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Villa dei Medici Gardens were called "the most enchanting place" in Rome by Henry James, who went on to write that the gardens were possessed with an "incredible, impossible charm." Covering 17 sprawling acres on Pincio Hill above the Piazza di Spagna, they offer our favorite panoramic view of Rome. In the 1st century B.C., the site was covered by the Gardens of Lucullus. With their tree-lined avenues, statues, and fountains, these gardens were built around the severe, fortresslike facade of the Villa dei Medici in 1540. When Galileo was under house arrest by the Inquisition (1630-33), the dukes offered him shelter here.

In 1801, Napoleon purchased the villa to make it the seat of the French Academy. Prix de Rome scholars stay here, studying art, architecture, and archaeology. In front of the villa is a round fountain with a wide basin. Its spout was made from a cannonball shot from Castel Sant'Angelo.