Unveiling the Secrets of the Orange Garden in Rome

What comes to mind when you think of Rome? Perhaps ancient ruins, sun-soaked squares and Bernini sculptures? Yet, a tranquil oasis crowning the Aventine Hill offers a different perspective of the Eternal City.

Eager to show off their city, my Roman friends took me to the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) on one of my first visits. And boy oh boy, what a good choice this was.

Also known as Parco Savello, it offers unforgettable views of Rome and is a welcome refuge from the tourist throng that descends on the city’s better-known sights. Whilst it’s easy to reach from Rome’s bucket list sights, it’s far enough away to keep the tour groups at bay.

Visiting Rome’s Orange Garden: Practical Information

Address: Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 00153 Roma. Check the location on Google Maps here.

Opening hours: From dawn until dusk. It is particularly enchanting at sunset.

Admission cost: Free

Getting there: If you have mobility issues, take bus 23, 280 or 716. These will drop you a short walk from the garden entrance. The closest metro station is Circo Massimo on Line B. From here, it’s a steep but rewarding 10-minute uphill climb to the Rose Garden.

woman walking up a steep hill with views of rome in the background
I love the walk to the Orange Garden!

The history behind the garden

The Orange Garden was originally part of the Savelli family’s 13th Century fortress, hence the name Parco Savello. Remains of this fortress can still be seen on the right-hand side of the garden.

orange tree against an old stone wall

The Savelli were one of Rome’s most powerful families, only equalled by the more notorious Borgias.

Raffaele De Vico designed the garden we see today in 1932. Planting orange trees was a nod to the Dominican Order to which the garden belonged. According to local legend, Saint Dominic (San Domenico) preached from the shade of an orange tree, which can still be seen in the adjacent church of Santa Sabina.

A feast for the senses

Time it right, and the sweet fragrance of orange blossoms is the first thing that strikes you when you enter the garden. Typically, oranges ripen in Rome between December and February.

The Orange Garden’s layout is simple and symmetrical, designed to offer an unobstructed view of Vatican City.

A path named after the Italian actor and writer Nino Manfredi leads from the main gate to the viewing terrace, dissecting the garden. Two small squares are at its centre.

Orange trees, primarily of the bitter orange variety (Citrus aurantium), are planted in the garden’s lawns. Other plant species, include cypresses, pines and laurels.

Spectacular views of the Eternal City

panoramic view of the skyline of rome with tress in foreground

But what sets the Orange Garden apart is its unparalleled view of Rome’s skyline. From the Altar of the Fatherland to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you are treated to a postcard-perfect panorama.

For shutterbugs, the Orange Garden offers endless opportunities to capture Rome’s beauty. Try to visit at sunrise or sunset, when the city is bathed in golden light. Just be aware that as you are facing west, you will be shooting into the sun in the evening.

There’s an unusual fountain

The fountain at the entrance to the garden in Piazza Pietro d’Illiria is made up of two pieces: a granite basin and a monumental marble mask. If you think that the basin is the older of the two pieces you’d be wrong

The basin was an Ancient Roman thermal bath. In 1593, the sculptor Bartolomeo Bassi carved the mask to adorn a fountain and it was relocated and dismantled over the following 300 years or so. No wonder he looks slightly grumpy.

marble mask of a face with bushy eyebrows spouting water out of its mouth into a basin

The basin and mask were united in 1936.

Exploring nearby attractions

Basilica of Santa Sabina –  this is one of Rome’s most beautiful churches and is just in front of the entrance to the Giardino degli Aranci. Dating from the 5th Century, it is the city’s oldest basilica and has preserved its original collonaded rectangular plan.

bare interior of basilica santa sabina with a central aspe and rows of classical columns

Knights of Malta keyhole – the so-called ‘secret’ keyhole or Aventine keyhole is a three-minute walk from Santa Sabina. It offers a perfectly framed view of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome – I recommend visiting this cemetery at the foot of the Aventine Hill, if only for the exquisite Angel of Grief on the tombstone of Emelyn Story. For my money, it’s one of Rome’s finest sculptures.

stone sculpture in rome of angel draped over a tomb

Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery is also the final resting place of Keats and Shelley.

How I included the Orange Garden in my Rome itinerary

When I returned to the Orange Garden, I combined it with a visit to the Baths of Caracalla. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk via Circo Massimo.

You could also visit here after a busy day exploring the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Walking from the Colosseum to the Garden of Oranges will take you 20 minutes.

Enjoy your visit to the Orange Garden!

Although Parco Savello is no longer a hidden gem, it is nonetheless a favourite spot for Romans. So go native and relax with a book under the shade of an orange tree or pack a picnic (there is no café in this park).

Finally, if you have found this guide helpful, take a look at a few of my other Rome articles for inspiration: