Castel Gandolfo, Part 1: Barberini Gardens

As of March 1, 2014 Pope Francis characteristically opened the doors of the Papal Palace to paid visitors on guided tours so that more people can enjoy the splendor of both the Barberini Gardens (above) and the Apostolic Palace. Located in the Alban hills just south of Rome at Castel Gandolfo, it has traditionally served as the papal summer residence and vacation retreat. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 13th century, though it wasn’t acquired by the Vatican until 1596 when the family who owned it was unable to pay a debt to the Papacy. Designed for Pope Urban VIII, the gardens occupy the site of a residence of the Roman Emperor  Domitian. Except for the years 1870-1929, when the Popes remained in Rome during the summer due to a dispute with Italy over territorial claims, Popes have made use of the properties. In accordance with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the palace and the adjoining Villa Barberini, added to the complex by Pope Pius XI, became extraterritorial properties of the Holy See. And in 1934, Pope Pius XI had the facilities modernized and began using the retreat again. 

During World War II, many people used the site as a refuge from Allied bombing raids, and an unknown number of Jewish refugees took shelter under the protection of the Holy See. In 1958, Pope Pius XII died at the palace, as did Pope Paul VI in 1978, and in February 2013 Pope Benedict XVI flew to the palace at the conclusion of his papacy and spent several weeks there before returning to Vatican City.

  • Visited: April 2016

1 Comment

  1. Not only are the gardens magnificent but the approach to the property in the hills which overlook a beautiful & tranquil lake. You must get reservation ahead of time to visit and take a tour of the gardens in motorized covered vehicle.

    Liked by 1 person

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