Only about 8,000 people live here and the Pope's summer residence is a key part of the town. In fact just a few feet away from the Papal Palace is this local ice cream shop, where John Paul II and Benedict XVI have ordered from.
"Benedict XVI would order ice cream for some of his visitors. Personally he liked the 'Fior de Latte' flavor and also vanilla.”
Benedict XVI spent his first summer here as Pope, back in 2005 to avoid Rome's intense summer heat. He would spend those months studying, reading and even writing books. The tradition itself goes back generations. The first Pope to use the summer residence in Castel Gandolfo was Urban VIII Barberini back in 1626.
The Papal residence also has a World War II connection. Since the Vatican was a neutral country, Pope Pius XII opened Castel Gandolfo, where about 12,000 Jews sought refuge. During that time the papal apartment was reserved for pregnant mothers to give birth. At least 40 babies were born there.
Now Castel Gandolfo will become part of modern history as it welcomes a retired Pope.
"For us he will always be The Holy Father. He was elected the Holy Father, so at least here he will continue to have that title. We will still refer to him as Pope.”
Eventually Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican. He will live in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, along with the so called 'Papal Family' that has accompanied him throughout this pontificate.
The building is undergoing repairs, but it's quite simple. The monastery was built in the 90's under the pontificate of John Paul II, so that contemplative nuns would have a place for retreat and prayer, inside Vatican Walls.
Now, 85 year old Benedict XVI will retire here to, as he says, serve the Church in prayer.