If you like visiting the Vatican than you’ll love a visit to Castel Gandolfo. Castel what? Gandolfo. In this quaint village is a grand residence of the pope. Well, it’s his summer home more or less and when he is not there, you can go there for a visit.
What you’ll find is a rather modest looking building on top of a hill. The facade of the summer residence directly borders the town square. And you get more of a town hall impression of the palace if you look at it from the outside.
On the inside, things transform. Marble floors and impressive paintings decorate the halls. Most of the residence is clearly now a museum with exhibits that are permanent.
Another part of the palace is a lot more ‘intimate’ with the popes personal study, chapel and bedroom. This place was mostly used by pope Benedictus XVI. Pope Franciscus decided not to use the palace as much. This does allow visitors to come and take a rather unusual look inside a place that recently was in use for official church business.
The more intimate part of the palace features everything you’d expect from it. A grand reception hall, a private study, and one of the most absurd things you get to visit in your life: the popes bedroom.
Another rather intimate part of the palace is the popes private chapel with a black madonna on the wall. You’d imagine that this room would be large and filled with the best of the best. However, the private parts of the palace are rather moderately sized.
After you finish your tour of the building, you’ll end up right where you started: back on the central square of the village. I would highly recommend you grab a coffee before heading back just to enjoy this charming village and especially the view from it over the lake.
How to get to Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo is a small village 25KM/16Mi southeast from Rome. If you are able to walk up the hill, then I highly recommend going there by train. A local commuter train will take you on a scenic tour through the city, down south to the Castel Gandolfo train station. Please remember that you will have to climb up the hill before you reach the apostolic palace.
Don’t worry about the walk though. Once you are at the top, there are plenty of bars that serve excellent Italian coffee for you to recuperate. For maximum scenicness, pick a place overlooking the lake or pick a spot on the town square.
Tickets for Castel Gandolfo
As for all things in the Vatican, I recommend you book your tickets through the Vatican directly. As part of this deal: book in advance if you can. This saves you money and disappointment.
There are many people selling overpriced tickets for the Vatican museums and for guided tours that include things to ‘skip the line’. Be aware that you can easily ‘skip the line’ yourself by booking in advance.
Book your tickets for Castel Gandolfo here through the official Vatican Museums website.