Apostolic Palace and the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo

Since 2014, Pope Francis has opened the doors to the Pontifical Palace and the Papal Gardens in Castel Gandolfo, allowing visitors to enter both the summer residence of the pope and the beautiful botanical gardens. In July 2020, my family and I set out to explore them. 

Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo (Villa Barberini Gardens)

We started with a walk in the gardens, by purchasing the " A walk in the Villas" ticket option.   Spralling over 55 hectares/135 acres, the botanical gardens contain tree lined avenues, flowers, fountains and statues along with the Apostolic Palace, Villa Cybo and Villa Barberini. Highlights include the hedge mazes of Villa Barberini, sculptures of Neptune and fabulous views that extend to the Mediterranean sea.


We were not on a tour, but a member of the guard corp leads you on a predetermined course in a group and briefly points out the different villas and gardens. Other options to explore the garden include a guided walking tour or by an open eco friendly bus.


With the  "A walk in the Villas" walking option, you move with your custodian and group, and it includes a 20-25 minute snack bar and bathroom break at the bar found in the garden. There you can purchase coffee, drinks, and even a  picnic lunch and stay longer in the garden if you desire.


Online, it is states the tour takes 60 minutes: it took our group about an 1 hour 40 minutes from our time slot to complete the loop. 


We then continued on to the  Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo

In addition to the Pontifical Apartment, the Palace has an impressive collection of papal portraits, relics, liturgical clothing and uniforms ranging over five hundred years of history, accompanied by a multi-language audio guide filled with unique and interesting stories: It lets you know the popes' achievements and often dishes out the controversies during their papacy.


Vehicles used for transporting the Popes are  on display in the courtyard.

Apostolic Palace 6jpg

On the noble floor you can visit  the Papal apartments, which include the pope’s bedroom (!) and his private chapel.


The Apostolic Palace was of most interest to my kids, much more than the gardens; you can go at your own pace and it was more visual and real to them. In my husband’s family Pope Paul IV, pictured here below, is their ancestor. 


My kids were keen to enhance their knowledge of Pope Francis.


Book a visit to the Papal Residence while you can. Just because Pope Francis decided to convert the residence to a museum and open the doors to the garden, doesn't mean it's permanent; a future pope can turn it back into a private residence. 



At the time of writing, you can visit the Apostolic palace and gardens only on Saturday and Sunday, by appointed time slots.  For the "A Walk in the Villas" (gardens), you go in groups of about 15 and leave shortly after the appointed ticket time.

Tickets for the garden and palace are sold separately or together as a package.

Prior to going, you need to buy tickets online. However, we purchased  online only the“Family Tickets” to the Apostolic Palace and then, on the day of our visit a ticket to the gardens. The family ticket is convenient for families with a minimum of two children.

For Booking, costs and visiting times , visit the official  Vatican Museum  site.

Due to Covid -19, you need to wear a mask in both the gardens and Apostolic Palace.

Getting here:
The Apostolic Palace and ticket entrance to the gardens are located in the main square of Castel Gandolfo.
By Car from Rome: G.R.A., exit 23; via Appia Nuova, direction Ciampino-Albano Laziale. It's a 40 minute drive from Rome Center.
By Train From Roma Termini take the Albano Laziale line and get off at Castel Gandolfo; it’s a 40 minute ride. Buy your return ticket at Termini or on online at Trenitalia. It’s a 10 minute walk up to the town.

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