Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 10 May |
Saint of the Day: St. Damien de Veuster
home iconTravel
line break icon

These are the towns where popes have spent the summer


s74 | Shutterstock

V. M. Traverso - published on 08/26/20

Castel Gandalfo, home of many popes

Overlooking the Alban lake, the town of Castel Gandolfo is probably the most famous of papal summer residencies. For centuries, popes have left Rome during the hottest days of summer to spend time in the Apostolic palace. The first pope to pick Castel Gandolfo as a summer destination was Urban VIII who, after his election in 1623, ordered the construction of a residence near the location of the ruins of a villa that belonged to Roman Emperor Domitianius. The first Pope who actually stayed at the residence was Alexander VII.

George McFinnigan|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

Overlooking the Lake Alban, the town of Castel Gandolfo was chosen as the place where to build a summer residence by Pope Urban VIII.

For centuries, different popes made changes and restored the original structure built by Urban VIII. In the 18th century, Benedict XIV ordered new decorations, while Clement XIV expanded the gardens. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Popes Pius VII and Pius VIII ordered restoration works following damage from Napoleonic troops. It was then used as summer residence by Pope Gregory XVI and Pius IX until, in 1870, it was declared as part of the nascent Italian state. It was only in 1929, with the creation of the Vatican State, that the estate was returned to the Vatican, becoming once again the site of popes’ summer residences — with Pope Pius XII and Paul VI both passing away at this peaceful estate.

Read more:
Pope Francis gives up papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo

Castel Gandolfo
H. Raab | Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0

Pope Francis broke with the tradition of a papal residence at Gandolfo by turning the centuries-old villa into a museum open to the public.

The current Pope Francis broke with this tradition by turning the centuries-old villa into a museum open to the public. In 2014, he opened the gardens to visits from the public. And in October 2016, twenty rooms were opened to the public for the first time, including a study, a library and a chapel. As  Dr. Sandro Barbaglio, curator of the historical section of the Vatican Museum, explained to CNN, the decision could possibly be reversed by future popes. “It is a decision that is permanent until the Pontiff wants it to remain as such,” Barbaglio said. This means a future pope can decide to take back the residence, making it private again.”

For the time being, anyone can set foot in the “popes’ summer residence” by simply booking a ticket (10 euros) via the Vatican Museums website.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
J-P Mauro
Philippines finishes construction of largest Marian statue in the...
Philip Kosloski
Prayer to Our Lady of Fatima for healing and strength
Sarah Robsdottir
Dad’s priceless reaction to newborn goes viral
Philip Kosloski
What are the 4 different parts of the Mass?
Philip Kosloski
3 Signs of a spiritual attack on your soul
Silvia Lucchetti
Sr. Anna Maria, vaccinated at 101, talks about prayer
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.