Overlooking Piazza del Popolo, 19th-century Pincio Hill is named after the Pinci family, who owned this part of Rome in the 4th century. It’s quite a climb from the piazza, but at the top you’re rewarded with lovely views over to St Peter’s and the Gianicolo Hill. Alternatively, approach from the top of the Spanish Steps. From the gardens, strike out to explore Villa Borghese, Villa Medici or Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Until the late 18th century, the Pincio Hill was largely uninhabited, housing private gardens and vineyards. Architect Giuseppe Valadier came up with the idea of transforming the area into a green public space in 1794, but his proposal would only be approved during the French occupation (1808–1814), when the construction of both the Pincio Hill gardens and Piazza del Popolo became officially part of Rome’s urban plan. Works began in 1816 and in the span of eight years the first public gardens in Rome were born.
In the heart of the gardens you can find the neoclassical Casina Valadier, now a restaurant and private events space originally designed by the project’s leading architect as a meeting place for the Roman intelligentsia.
Tips and other practicalities
The views from the Terrazza del Pincio (Pincio Terrace) are hard to beat – from the hill’s highest point you can admire many of the monuments that give Rome its fame, including St Peter’s Basilica, the EUR district, the Gianicolo Hill, and Piazza del Popolo. To get there, climb up the staircase that begins in Piazza del Popolo.