While Italians are famous for their laid-back take on life, the pace of the country's capital is anything but. In fact, it's full-blown chaos. So how can a tourist expect to survive? Do as the Romans do - step into the peaceful green tranquility of Rome's urban parks. Here are our favourites:
Villa Borghese offers the perfect breather from the urban grind. The park was originally the private garden of Pope Paul V's nephew in the 17th century, and is now the most visited in the city. It rests on Rome's Pincian Hill, just above Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps. Once you tear yourself away from pincio's amazing views, take a passeggiata (stroll) along with Rome's other repose-seekers. Walk around the grassy amphitheatre Piazza di Siena, take a peek at the zoo, float in a rowboat on the lake or visit the superb Galleria Borghese Museum - home to sculptures of Bernini, Caravaggio and Raffaello.
Picturesque Parco Savello, known locally as Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden), is a former orange grove tucked away on Aventine Hill above Circo Massimo. The immaculately manicured lawn, dotted with fallen oranges and picnickers, sets an undeniably romantic scene - trumped only by the breathtaking view of Rome's Tiber River and dome-specked cityscape. After you've had your fill, drop into the neighbouring 5th century Basilica of Santa Sabina. Don't miss one of Rome's little secrets: a keyhole peephole just down the road in the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta which offers an unforgettable view of St. Peter's Basilica.
Rome's biggest park, Villa Pamphilj, offers the sporty types the perfect playground. Runners flock to this park to work up a sweat - no Roman is crazy enough to run in the street. Jog alongside Rome's most athletic to see all this charming park has to offer: majestic stone pines, moss-covered fountains, the charming gardens of the Casino del Bel Respiro, puffed middle-aged men playing spirited games of calcio (soccer) and sunbathing beauties. Don't be surprised by impromptu concerts by musicians who find the park the only place they can practice without angering the neighbours.
Sitting atop Janiculum Hill is the tiny Gianicolo - site of a battle in 1849 between the forces of national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi and the French in the name of Italian unification. A visit to this park is worth the million steps you have to climb to get there - the view from the top is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Go at sunset with a bottle of wine to witness the spectacle of the city's rooftops, domes and bell towers turning gorgeous shades of gold and pink. When the nightly parade of canoodling couples gets to be too much, head down the hill for a plate of Trastevere's famed spaghetti alla carbonara.
Parco degli Acquedotti
For those willing to venture the 8km from Rome's city centre, a visit to Rome's Parco degli Acquedotti offers an unforgettable experience. The 15 hectare park, lying within the Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica, takes its name from the aqueducts within it - 16th century Aqua Felix and the remains of 1st century Aqua Claudia. These iconic acqueducts crisscross the green lawns, rows of stone pines, crop fields and sheep pastures, creating a tranquil, rustic feel. You'll find it hard to believe that Rome's movie studios of Cinecitta are just down the street. Find a park bench and the scene will transport you back in time. Just be sure never to go alone, as there have been some cases of violence in the past.
These leafy retreats are sure to recharge your Rome-exploring reserves. If you want to read more on Rome, check out Lonely Planet's latest Rome Encounter guide and essential Italian Phrasebook.
This article was refreshed in June 2012