where To See Sunset In Rome.
Why Visit The Orange Garden, Rome?
This little park, located next to the Santa Sabina cathedral, is well-known for two reasons: the orange trees and the view of the Historic Center of Rome and of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. Many foreigners don’t know about it, but locals love it as a place to hang out, get away from the crowds and as a fabulous sunset spot.
The Garden of Oranges is an ideal spot for children to run about and have fun, and it is close to the (not-so-secret anymore) Knights of Malta keyhole, which is always a favorite for them! There isn’t much traffic in the area – which is a real blessing in the Italian capital, which has an otherwise reputation for having terrible traffic.
To me, the highlight of visiting the Orange Garden is St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. You will spot it at the exact center of the vista, surrounded by roofs and Rome’s domes and bell towers. Many of the city’s important landmarks, such as the Altar of the Fatherland are also easily visible from up there.
The History Of The Orange Garden, Rome
The orange trees that flourish in Rome’s Orange Garden give it its name.
The Dominican Order of Santa Sabina that purchased the castle that used to be there from its original owners converted it into a monastery, and the small park became a vegetable garden. According to history, Saint Dominic planted the first orange tree in the yard after bringing a twig from Spain – that tree is actually still visible in the church of Santa Sabina. According to legend, Saint Catherine of Siena gathered the oranges from this tree and created candied fruit for Pope Urban VI.
But what about the official name of the park, Parco Savelli? Well, there’s obviously a reason for that too! Indeed, the park encompasses the site of an old fortification near the Basilica of Santa Sabina. The Savelli family owned the church between 1285 and 1287, which was built on an earlier fortification built by the Crescenti in the ninth century. The Savelli castle and other ruins may still be seen around the walls.
The Main Sights At The Garden Of Oranges, Rome And Nearby
The Garden of Oranges in Rome is mostly a viewing deck; however, there are a few attractions to see other than the breathtaking views of Rome.
The park as we know it today was designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico. The idea was to keep it symmetrical, with a central avenue aligned with the vista (belvedere).
The Belvedere was recently dedicated to famous Roman actor Nino Manfredi, whereas the center plaza has the name of another Roman actor, Fiorenzo Fiorentini, who oversaw the park’s continuous summer theater season for many years.
The Fountain of the Mask
Found at the entrance of Parco Savello, in Piazza Pietro d’Illiria, this is one of the most unique fountains in Rome. It is made up of two parts: a Roman hot bath and a colossal marble mask. It literally looks like a face that is spitting water into a massive stone tub. Its history is quite interesting.
The fountain was originally designed by Giacomo della Porta, but sculpted in the 1593 by Bartolomeo Bassi. Once completed, it was intended to be used as a cattle fountain and located in the Roman Forum, right on top of an old thermal bath.
The fountain was dismantled between 1816 and 1827 and its parts went to embellish a fountain built on the Tiber’s right bank. In 1890, this fountain was destroyed. The Roman authorities retrieved the statues inside municipal storage before transporting them to their current site.
The Fontana del Mascherone (that’s the name in Italian) was finally moved to its current location at the entrance of the park in 1936, when architect Munoz decided to once again put together the elements that compose it – the face and the large tub.
The tub was literally used as a bathtub during WWII, when some local families, displaced because of the bombings were forced to live in a small shed inside the park. Apparently, they even lived off the fruit of the vegetable garden!
Head over to my post The Most Beautiful Fountains In Rome.
The orange trees
You will be able to spot the orange trees that give its nicknames to this park on the grass along the main boulevard that crosses through the park from the gate all the way to the terrace. It’s a nice, very Mediterranean sight!
The highlight of visiting Parco Savello is definitely the 180-degrees view you can enjoy from its terrace, which spans all the way to St. Peter’s Dome, the Altar of the Fatherland, and much more.
Make sure to pack your camera and a good lens, as this is one of the best photo spots in Rome. And if you aren’t a photography geek, you can still take advantage of the camera in your smartphone to capture a good memory.
The photos you see in this post were all taken with a DSLR camera and an 18-115 mm lens. For the portrait above, I set the camera on A (aperture) and narrowed down the focus so as to capture my sister and my brother in law with the view in the background.
Make sure to read my post Where To Get The Best Views Of Rome.
Santa Sabina church
This is a peaceful and gorgeous church on top of the Aventine Hill and right next to the Orange Garden. Keep in mind the opening times are a bit random – it was closed the last time I visited. But since it’s right next to the park it’s worth popping by to visit!
Knights of Malta Keyhole (Aventine Keyhole)
The Knights of Malta Keyhole is located in the entryway of a Priory of Knights of Malta estate. Rome’s most intriguing sight is also known as the Aventine Keyhole because it is, indeed, a keyhole, or an opening in a door through which you may peep, as the name suggests, but it is an exceptional one.
The estate houses the Order of Malta. The Priorate and estate have a fascinating history. It appears to belong to Alaric II, and it was given to Benedictine monks in 939, who converted it into a monastery.
When you look through it closely, you will notice an unimpeded view of St Peter’s Dome, elegantly framed by the Keyhole’s circular corners and the wonderfully groomed hedges of a secret garden! The view is breathtaking and completely free.
