Lonely Planet Writer

Pope Francis opens up his private apartments at his summer palace to the public

Pope Francis has given up his right to enjoy summers at the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, opening up his private apartments there to the public.

Aerial view of Castel Gandolfo,
Aerial view of Castel Gandolfo.   Image by DeAgostini/Getty Images

The 17th century palace is located around 20km south-east of Rome in the town of Castel Gandolfo, overlooking beautiful Lake Albano. Officially part of the Vatican State, the palace has served as the pope’s summer residence for centuries. Francis’s predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict spent much time here, escaping the summer heat of the city in the palace and its 135 acres of grounds. Pope John Paul II even had a swimming pool built.

The gardens of Castel Gandalfo.
The gardens of Castel Gandalfo. Image by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis has broken with tradition, eschewing many of the luxuries of the papacy, including deciding to live in a hotel in the Vatican instead of the usual sumptuous papal apartments there. He has only visited Castel Gandolfo a couple of times, and has never stayed overnight.

In 2014 he opened the palace gardens, known as the Barberini Gardens, to the public, who can now take in the Roman ruins and sweeping views on a two-hour tour. Then in 2015, a special Saturday train service was launched between the Vatican City and Castel Gandolfo, and a museum was opened in the palace, displaying portraits of around 50 popes as well as costumes, robes and assorted papal paraphernalia.

A tourists visit for the first time the Pontiffs gallery at the pope's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo
A tourists visit for the first time the Pontiffs gallery at the pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo Image by Getty Images

On 21 October the museum will be expanded to include the papal apartments, the pope’s private chapel, library and study, and the Sala del Concistoro, a room used for meetings between the cardinals and the pope.