Visiting the Galleria Borghese on a ‘Free Sunday’

(2019 Update: This scheme was brought to an end last year, but has been reinstated this year by the newly formed government.)

I was out the door by 8 o’clock, so I could be at the Galleria Borghese when it opened its doors in exactly an hour. It was the first Sunday of the month; I hoped to beat the crowd and spend all day taking in the works at one of Rome’s finest art galleries.

Clearly I hadn’t done my research, because little did I know:

a. You need a reservation in order to enter the museum in the first place.

b. The Galleria Borghese is relatively small when compared with the likes of the Prado, Louvre or Uffizi Gallery, and doesn’t actually require all day to soak in every inch of the two-floor space.

Sunday at the Museum

“Domenica al Museo” aka Sunday at the Museum is an initiative that ensures free entry for visitors on the first Sunday of every month to numerous state museums, gardens, monuments, parks and archaeological excavations across Italy. Here’s an exhaustive list of what’s on offer. This is a great initiative, particularly considering the steep entry fees for a lot of these places. Bear in mind, however, this also means that during the holiday season, you’ll likely be waddling about amidst the throng of smartphone-wielding tourists.

How it Works

Interiors of the Galleria Borghese

Perhaps this is why the Galleria Borghese sets a limit for the number of people that it can accommodate within its intricately-frescoed, ornate walls. Only 360 people are let in at once. Depending on the season, it is suggested that you make a reservation for your visit well in advance to guarantee your spot. Your reservation allows you to visit during one of these two-hour time slots: 9-11 AM, 11 AM-1 PM, 1-3 PM, 3-5 PM or 5-7 PM.

Reservations are required (€2) to visit the Galleria Borghese even on a free Sunday (and even for children under 18 and Roma Pass holders). As on the other days, make sure to call ahead or book online (the latter includes an additional €2 service fee). You could also manage to get a reservation on the day, but get there early because it fills up almost instantly. I arrived at 9 AM, unaware of the reservation system, but managed to obtain a ticket for the final 5-7 PM slot. But by 10 o’clock there were none left, just a sea of disappointed faces.

In short, make a reservation, regardless of whether it’s a regular day or the first Sunday of the month. Get there at least thirty minutes before your entry time to pick up your ticket. And remember, no bags or cameras are allowed inside the museum, just your mobile phone.

The Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is breathtaking and one-of-a-kind, with floor mosaics and frescoes adorning the halls from floor to ceiling, and is home to exquisite works of art by the likes of Caravaggio, Raphael and Bernini.

David with the Head of Goliath, Caravaggio

The villa was constructed in the early 17th century and served as the summer residence of the noble Borghese family. Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope V Camillo Borghese, was known to be a patron of the arts and a devoted admirer of Bernini, and played a major hand in the furnishing of the villa. The museum also happens to be surrounded by the picturesque Villa Borghese gardens – a perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate before or after your visit.

So book ahead, get there on time and be enthralled ~

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