There may be a line to peep through the hole, but it’s worth the wait. Capturing the view on camera is not easy. I fiddled with my settings for a while and even then, the best photo I managed to take is the one above. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying!
Check out my post A Guide To Visiting The Aventine Keyhole.
Did you know that Rome has its own pyramid? The Pyramid of Cestius or Piramide Cestia in Italian, is one of the most unusual places to visit in Rome.
Located in the heart of the city in the district of Ostiense, right outside the gates of Piramide Metro Station, it’s actually a short walk from the Giardino degli Aranci. The pyramid dates back to the first century AD – so it’s pretty much as old as the Colosseum – when a nobleman that was obsessed with anything Egyptian had it built as his tomb. Nothing was found inside when it was eventually excavated (looters made their way there much earlier, apparently).
The actual site is usually closed to the public (except on special occasions) but since it’s a short walk from the Orange Garden you should consider visiting. I will explain how you can add it to your itinerary at the end of this post.
Rome Protestant Cemetery
The Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome is found right by the Pyramid, and in fact you can see the Pyramid from it. This is one of the most unique places in the city – a small, beautifully kept garden and tombs of prominent artists which include Shelley, Keats and Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci.
Some of the tombs are beautifully decorated with statues – the most famous is the Angel of Grief. Located on the grounds there also is one of Rome’s famous cat sanctuaries.
You will be asked for a small donation upon entering or leaving the park – it’s literally for its maintenance.
Check out my post The Best Hidden Gems In Rome.
The Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla in Italian) were built between 212 and 217 AD by Emperor Caracalla. They are a massive complex that at their peak could accommodate 1600 guests who enjoyed going there at the end of the working day to wash and – most importantly – socialize.
The construction of this complex took five full years and something like 9,000 men. The baths were used until 570 AD, when water supply to the city was cut off as a siege tactic by the Vintage, King of the Goths.
This is one of the most impressive archeological sites in Rome, packed as it is with beautiful mosaics. It’s not nearly as popular as the nearby Colosseum and Roman Forum, so you can consider visiting if you want to get away from the crowds.
Baths of Caracalla tickets are €10 for adults. To book your time-slot and get your tickets, click here.
Make sure to read my post A Guide To Visiting The Baths Of Caracalla.
The Colosseum hardly needs an introduction. Rome’s most iconic landmark is at a short distance from the Orange Garden – in fact, as I point out below, the garden are at walking distance from the Colosseum and can be easily added to your itinerary.
Together with the historic center of Rome, the Colosseum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive theater was built around 70-80 AD and could hold up to 80,000 spectators.
Practical Guide To Visit The Orange Garden, Rome
Where is the Orange Garden, Rome?
The nearest metro station is Circo Massimo (Linea Metro B), about a five-minute walk up the hill. The following bus routes and tram lines are close by: 23, 30, 44 81, 130, 160, 280, 170, 628, 716, 781.
To get up to the park you will have to follow directions to Parco Savello, the official name. The walk from the metro station or from the bottom of the hill is steep in parts, but nothing you can’t manage – besides, it’s along a paved road so it’s easy to follow, and the views along the way are magnificent.
Not sure how to include the Giardino degli Aranci in your itinerary? Here’s how!
Thanks to its central location, you can easily include the Orange Garden in any Rome itinerary. Here are two cool options for you:
My recommendation is to head there after you are done visiting one of the ancient Roman sites that you will likely include in your itinerary, such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, or the Baths of Caracalla. From either of them, you will have to make your way to the Circus Maximus, then make your way to the Rose Garden and from there to the Giardino degli Aranci.
On the way down, you can walk to the Mouth of Truth and the Forum Boarium before making your way to the Jewish Ghetto or to Trastevere for a glorious meal.
Off the beaten path
If you are more interested in visiting lesser known sites in Rome, perhaps you can go after you are done exploring the Ostiense neighborhood. From the Protestant Cemetery of Rome you can walk by the Pyramid of Caius Cestius and through Porta San Paolo, and from there cross Viale Manlio Gelsomini and walk along Via di Porta Lavernale all the way up the Aventine Keyhole, which is right by the Orange Garden.
Guided tours that go to the Garden of Oranges
Visiting the Orange Garden, Rome, is completely free and you as shown above you can easily add it to your itinerary. However, if you would like a more in-depth experience you can opt for a guided tour. There aren’t many that head there directly, but you can book a tour that goes to lesser known places in Rome as it will also take you there.
For more information on off-the-beaten-path tours of Rome, click here.
Orange Garden Rome opening hours
The opening hours of the Garden of Oranges in Rome vary depending on the season. They are as follows:
From April to August: from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
From October to February: from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm
In March and September: from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm
For an extra romantic experience, try to plan your visit around sunset time!
Check out my post The Most Romantic Things To Do In Rome.
Other useful information
While it is common to spot families with children at the Garden of Oranges in Rome, it’s worth pointing out that there is no playground at the park. On the other hand, you will find plenty of benches and a drinking fountain (though there is no kiosk and no toilet).