Related Sites & images
Villa Borghese
Villa Doria Pamphili

Related Texts
James, “Roman Notebook”
James, “Roman Neighborhoods”
James, “The After-Season in Rome”
James, “Other Roman Neighborhoods”

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Henry James, “Roman Rides” (1873)

For this effect of casting a spell no rides have more value than those you take in Villa Doria or Villa Borghese; or don’t take, possibly, if you prefer to reserve these particular regions— the later in especial—for your walking hours. People do ride, however, in both villas, which deserve honorable mention in this regard. Villa Doria, with its noble site, its splendid views, its great groups of stone-pines, so clustered and yet so individual, its lawns and flowers and fountains, its altogether princely disposition, is a place where one may pace, well mounted, of a brilliant day, with an agreeable sense of its being rather a more elegant pastime to balance in one’s stirrups than to trudge on even the smoothest gravel. But at Villa Borghese the walkers have the best of it; for they are free of those adorable outlying corners and bosky byways which the rumble of barouches never reaches. In March the place becomes a perfect epitome of the spring. You cease to care much for the melancholy greenness of the disfeatured statues which has been your chief winter’s intimation of verdure; and before you are quite conscious of the tender streaks and patches in the great quaint grassy arena round which the Propaganda students, in their long skirts, wander slowly, like dusky seraphs revolving the gossip of Paradise, you spy the brave little violets uncapping their azure brows beneath the high-stemmed pines. One’s walks here would take us too far, and one’s pauses detain us too long, when in the quiet parts under the wall one comes across a group of charming small school-boys in full-dress suits and white cravats, shouting over their play in clear Italian, while a grave young priest, beneath a tree, watches them over the top of his book. It sounds like nothing, but the force behind it and the frame round it, the setting, the air, the chord struck, make it a hundred wonderful things.

James, Henry. Italian Hours, ed. John Auchard. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, p. 151.

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