Included on the list of the “Most Beautiful Towns in Italy,” Castel Gandolfo is a perfect place to visit. I highly recommend spending at least two or three days there, in order to fully experience the charm and beauty of the town.The fountain in Piazza della Liberta was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in 1661.Many people don’t know this, but the world’s very first mailbox was installed in Piazza della Liberta, in 1820. It is still there today, and is still in use!The town’s main claim to fame, however, is the Papal Palace, or the Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo. Sitting on 135 acres, for many years this magnificent building functioned as the summer residence of the Pope. In years past, the faithful would flock here during the summer months, filling the piazza, hoping to get a glimpse of the head of the Catholic Church. With the election of Pope Francis, this changed. The Palazzo was opened up to the public, for the very first time, and now, the building, and the gardens surrounding it, are part of a museum tour that should not be missed!When standing in the piazza, facing the Palazzo, to the left, you will see a building with a long staircase. Up these stairs, you will find the lovely Cappellina Santa Maria della Grazie.The Palazzo Apostolico, designed by Carlo Maderno, was once the home of the Savelli Family. Because of debts that they had run up with the Papacy, the Church came into possession of the building.Visiting the Palazzo, and the gardens, is easy to do, but I do recommend booking the garden tour in advance! Depending on the day of the week, and the time of the year, different tours are available. The gardens can only be visited with a guide, and so that is why a bit of planning is required. During the peak season, space can fill up quickly, and if you don’t book in advance, you may find that there is nothing available on the day that you want to visit them. So, be smart — book ahead! We chose a combination ticket, which enabled us to explore the Palazzo on our own, and then, after that, hop on a tram for the tour of the gardens. The tour of the Palazzo starts in the lovely courtyard, where one can find papal vehicles, as well as a Popemobile on display. The courtyard is also where you will find the balcony where the Popes used to make appearances. The tour of the interior of the Palazzo is very interesting, and is divided into two sections. The first section, which you do on your own, with the help of an audio guide, features portraits of the different Popes, as well as other art and historical displays. After that, you are taken upstairs, and given a tour of the Papal Apartments. All in all, touring the interior of the Palazzo will take you at least 90 minutes — maybe longer. Keep that in mind, when scheduling your garden visit. The Palazzo has a rich and extremely interesting history, and visiting it is a MUST, when in Castel Gandolfo!
Next up: a visit to the Papal Gardens, and exploring more of Castel Gandolfo!
Note: this blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear. If you have enjoyed this post, please check out our archives for more posts from Castel Gandolfo, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!