In the midst of the lush greenery and scenic views of the Italian countryside, lies the tiny town of Castel Gandolfo. The town, located on the Alban Hills and overlooking Lake Albano, hosts around 9,000 residents. Visitors from all over the world flock to this town to see the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo or the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
The Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo is part of a 135-acre (54.6-ha) complex with buildings surrounded by beautiful gardens. It served as the summer home of the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, for centuries. In 2016, it was opened to the public as a museum. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Apostolic Palace on your next visit to Rome and Vatican City.
As per the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo falls within the Italian territory but is owned by the Holy See. It also enjoys the extraterritorial status and is exempt from Italian taxes and expropriations. Italian authorities are prohibited from entering the Palace without the consent of the Holy See.
Here are the top highlights of the Pope's summer residence.
This papal summer retreat was designed by Carlo Maderno for Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century. The Apostolic Palace opened its doors to the public in 2016 when Pope Francis decided to forego it as his residence and chose a Vatican City guesthouse. The Apostolic Palace has now been turned into a museum which has Vatican-related artifacts, such as the costumes and cars of former popes. Tourists have access to the papal apartments with marble flooring, the papal portrait gallery, the summer office and even the private bedroom.
Built on the grounds of the splendid Roman villa of Emperor Albanum Domitian, Barberini Gardens is an amalgamation of archeological ruins and luxurious as well as natural beauty. It’s a true reflection of the traditional Italian garden style with its carefully tended hedge mazes, fountains, dazzling geometric plant beds, sculptures, and ancient ruins. Barberini Gardens have been open to the public since 2014. Similar to the Apostolic Palace, it’s closed on Sundays and prior booking is necessary.Know More
Meaning ‘beautiful view’, the Belvedere Gardens were also built on Emperor Domitian’s grounds. You will find the famous cryptoporticus or covered passageway of the emperor here. Dozens of plants and vines creep up against it, but the architectural feat of its design is clearly visible as you step inside. In fact, this 300-meter long covered walkway served as shade when Domitian went for a walk, and was also responsible for providing shelter to those who fled to Castel Gandolfo from the Nazis.
The Pope’s Farm inside the palace is a 50-acre, family-run farm that produces everything that the Pope eats. Fresh produce, including handmade cheeses such as pecorino, mozzarella, and ricotta, yogurts, eggs, milk, cauliflower, and broccoli, is shipped on a daily basis to the Vatican. This organic farm is beautifully maintained with over 1,000 olive trees. These trees are tangible history as half of them have been standing since 1200. You can also walk through several orchards and vineyards on the grounds.
Inside the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, you will be able to view its rich furnishing and decor. Peruse the papal portrait gallery. Visit the grooms' room, statues and paintings of former popes, the clock parlor, the throne room and view various pontifical artifacts. One of the 20 marble-floored rooms in the papal apartments is the gallery of Alexander VII, where you will find a bust of the late Pope John Paul II. You can even see the Pope's bedroom, which is believed to have been used by several Jewish women as a delivery room during World War II.
The 17th-century Apostolic Palace that overlooks Lake Albano used to be the summer residence of the Pope. The first pope to use it as a summer residence was Urban VIII in the 17th century. Since then, it has been used by around 15 Popes to escape the Roman summer heat. In 2016, Pope Francis, however, decided to forgo using the palazzo, finding it to be too extravagant, preferring to spend his summer at his home in the Vatican. Since it was opened to the public no one resides at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
Yes, your Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo tickets will allow you access to the earlier private summer residence of the Pope. Enjoy the view of the sparkling waters of Lake Albano and the green countryside. Along with the Papal Palace in the sleepy town of Castel Gandolfo, you will be able to explore the lush gardens of Villa Barberini and Belvedere Gardens. With the help of an audio guide, you will be able to explore and better understand the significance of the summer residence of the Pope.
The Papal Palace will be open on Mondays and Fridays, from 8.30 AM to 2 PM. Last entry is at 1 PM. On Saturdays, the palace will be open from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM. Last entry is at 4.30 PM.
On Mondays (6, 13, 20 and 27 December), Tuesdays, (7, 21, and 28 December), Wednesdays (28 and 29 December), Thursdays (9, 23, and 30 December) and Fridays (3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 December), the palace is open from 8.30 AM to 2 PM, with the last entry at 1 PM. On Saturdays (4, 11 and 18 December), the palace is open from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM. Last entry is at 4.30 PM.
On average, you can expect to spend at least 2 hours touring the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
You can get to the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo by either train, bus or car.
From the Roma Termini station in Rome, Castel Gandolfo is about 40 minutes away by train. Get off at the Castel Gandolfo stop and walk towards Piazza della Liberta. From here, you can walk to the entrance of the palace.
Yes. You can take buses from Anagnina point in Rome to Castel Gandolfo. Though the buses are less frequent, you'll reach fairly quickly.
Yes, photography is allowed. However, the use of flash, tripods or selfie sticks is not permitted.
No, storage facility is not available. Large bags and luggage cannot be carried inside, only small backpacks and handbags are allowed.
No, outside food and drinks is not permitted inside the palace. A restaurant is open to visitors here.
Due to the uneven pathways and stairs, the grounds cannot accommodate wheelchairs. However, inside the museum, ramps and elevators are available for differently-abled visitors to comfortably move around.
The Apostolic Palace, also known as the Papal Villas, has been in the Vatican’s possession since 1596 when it was seized from the Savelli family, who failed to pay their dues to the church. Experts believe that Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1623-1644) was the first pope to vacation at this residence in 1626. Since then the Palace has been extensively restored and expanded to its current luxurious state.
Most of Pope Urban VIII’s successors used the Apostolic Palace as a summer retreat and vacation home. The Palace is designed with ornately-decorated rooms, including a private room and chapel for the Pope. Between 1870 and 1929, due to territorial disputes in Italy, the Popes did not leave the Vatican, and hence, the Apostolic Palaces were not in use. Pope Pius XI started using the retreat again in 1934 after having the facilities at the palace modernized.
Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI died in this room in 1958 and 1978 respectively. Pope John Paul II was criticized for having a swimming pool built here.
In March 2014, the Vatican opened the Barberini Gardens to visitors. From September 2015, a train that was previously reserved for use by the pope to travel from Vatican City to Castel Gandolfo was opened to the public. By the end of the same year, products from the farm were made available for purchase by the public.
On 21 October 2016, the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo was opened to the public for viewing.
A. Yes, the Apostolic Palace is now open to to visitors in 2021.
A. Yes, guests can pre-book their tickets online now to visit the Apostolic Palace and Gardens.
A. You can visit the Apostolic Palace, adjoining pontifical gardens and depending on your ticket, you may have access to Villa Barberini and its gardens.
A. No. You would have to specifically book tickets that include access to the palace and its gardens.
A. The palace welcomes visitors on Monday, and Friday between 8.30 AM to 2 PM with final entry at 1 PM and on Saturday from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM, with final entry at 4.30 PM during the month of November 2021.
A. Since the Palace holds significant religious and historical importance, visitors are expected to dress modestly. Shorts or sleeveless shirts are not allowed. Wear comfortable shoes for easy exploration.