As locals know all too well, summer in Rome can be hard to handle. Temperatures sometimes hit 40° in the daytime and drop to that of a moderate oven at night, so it’s no wonder many choose to escape to cooler climes. Romans take off in droves, abandoning the city for the nearby coast and lakes. Usually, the Pope is no exception to the rule, and with a papal summer residence perched above the cooling turquoise waters of Lake Albano, why would you be?
Pope Francis however has bucked tradition once more and opened the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo as a museum for locals and tourists. Unlike his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict, Francis rarely visited the site, reportedly finding it too luxurious and grandiose. So, since last year outsiders have had the chance to see inside the villa and discover how previous popes kicked back and relaxed.
Also among the twenty never-before-seen rooms now open to the public is the pope’s private bedroom that contains a single bed and is situated next to a private chapel. It’s also where popes Pius XII and Paul VI died. Visitors can also walk in the footsteps of the popes around the equally lavish gardens and grounds. Alternatively, hop on board a special white train which tours the Villa Barberini gardens that were built around the first-century AD ruins of Emperor Domitian’s country residence. There’s also the option to visit Pope Benedict’s 50-acre organic farm which is home to cows, free range chickens, bees, and a sprawling vegetable garden.
To book a tour of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo or of the gardens, visit museivaticani.va.
Piazza della Libertà, Castel Gandolfo
Direct trains from Rome’s Termini Station to Castel Gandolfo leave hourly.
Mon-Fri 9am-1pm; Sat 9am-4.30pm
Entry fee €10, concessions €5