By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY — People visiting or living in Rome now have another jewel of nature and architecture to visit: the Pontifical Gardens in Castel Gandolfo.
A view of the papal gardens at Castel Gandolfo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis came up with the idea to open these private papal gardens to the general public, starting March 1.
The papal property at Castel Gandolfo covers almost 136 acres, which is more territory than Vatican City’s 108 acres. The walled grounds include a papal summer residence, the summer residence of the Vatican secretary of state, the Vatican observatory, extensive formal gardens, woodland, hay fields, a working farm, a dairy and beehives.
Papal beekeeper Marco Tullio Cicero, right, shows off the honeycomb covered with worker bees making honey at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)
The papal villa, which is built atop the ruins of a Roman emperor’s country residence, has been a second-home for popes since 1626. Perched in the Alban Hills overlooking a volcanic lake, the papal residence south of Rome has served as a quiet and cool place to escape from Rome’s intense crowds and summer heat.
One of the many fountains in the papal gardens of Castel Gandolfo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
But last year, Pope Francis made just a few brief visits to the villa and there are no signs he plans on using it as a vacation getaway like his predecessors have. Not letting a good thing go to waste, he has decided to throw the gates open to the public for organized tours.
People will need to book ahead online through the Vatican Museums’ website.
Ticket price per person is 26 euro ($36) and visitors will need to get to the entrance of the pontifical villas on their own before the tour starts at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. A special combo ticket of 42 euro ($58) will get you a Saturday garden tour (which has an additional Italian language-only tour starting at 10:30 a.m.) along with a “no-line” special entry to the Vatican Museums on the following Monday.
There are a number of restrictions involved with the tour. For example, a lot of walking is involved so it is not recommended for people with limited mobility nor is (Read More)