Picnic Perfect in Rome

June’s blue-sky days call for a feast al fresco, and luckily Rome isn’t short on pretty parks and delicious food. Alexandra Bruzzese tells you where to go, and most importantly, what to pack.

If you’ve had your fill of long lines, noisy traffic and colossal crowds, a picnic in one of Rome’s idyllic green spaces might be in order. And with an unbeatable view, a refreshing bottle of Italian bubbly and a few well-chosen dishes, this summer’s picnic is bound to be out of the ordinary.

One of the city’s best-kept secrets, the Orange Garden (Via di Santa Sabina) sits atop the Aventine Hill and gets its moniker from—you guessed it—its many orange trees. Pack your basket with food bought a short walk from your destination to keep things convenient. Nearby Volpetti (Via Marmorata, 47) is a gourmand’s high temple: for an upscale picnic stock up on salame al barolo (red-wine infused salami), pecorino al tartufo (black truffled cheese), thin slices of prosciutto di San Daniele, marinated olives, Calabrian figs, sundried-tomatoes, and a bottle of prosecco. While getting to the top of the garden is a bit of a climb, you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous panoramic view of Rome as you nosh.

Why not picnic with all of Rome at your feet? Located west of the Tiber River, the Janiculum Hill looms above the hustle and bustle of the city, gifting picnickers with a stunning view of the city’s domes and monuments. The hilltop’s silence is interrupted only at noontime when a single cannon shot rings out, a 19th-century tradition that marks the hour. Fill your picnic basket with seasonal fruit like peaches, strawberries, and melon from San Cosimato Market (Piazza di San Cosimato), down the hill in Trastevere, and stop by Norcineria Iacozzilli (Via Natale del Grande, 15) for porchetta, baked pork rolled with spices, for a satisfying sandwich.

Perched directly above Rome’s most iconic sights, including the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, is Villa Borghese (entrances at Piazzale Flaminio and Via Pinciana). A sprawling park modeled after the English landscape garden, it once belonged to Italian aristocrat Scipione Borghese before being officially opened to the public in 1903. Its gardens are lovely oasis away from Rome’s chaos, and an unsurprisingly popular spot for picnickers. Sweet Life Café (Via V. Veneto, 104b), just a short walk from the Pinciana entrance, sells an adorable kit that will satisfy all your picnic needs. Unpack your picnic wherever strikes your fancy. Afterwards, rent a canoe and set afloat Giardino del Lago (Viale del Lago), a charming pond complete with a Greek-style temple, or borrow a tandem bike for a fun way to explore the grounds with friends or family.

Last but not least is Villa Doria Pamphilj (entrances at Via di San Pancrazio and Via Vitellia). Once the private grounds of the summer residence of a fabulously wealthy 17th-century papal family, this enormous green space is roughly the size of the entire historic center of Rome, so you'll have no problem finding a corner all to yourself under the umbrella pines. Pack your own picnic or let the chefs at ViViBistrot (Via Vitellia, 102) do it for you!