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.
The Apostolic Palace 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 Papal Palace on your next visit to Rome and Vatican City.
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. Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI died in this room in 1958 and 1978 respectively.
Around 20 rooms of the Apostolic Palace are open to the public, allowing visitors to understand the Popes’ lifestyles over the last 500 years. Paintings, relics, and liturgical vestments, throughout the museum tell the stories related to the Popes that have used this residence. Interesting artifacts are also on display, such as the sedan chair of Pope Pius IX and the BMW used by Pope Wojtyla.
For visitors that prefer to explore history away from the crowds in Rome and the Vatican, the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo is the ideal outing.
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 Papal 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 Papal Palace, it’s closed on Sundays and prior booking is necessary.
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 Pope Francis 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.
The Papal Palace is open only on Saturday, between 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM with final entry at 04:30 PM.
The Papal Palace is closed from Sunday to Friday.
On average, you can expect to spend at least 2 hours touring the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
It is located at Piazza della Libertà, 00073 Castel Gandolfo Città Metropolitana di Roma, Italy.
Google Map Directions
You can get to the Papal 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.
Yes, the Papal Palace is now open to to visitors in 2021.
Yes, guests can pre-book their tickets online now to visit the Papal Palaces and Gardens.
You can visit the Apostolic Palace, adjoining pontifical gardens and depending on your ticket, you may have access to Villa Barberini and its gardens.
No. You would have to specifically book tickets that include access to the palace and its gardens.
The palace welcomes visitors every Saturday between 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM with final entry at 04:30 PM. It is closed to visitors from Sunday to Friday.
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.