(ANSA) - Vatican City, March 3 - Pope Francis has opened
to the public the magnificent gardens surrounding the papal
summer residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
Located in the Alban hills, the property includes the
extensive Barberini gardens, the remains of a Roman villa and a
62-acre farm, as well as the storied 17th-century papal palace,
known as "the second Vatican".
The director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, said
"it was Pope Francis himself" who decided to make accessible to
all the gardens of the Pontifical Villas "where the splendor of
art and the glory of nature co-exist in admirable equilibrium."
From Monday through Saturday mornings a one-and-a-half hour
guided tour of the gardens, in Italian or English, will be
available to individuals or groups through an online booking
system, Vatican Radio said.
The Barberini Gardens, as they are known, lie on the site of
an ancient Roman villa built by Emperor Domitian, the third and
last ruler of the Flavian dynasty.
Visitors can wander through the ruins of the imperial
theatre and the crypto-portico, or covered passageway where the
emperor and his guests could stroll while escaping from the
With stunning views over Lake Albano and beyond, to the
coastline of the Mediterranean sea, the Villa has been a
favourite holiday residence for the popes since the 17th
Under the 1929 Lateran Pact between the Vatican and the
Italian State, the Villa became part of the extra-territorial
possessions of the Holy See and underwent major restoration
The pope of that time, Pius XI, oversaw the creation of a
model farm which still produces eggs, milk, oil, vegetables and
honey for local employees or for sale in the Vatican
Pope Pius XII, who allowed war refugees sanctuary in the
Villa, died there in 1958, as did Pope Paul VI two decades
Amongst the hidden treasures that visitors can enjoy are the
magnolia garden, the path of roses and that of aromatic herbs,
the square of holly oaks and the breathtaking Belvedere garden.
For further details and bookings, visit the Vatican Museums
website at: mv.vatican.va