The Pincian Hill’s beautiful sights, huge parks and famous rooftop terrace make it one of the most peaceful and interesting places to visit in Rome. These features over time have been repeated in many Italian cities, taking example from one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Rome.
The Pincian Hill, known as the “Hill of the Gardens”, has been made famous for its villas, gardens and a terrace overlooking Piazza del Popolo, offering spectacular sunset views. In ancient Rome this hill housed the families of Roman nobility, and with a stellar view from the top, it is easy to understand why.
Read on to find out all about the Pincian Terrace, one of the most romantic places in the city, and how you can explore it on one of our Rome guided tours.
Villas and Gardens on the Pincian Hill
Although the Pincian Hill is not considered one of Rome’s Seven Hills, it was still a well-known destination outside the original ancient city of Rome. Because the hill was outside of the bustling Roman Forum and the rest of the city center, a few important Roman families created their own private villas on the Pincian Hill during the late Roman Republic.
The two best known villas on the Pincian Hill that can still be viewed today are the Gardens of Sallust and the Gardens of Lucullus.
The land that would eventually become the Gardens of Sallust was originally owned by one of the most famous figures in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar. But after his death, the land passed to the Roman historian Sallust, who developed this area into an extravagant series of gardens that would later become occupied by the emperors of Rome, starting with Tiberius in 20 AD.
You can still see parts of the Gardens of Sallust at Piazza Sallustio, not far from the foot of the Pincian Hill. One of its villas, which stands several meters below the modern ground level, has been converted into an event and exhibition space known simply as the Horti Sallustiani.
The Gardens of Lucullus were created around 60 BC, and were another example of luxurious gardens in ancient Rome. The Roman general and politician, Lucullus, chose this spot to be his grand villa, and was considered revolutionary in terms of landscape gardening.
Today, 17 acres of these ancient gardens live on as a part of Villa Borghese. Below, you can see a reconstruction of how they would have looked at the time.
Pincian Hill after the emperors
During the Medieval Period the once grand and nicely-kept gardens were left abandoned and soon fell into disrepair.
There were some efforts to change areas of the Pincian Hill over time. For example, the construction of the church Trinità dei Monti moved the toppled 'Sallustiano Obelisk' from the Gardens of Sallust to its current position on top of the Spanish Steps, in the fifteenth century.
Pincian Terrace Today
It was not until the early nineteenth century that Giuseppe Valadier laid out a plan to restructure the gardens into the beautiful views that can be seen today. The new gardens would be heavily influenced by French gardens, as the French Academy at Rome had just been moved to Villa Medici.
Gravelled streets were created to connect many of the already existing sites, and the Pincian Obelisk (replacing the one that the Gardens of Sallust lost) was moved to the hill in 1822. The Piazza Napoleone was also constructed, with a grand view of Piazza del Popolo.
At the foot of the Pincian Hill was the tomb of Domitii in which the ashes of emperor Nero were buried (Nero was a member of the Domitii family rather than the Julii family to which Julius Caesar and Augustus belonged).
Subsequent excavations have unearthed the remains of many large buildings with porches with pillars as well. Today the original location of this tomb is the site for the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
OPENING HOURS:Monday-Sunday- Always open (though watching the sunset from the terrace is highly recommended!)
Visiting the Pincian TerraceConnected to the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese and sitting at the top of the Pincian Hill, the Pincian Terrace is sure to offer one of the best panoramic views in Rome. Overlooking the lively Piazza del Popolo, the terrace offers a great view of the square and the rest of Rome’s unique skyline. To get to this popular terrace, visitors can either climb the stairs at the end of Via del Corso (in Piazza del Popolo). Another way to the Pincian Terrace is to take a stroll through Villa Borghese and follow the signs for the “Pincio Terrace”.
Where does the Pincian Hill get its name?
The original Latin name for this hill, Collis Hortorum (“Hill of Gardens”), was very fitting, but not one that would stay past the fourth century AD.
The Pincii family, that moved into a mansion there in the fourth century AD and were one of the most influential families of the period, renamed the hill after their own family name.
Below is a reconstruction, masterfully produced by Maquettes Historiques, which shows how the Pincii family's palace may have looked in the fourth century AD.