Castel Gandolfo traditionally serves as a summer residence for Popes. It's situated along Lake Albano, where the Pope can rest in cooler temperatures. Already, Pope Francis has opened up the adjacent gardens to families and tourists who may want to visit. But the attraction has since expanded.
"Pope Francis said: 'I don't use Castel Gandolfo. Why not let the people enjoy it?' Then he called us and asked us to open the pontifical villas for the people.”
Inside, visitors can see the famous Gallery of Popes. It includes portraits of Popes from the last 500 years, from Pope Francis back to Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Also there is the no-longer-in-use ceremonial throne, on which the Pope was carried on shoulders for important celebrations.
The inner courtyard has more historically significant items, like a BMW that Pope John Paul II used for travel. There's also a beautiful papal garden, where Pope Benedict XVI took walks.
The Castel Gandolfo residence itself is full of stories. For example, thousands of people were brought there to avoid Nazi persecution during World War II.
Director, Pontifical Villas
"In that period Pius XII opened the doors to his people and welcomed everyone who wanted to come. More than 12,000 people were brought there and 32 babies were born inside the Pope's room.”
The papal residence and its nearby gardens are only open to visitors on Saturdays until December, although that date may be extended.
There are two options available for visitors. A short visit costs only 16 Euros and includes a stop at the palace in Castel Gandolfo. The longer tour costs 40 Euros but allows visitors to also see the Vatican Museums and the gardens in Castel Gandolfo. In both cases, visitors will ride a train from inside the Vatican directly to Castel Gandolfo. Reservations can be made online at the Vatican Museums website.