Rome rose competition and exhibition: The exhibition will formally open on May 20 at the Roseto Comunale or Municipal Rose Garden on the Aventine Hill just above the Circus Maximus (Piazzale Ugo La Malfa -- formerly Romolo e Remo), but the gates already are open on the part of the garden that holds the permanent "collection" display. The other half of the garden, where competing varieties are planted, will open to the public on May 19, after the judging and award ceremony for the "Rome Prize" ("Premio Roma"), an international competition for new rose varieties.

Rome's rose prize was first awarded fifty-eight years ago and is the second oldest in the world after the Paris "Bagatelle". There are one hundred and fifty entries in this year's competition, divided into six categories, according the type and quality of the roses. The jury is made up of local, permanent members as well as international experts. The flowers, which arrive from various parts of the world between 18 and 24 months before the show, are planted and observed in all phases of their growth. Prizes are awarded in six categories, and there are there are special prizes for the most perfumed rose and the "children's rose", which is chosen by a class of a Rome school.

The rose garden covers an area of about 10,000 square meters. There are 1,200 varieties on display divided into three large groups: botanical, ancient and modern roses. "Botanical" roses are the oldest primordial roses from which all the others have originated. Spontaneous crosses between "botanical" roses formed the "ancient" roses. "Modern" roses are the result of further controlled crosses over the past 150 years.

The site of the Roseto was once Rome's Jewish Cemetery, which was transformed into a public green area for political reasons in 1934. (The Jewish cemetery was transferred to a part of Verano.) In 1950 the Rome Town Council asked the Jewish community if the area could be transformed into the new Roseto, The community agreed with the condition that a single star be placed above the entrance in order to remind visitors of its sacred origin. This star is still present today along with memorial plaques at the entrances. The pathways of the competition sector are also in the form of a Menorah visible from the top of the central flight of steps.

The Roseto is open from the middle of April to mid-June and reopens for a short time in October when many roses bloom again in Rome. May is the best period for viewing the roses and if you want to see the garden crowded with brides waiting for photo ops, go on a Saturday morning. Free guided tours are available during opening times.

Internet links:

Garden Info:

Comune di Roma Roseto page (English):

Real rose aficionados should know about the Internet site of the World Federation of Rose Societies:

PS: The Jewish Cemetery also included the Piazzale, which is the site of a large monument to Giuseppe Mazzini. It was in use from 1645 through 1894. Prior to 1645 there had been a Jewish cemetery near Porta Portese, but Pope Urban VIII moved that earlier cemetery to the Roseto location during the construction of city walls.

The Mazzini Monument (in Italian):