It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since our trip to Italy, but the best part about travel is reminiscing about all the great sights we have seen long after the trip is over. I keep a travel journal, knowing that with passing time I’ll forget details. But we won’t forget the sights in Rome (the first leg of our trip) such as the Trevi Fountain, ancient Roman ruins and our inspiring visit to the Vatican and the incredible Sistine Chapel. Plus there was the delicious Italian food and wines. But especially memorable and unforgettable is Il Roseto (Rose Garden), Rome’s Municipal Rose Garden that contains over 1100 roses in bloom and the ruins of the Circus Maximus as its back drop.
We had planned our itinerary, hoping the weather would cooperate, and scheduled our visit to Il Roseto after a tour of Ancient Rome, knowing it was a short walk from the Colosseum. Before leaving home I did some research and was fascinated to learn that this rose garden, which originally was located closer to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, has ties to the United States. An American, Mary Gayley Senni from Pennsylvania, married to an Italian Count, gave a gift of 300 roses to the city of Rome in the early 1930’s to create Rome’s first public rose garden. Unfortunately, that rose garden was a casualty of World War II, but it was later resurrected in its present location on the slopes of Aventine Hill across from the Circus Maximus.
Il Roseto is a garden divided into two gated sections with each section separated by the road, Via di Valle Murcia. The upper section holds the garden’s collection of roses from European countries as well as countries from all over the world including the United States and Canada. The garden has quite a history as it sits on a site that was once a Jewish cemetery dating back to 1645. The cemetery closed in 1895 due to road construction and the graves were moved to another cemetery. It then became a public park and in 1950 the home of Il Roseto when the city of Rome was looking for a new location for Countess Senni’s original rose garden. The garden paths are laid out in the shape of a menorah and the ancient cypress trees from the old cemetery still grow as reminders of the garden’s history.
Another distinctive feature of this garden is the way the roses are displayed. There are no rose beds per se. Instead roses are planted one by one on the broad grassy slopes of the garden as well as along fences and on trellises. It was peak bloom time in Rome and in the upper section we saw magnificent roses such as Paul’s Himalayan Musk, growing skyward with a profusion of blooms. An amazing sight. We saw many familiar varieties such as Austin’s Crown Princess Margareta and were pleased to see other varieties that were less well-known like Jean Cocteau from Meilland, Purple Rain from Germany’s Tantau and Poulsen’s Lea, one of their Renaissance varieties. Il Roseto’s collection also includes a small section of species roses such as Rosa phoetida and Rosa chinesis mutabilis.
Throughout the garden were many benches where visitors could rest and enjoy the view and peacefulness of the garden. What made this garden truly special, though, was that from the top of the garden we had a spectacular view of not only the rose garden and the very old cypress trees below us, but ancient Roman ruins as well. To us, this was Rome at its best, away from the hustle and noise of the busy streets and the reality of Rome in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, the lower section of the garden was closed the day we were there because it was being prepared for the Premio Roma Rose competition, the second oldest in the world, which was to take place two days after our visit. But if we had been able to view this section, we would have seen not only the roses entered in this year’s competition, but also a collection of previous winners. However, I was able to fit my camera in between the bars of the fence and at least take some photos.
We wished we could have gone back to see the winners of the competition, but our time was limited and we were off to Florence – Firenza – for the second part of our Italian journey and another fantastic rose garden. But that’s a post for another day.