The Villa Celimontana and the gardens that surround it sit on one of the ancient seven hills of Rome, the Caelian Hill (Celio in Italian), and the area is a peaceful oasis from the busy city.
The villa itself dates from the 16th century, though it has been modified significantly over the centuries. It was originally called the Villa Mattei after the family for whom it was built, and housed the Mattei family’s art collection. Today, the villa belongs to the Italian Geographic Society.
The gardens around the Villa Celimontana contain some ancient Roman ruins that date back to the 1st century AD, and some of the Mattei family’s collection of ancient artifacts are now on display throughout the grounds. There’s also a relatively small obelisk in the garden that has Egyptian hieroglyphics on it.
Inside the Villa Celimontana today visitors can see some of the historic maps and other documents kept by the Italian Geographic Society. There are also rooms in the villa that have beautiful frescoes and mosaics that were added in the 17th century.
The Villa Celimontana is right behind the Colosseum, but it remains a largely overlooked area of central Rome. There aren’t any places to get a meal nearby, but bring a picnic in warm weather and take advantage of the gorgeous grounds.