Rick Steves' Favorite Statue In All Of Europe Is This Iconic Piece Found In Rome

Rick Steves has made a career out of promoting the excitement of traveling and leaves no stone unturned. He has obviously seen his fair share of incredible bucket list art around Europe at galleries large and small. Despite this, he still manages to select favored pieces in all mediums of art. Some of his favorite artworks to see in Europe are in Italy, as is his most-adored statue.

To find Steves' favorite statue, head to Rome, Italy's capital and largest city. North of some of the Eternal City's hot spots, such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (Foro Romano), is the Borghese Gallery (Galleria Borghese). "The Borghese also holds my favorite statue in all of Europe, Apollo and Daphne," Steves explains on his website. What Steves likes most about this statue is how it captures a key moment in the mythological story of Apollo and Daphne. Apollo finally reaches her, but he is too late, and she is sprouting tree branches from her feet and leaves from her hands. The statue is also in impeccable condition following a lengthy restoration project.

Apollo and Daphne were ancient mythological figures

According to mythology, Apollo fell in love with Daphne after Cupid hit him with an arrow. However, his affections were unrequited. Daphne was a nymph (nature spirit), and when Apollo did not let up in his pursuits, she prayed to her father, Peneus, the river god, saying, "Destroy the beauty that has injured me, or change the body that destroys my life," (via Borghese Gallery). Peneus answered her prayers, transforming her into a tree. Though alive and still human, Daphne's hair, hands, and feet bore attributes of a tree. Even still, Apollo loved her. The poet Ovid told this story in "The Metamorphoses," a collection of works centered around ancient life.

Sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (and his protégé Giuliano Finelli) created his masterful depiction of Apollo and Daphne in the 1620s. Steves prompts visitors to pay attention to the details of the artwork, particularly Daphne's hands, where tree branches illuminate Bernini's brilliance at molding stone. Bernini's work is found all over Rome. He designed and sculpted the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), a centerpiece in Piazza Navona. The Triton Fountain (Fontana del Tritone), located at Piazza Barberini, is another of his works.

The Borghese Gallery is located in the lush Villa Borghese

The Borghese Gallery is named after Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was passionate about the arts and began a vast collection in the early 1600s. He also commissioned art from various artists, making the cardinal influential in works of the Baroque era. Among the other important pieces at the Borghese Gallery are two busts of the cardinal, both by Bernini. Aside from his works, the Borghese Gallery also features pieces by Italian painters Caravaggio and Raphael, to name a few.

What makes a visit to the Borghese Gallery extra special is that it is located within the Villa Borghese. Borghese commissioned this park area as well, and it is still one of the largest green destinations in Rome, making it the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Italy's busiest city. Pieces from the cardinal's art collection decorated Villa Borghese and were studied by Bernini. The statue of Apollo and Daphne, in particular, has been located either at the villa or in the gallery since 1625.