In 1605, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and patron of Bernini, began turning this former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity. The vineyard's site is identified with the gardens of Lucullus, the most famous in the late Roman republic. In the 19th century much of the garden's former formality was remade as a landscape garden in the English taste (illustration, right). The Villa Borghese gardens were long informally open, but were bought by the commune of Rome and given to the public in 1903. The large landscape park in the English taste contains several villas. The Spanish Steps lead up to this park, and there is another entrance at the Porte del Popolo by Piazza del Popolo. The Pincio (the Pincian Hill of ancient Rome), in the south part of the park, offers one of the greatest views over Rome.
A balustrade (dating from the early seventeenth century) from the gardens, was taken to England in the late 19th century, and installed in the grounds of Cliveden House, a mansion in Buckinghamshire, in 1896. The Piazza di Siena, located in the villa, hosted the equestrian dressage, individual jumping, and the jumping part of the eventing competition for the 1960 Summer Olympics. In 2004, a species of Italian snail was discovered, still living on the balustrade after more than 100 years in England.